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Thursday, March 03, 2011

Looking for Books to Help Navigate a Mean World.

I'm sure that I'm not the only one who has noticed in the last decade or so that much of society has become increasingly mean, disrespectful, rude, greedy, selfish and heartless toward their fellow humans--as well as toward animals. Now, I realize that not everyone is this way but at least in my area of the world, social politeness has degraded severely in my lifetime.

As many of you know, I have a debilitating psychiatric condition called, schizoaffective disorder, which is basically bipolar with some schizophrenic symptoms. Along with having a.d.d., it's hard for me to filter out the toughness and harsh social relations that are poisoning our society. Since I have trouble screening the constant bombardment of stimuli in this world, I have little bandwidth, so to speak, to absorb this nasty behavior.

Thus, I get sad, angry and frustrated with the world, rather easily. Whether it's navigating reckless driving, dealing with selfish people at the market, or living amongst others who live a shallow, superficial life; it's hard to learn how to live amongst such heartlessness and ignorance without it depressing you to the point of wanting to give up!!

So, I am looking for some suggestions on some books that I could read about how to deal with mean, nasty, rude, selfish people. I'm not talking about any of the traditional Buddhist texts/books but rather those specifically dealing with how to live in this world without it getting to you, and turning you into a cynical person from a purely psychological, clinical point of view. To narrow it down further, I'm looking for a "self-help" type book on tips for dealing with such cruelty. Of course, meditation helps a lot, (as do Buddhist books) but I need something that's more related to specific tips on living in the modern world of cruelty from a non-religious point of view.

Please, don't criticize me or condemn me for my struggles. I'm a very tender person and gets easily depressed, down on myself and easily over-whelmed with negativity. If you don't know of something that can help, and would rather tell me my problem is not being a "good enough Buddhist," then please have some compassion and keep your thoughts to yourself.

I know this is the anonymous dominated cyber-land, but please treat me with respect and remember that behind my profile is a real person who struggles a lot with psychological issues. I'm a strong person but also quite fragile to stress. This is a very hard issue for me to deal with and talk about. I don't need criticism--I need support, understanding and some tips on a few books that might help me deal with my psychological stresses from having to live with this world. Thank-you for understanding my sensitivity. It's hard enough writing this out and exposing myself, so please, treat me how you'd want to be treated. Thanks, again--James.

~Peace to all beings~

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Anonymous said...

I find that most "help" books aren't much help for ME. I just consider myself weird.

Instead, when I find a tidbit or key or path that works or helps, I make notes for my future self for "rainy" days, days when I just can't navigate.

Was just a simple journal but then I made it into a project and now it has sections and whatnot.

Of course that is absolutely NO help to you during your current troubles. But it would be something to focus on maybe? A "wishlist of helps"? Very specific ones?

zenfant said...

Boo, if anyone judges you, tell them i said to fuck right off.

i'm an old shrink from way back tho i dont do that anymore as a profession. i'll try and wrack my brain for some ideas for you.

until then listen to the new song from Lady GaGa called Born This Way repeatedly.

Confessions of a Wanna Be Yogini. said...

I am keen to see what books you're offered for help with this too. I agree that a book on just "how to cope" with the way people are, the negativity, and cruelty that our north american culture seems to find acceptable..

You're on an interesting track with this one!

Have you read the 4 agreements by Miguel Ruiz? They're more for you, how to protect you, how to be amazing, that kinda self help, but I find that whenever im feeling down in general - reading that always brings me right back to a better and deeper consiousness.

Happy searching!!

Anonymous said...

Hi, I don't know if this is exactly what you are looking for, but I know that this book was recommended to me by a friend a few years ago. The book is Positive Energy by Judith Orloff, M.D. There are 3 chapters in this book that I think are directly related to coping with the mean spirited people in the world. Chapter 4 "Generate Positive Emotional Energy to Counter Negativity"; chapter 8 "Attract Positive People and Situations"; and chapter 9 "Protect Yourself from Energy Vampires".

I agree with you, people sure have changed....even simple words like "excuse me" or "pardon me" no longer exist in our vocabulary....and I could go on and on. It is really sad that we have lost polite connection with each other as living beings.

I do hope that this helps.

Peace to you.


PeterAtLarge said...

Nice entry, James. I, for one, appreciate the vulnerability--and share the sense of being easily bruised by our current culture. I don't know any books of the kind you describe, though I tried to one one, for artists, in "Persist." Sometimes it's good to look outward for solace. I read a wonderful book recently about abducted children in Nepal: "Little Princes." (You'll find a review in a recent entry in The Buddha Diaries.) It lifted my spirits, anyway, despite the dire circumstances.

BD said...

James , you may want to check out Dr.Wayne Dyer, he is sometimes a little all over the road , quoting multiple sources ( Christian, Vedic, Buddhist) but I find his overall techniques can be used everyday. Inspiration is one of his books and there are others. He has a website and blog as well.
Be well,

Was Once said...

Have you read, Anatomy of the Spirit by Carolyn Myss?

Anonymous said...

I think that if you use a blog like a public diary and your real name then you are asking for some negative feedback. Not everyone is going to agree with your posting or your outlook. I think mean people are everywhere. No city is immune.

I appreciate your openness and honesty.

Lin said...

I'm not sure if this is at all what you're looking for but it's a book I like to read when I feel that certain people are getting to me.
We're all human and all have faults. It's not easy to see what's going on in the world and feel compassionate 100% of the time.

"When another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over. He does not need punishment; he needs help. That's the message he is sending."
— Thich Nhat Hanh

Nourish said...

I can't think of any books at the moment for you, but I understand what you mean.

I don't know if it's just because Im getting older, or the area I live in, but I have defintely noticed how people seem so rude lately.

It's like this attitude of selfishness and self righteous. I am really working on my patience and trying hard not to let these people anger me.

turquoisemoon said...

A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. It changed my life...

Lisa said...

Hey James. I feel ya. Sometimes I just want to escape and live alone on a mountain... but I know that wouldn't work for me.

I'm in the middle of A Path With Heart, and I'm sorry for reccomending a book with Buddhist undertones, but a large section of this book specifically deals with letting life go on around you without the negativity, violence, cruelty, and despair affect you. It's giving me some extra support on not being as reactive. I really believe that the actual thoughts, "This person is a tool. That person is horrible," won't stop anytime soon, but at least I'm finding ways to detach from them and focus on putting love out there. Religion, spirituality, or whatever aside - focusing on putting love out has definitely helped me attract more positive people and situations.

I think it's at least worth a skim, even though it's Buddhist and it sounds like you're tired of that route right now. I feel ya on that, too. Keep your head up no matter what!

Ambud said...

I've noticed the same behavior James and I find it very disconcerting. It seems that our society is going backwards with regard to love and respect, everyone is out for number one and there seems to be some unspoken agreement that treating each other as unimportant is a healthy way to interact. I don't know of any books which speak about dealing with this, the ones I have seen are more specific to the workplace and tend to enable this behavior as does modern psychology to some degree it's like everyone has a subscription to Ayn rand

Anonymous said...

Dear James,

I would like to quote something from Don Miguel Ruiz, who says the following in his book, 'the four agreements'.

" Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves. Even when a situation seems so personal, even if others insult you directly, it has nothing to do with you. Their point of view comes from all the programming they have received".

I wish I knew of a specific book. I would have posted the title.

Take care,

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure that you have already heard/read Ekhart Tolle's book, The Power of Now. There's a little about being 'invisible' to negativity. I think that being present is the key to most of my issues, including dealing with not so nice people.

Anonymous said...

Your post has moved me to tears. I have found great comfort in the following (not sure if you are looking for fiction or non-fiction?):

The Compassionate Mind by Paul Gilbert

The Mindful Way Through Depression by Mark Williams et al

Lincoln's Melancholy by Joshua Shenk

Maca-Goji-Sunlight-Movement said...

There's one book that is not so serious; kind of dancing without a goal:

Cloud-hidden, Whereabouts Unknown
by Alan Watts

I think that all the conceptual do-this-stuff is pretty much blocking good natural flow of emotions. By doing so, also blocking/hiding buddha nature which is spontaneously and intuitively in the now.

Buddhist_philosopher said...

Heya James. I sympathize too. I liked A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle too, though I'm afraid I'm pretty Buddhism-centric these days. I like the Lady Gaga suggestion too; there's plenty of great music to let you know you're not alone in dealing with people who do lousy things.

I did just happen across a teaching by Ajahn Brahm that might be helpful (though I know it's not what you're seeking exactly) - I posted it here:

Anonymous said...

I am going to be thinking about this for a few days. I am not sure if you are talking about "real world" mean people or bloggers. In the real world, things that have been helpful for me have been reminding myself statements like the Ruiz one--it's not about me, it's about them. Also, taking an improv class. It seems silly, but I used to be so envious of people who could come up with a snazzy retort (that wasn't just another insult.) I was drawn to improv for a lot of other reasons (mostly the power of humor) and found that helped me to be more confident in having "witty retorts."

I am off to the Borders store that is closing so I'll look/think about other good titles for you.

You are NOT alone in this.

Erat Hora

Anonymous said...

Hi there,

I've enjoyed reading your blog and truly emphathize because all of us have those days. One of the books that have really helped me is: "Loving What Is" by Byron Katie. It's a very practical "how to" guide. She focuses on four key questions in any given situation...I've been practicing it and have found it helpful.

BlueBuddha said...

Hi there,

I've enjoyed reading your blog and truly emphathize because all of us have those days. One of the books that have really helped me is: "Loving What Is" by Byron Katie. It's a very practical "how to" guide. She focuses on four key questions in any given situation...I've been practicing it and have found it helpful.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate your honesty; it really touched me. I agree that A New Earth is a good one. When I feel that people are rude and selfish for no apparent reason, I have to step outside of myself and think that they have their reasons although I may not handle it in the same way. (It may take time for me to release my frustration but eventually I do.) The rude, selfish people are people too who may not have the skills to respond to the world/people in the best way. Look at their hearts and think of the world in which they may not have had control over as a child that shaped them.

Embracing Freshness said...

Many uplifting stories, fiction or non-fiction, song or film, are about courage and resilience. They are uplifting because the hero keeps an open, kind heart against all odds. I would recommend your own post to you. You are courageous and resilient and caring in the face of a raw vulnerability. Sit with your own story -- you will find the hero you're looking for.

Anonymous said...

I admire your courage in being open-minded and seeking wisdom in the face of a difficult challenge with psych. pain. I crumble myself many times and do not face that challenge though I struggle immensely with a borderline daughter. When I feel overwhelmed I listen to a podcast by Tara Brach form the insight meditation community of the lectures entitled "let everything happen to you" and "forgiveness". I just did last night...helped me sleep better even though it felt like my chest was about to burst from all passes and is transient. All the best to you -I enjoy enjoy your blog. Namaste.

no said...

Hi James,

You are not alone in feeling the way you do - believe me! Could I recommend "Wabi-Sabi - for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers". It's not a self-help book as such - but it may give you an insight that there is beauty in everything such that the narrow and shallow people of this world do not impact on that.

This may give you (I hope) inspiration you to rise above the negativity knowing that you can glimpse a part of nature and humanity they will never be able to. To quote from the book;

"Wabi-sabi is a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. It is a beauty of things modest and humble. It is a beauty of things unconventional."

Kind Regards, David.

Anonymous said...

I too grapple with the impact of meanness... working in politics and being sensitive is quite a challenge. And yet I am so greatful to have a tender heart, as that allows me to love and feel deep compassion for any experiencing suffering. In addition to all the book suggestions above, many of which I have read and would also recommend, I would like to add:


- Pema Chodron - any of her books or audio recordings, but especially THE PLACES THAT SCARE US
- Thick nat hahn - THE ART OF POWER.

NonBuddhist books:
and the many books on emotional intelligence

- I forget the author names, but there are some great suggestions from a book for people with ADHD that has the name something like YOU MEAN I AM NOT LAZY STUPID OR CRAZY?

I wish you deepest happiness and the roots of happiness, joy and peace. I wish you freedom from suffering and the roots of suffering.

Anonymous said...

Hi James, I just received a book the other day, 'Taming the Tiger Within: Meditations on Transforming Difficult Emotions' (Thich Nhat Hanh). It is made up of separate, short passages (1-2 paragraphs each) offering advice on dealing with anger, fear and other challenging emotions.

For better or worse, I sometimes simply don't have time or attention to read longer texts, and books like this offer succinct, accessible wisdom. Maybe you'd find it helpful.

Lastly, as someone who also suffers from psychiatric illness, I just want to say I always appreciate your honesty, and you are never alone in your struggles.

Jamie G. said...


Was just thinking of you... and stopping to say hi. Many bows, friend.

Jim said...

Most of the comments don't seem to recommend self-help books. I suggest "Get out of your Mind and Into your life" by Steve Hayes. It is a self-help book. Reading it won't do any good. You need to doe the exercises - actively engage with it.

It is from the modern, empirically based school of psychology that is most like Buddhism. In fact a lot of similarities.

Jessie Brautigan said...

Know that you are loved and cared for by whatever benevolent energy force controls this great universe.
I have a few family members who suffer from mental illness and know how devastating it can be.
Some great books that helped me on my journey are:
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Peace in Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh
Eastern Body Western Mind by Judith Anodea
Take care, breathe, know that you are loved.

Anonymous said...

Hello ^^

I was looking to see if I saw the book that I often turn to when the world becomes too much for me. I did not see it, but anything regarding Wabi-Sabi works. I would suggest Wabi-Sabi: for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers since that was suggested for me. Often when reading "self help" books, I can be overwhelmed with the negativity within the actual book itself. So I prefer the books that are positive, bring me back to recognizing my own true nature and expresses a means of accepting the world around me and accepting myself as a part of the world. Nothing is perfect, but within the imperfection of it all, there is absolute perfection.

I would hope that you can come across a book on Wabi-Sabi and enjoy it as I have throughout the stumbles in the road and the smooth path.

May a smile light your face today.

They call him James Ure said...

Wow, so many responses!! Thanks everyone. It'll take me awhile to look into these but I'm really looking forward to it. I appreciate your help.

One said...

Try the Red Book by Carl Jung. Seems like our paths are close as well as our perspectives. Another self help book I try is my son's preschool and the local soup kitchen. I feel better about mankind after visiting both.

Jamo said...

'The Wisdom Of Insecurity by Alan W.Watts' is (From the back of the book)not a way of evasion, but a way of carrying on wherever we happen to be stationed without imagining that the burden of the world, or even of the next moment, is ours.

The book is in the spirit of the Chinese sage Lao-tzu.

It seems to me to be the only book one would require to survive in this world.


mindfulmettamoment said...

hi james, i love this question. one thing that i have found helpful recently is reading Brene Brown's research on shame and shame reslience. it is powerful. she writes about so many things in her research including how to become resiliant to negativity from others and negativity from ourself especially in relation to shame. she talks about how folks in pain do a negativity dump ( on themselves and others). Most of the research she has done is on women but she also doing more research on men now and has a chapter dedicated to how it works a bit differently for men. researching men now. Also check out her free range media ethic

hope you and laurie are well. Viviane

Linda said...

Yes, the world has gotten more mean, and I think much of my inappropriate anger stems from this as much as from being borderline. An idea that helps me a lot is that of "random acts of kindness". Also, I've found just recently that when I look a person in the eye and smile, they smile back. I suppose this has always been true, but for me it is new and it helps me with all the disconnects in our world going mad.

Anonymous said...

Feeling Good By Dr. Burns

sandy said...

I am aware of it too but is it because you are more aware of light that the darkness is highlighted more.

I'm finding as this body is aging and I am not conforming to the "ways" of the world. I'm in it and apart of it but not "of it", that people treat me differently. My energy repels them.

So those thoughts of wanting their support and good treatment pass on, thank G--d.

There is that cliche lyric that "people who need people" are the luckiest people in the world. Hogwash.

We need nothing. Awareness is pure love. The apparent mean people react and I'm just aware. That's it. It's like a bright mirror on their inner essence for the time being.

My body resonates on a different level and I've moved away emotionally from such negative people. I felt bad once for seeing them as they were; confusing my awareness of their behavior with judging it.

When I no longer considered it worthy of judgement, I learned more about this thing called "self".

What you are aware of means you are on the "right path". Don't wish it away, just look at it.

The day you've seen none of this nasty stuff, is the day to be aware if you are on its plane or moved beyond or below.

Just be still and be aware. It is not worth understanding. Karma will take care of it all.

No good books. Knowledge is momentary. You are the best book in the universe.

solitude1951 said...

I feel your pain. I'm an extreme agoraphobic.I don't leave the house unless it's an emergency. The local mental health authorities found me a job that allows me to avoid human interaction. My girlfriend understands and makes the needed rounds. I'm on a type of medication that I finally had to research myself and talk the doctor into prescribing. The medicine allows me to feel fairly normal as long as I'm at home. I gave away my Zen books over a decade ago when I finally snapped too a little bit. I'm lucky because I can lose my self in just about any SF or fantasy novel as long as it's good writing. I'd recommend reading just about anything that interests you. Fiction especially. It can take you away from the incessant demands of your mind for awhile at least. The one thing that has never failed me is mindfullness meditation. I can be freaked to the max and after 20 or 30 minutes of meditation I can go on. It is the center of all Buddhist sects. It is the one thing that binds them together other than our underlying emptiness. The longer you do it the better it can help. Of course I had to get the right cocktail of medications together first. Don't be afraid to try different types of meds. I finally wound up with trazadone, seroquel, kolonapen and citalopram. The doc says that's too much but I'm the one experiencing the effects of the drugs and, after a lifetime of depending on others, I take my own counsel. I also regulate the dosage according to how my mind/body is doing. You're gonna need to get the right meds first and then let them take effect before you get the full benefits from sitting. Always, go back to the Dharma and meditation. I hope you get your life in control. Peace

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BuddhistBiologist said...

Maybe you could write a book....

Anonymous said...

hi James

the easiest way would be to develop a thick skin. but that insensivity would cut out compassion & empathy.

learning not to take things so personally, trying to see karma & impermance at work, developing equaminity & not over-reacting nor exaggerating.

then therte's that sutra about the man who insulted buddha & he just remained calm & asked him to retrieve what belonged to him ie his insults belonged to him & not the buddha.

great blog. i wish you well on yr path &in yr struggles.

Ambud said...

James, I've thought about my response to this article a lot and I know that you prefaced the responses with non-buddhist solutions, but I am compelled to share what I believe might help you in the situation that I think many have also faced. I've been following your blog for years and I can truly say that my response is out of love. Please take a look at my carefully crafted response on :

katie said...

Hi James
Just found your blog..and art too so I'll keep following. Your prayer for Japan was the lovliest and most compassionate one I have read. May you be free of suffering too. May I humbly suggest Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself"? It was the first book I ever bought when I was a lonely vulnerable girl of 12 and many many years later still never has failed me. I still have my original copy all of 75 cents! Trust an old english proff and buddhist on this one..I would gladly send you a copy.
Be well ...(ps I also manage my long term depression)

erathora said...

I thought I had posted before, but can't find it. In any case, I also have a quote book--to remind me of what was inspiring before.

I LOVED Brene Brown. She also has a video on that you can watch to get a feel for her. Sadly, she speaks to women, but I believe her messages are universal. If you can get past her (often) gendered way of speaking, you might find her helpful.

I like Pema Chodron--but I'm sure you've read "Start Where You Are."

The best thing that has helped me navigate a mean world is actually improv comedy. Sounds strange, I know. If someone said something mean to me, I used to react visibly and it would stick with me for days. I was envious of those people who had quick responses. So, I started teaching myself how to do that. And took an improv comedy class (google ones in your area or look into some of the principles or games online). It helped me to point out the absurdity of others comments without being mean. Make a joke of it, not "stick" to me, and set boundaries. Contact me if you have questions & best of luck!

Anonymous said...

Hi. I'm in a library, the computer cut off some of your blog, but I liked your query- and perhps I'm in a similar place myself?. I have Complex PTSD, which has gone out of control recently. I listen to Tara Brach online- I can hear her voice, it's reassuring and I'm learning heaps. Her podcasts are free, and if I google certain problems I'm grappling with, get relevant material to watch and hear. Namaste.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Thank you so much to the author and commentors. This is my first time on a blog. When you said "I have ADD and it makes it hard to filter out... "I could have cried. I also could relate to the PTSD and many other conditions that people spoke of. It helped me to undersatnd why things affect me so deeply that others seem to not see, or ignore.

I spend 4 literal hours a week around a cruel person I work with, and several more giving her free rent in my head. I've talked to others who say, Oh, she is just like that, and they let it wash. I wondered why I couldn't until I read the ADD sentence. We work with children and it traumatizes me when I see her meanness toward them, and still I hear that her behavior is ok from others. It's not ok with me. So it leaves me spinning with what to do. I want to be real direct with her, that it's not ok with me, but then I might lose my job. I'm seen as the over reactor, I'm sure. So I have been looking for help with this, and that is how I ended up here, reading this blog. All of your comments have helped me, thank you. To answer your question, I just started reading Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman and am hoping it will teach me how to respond, or not; don't know yet, but it might be worth a look.

Anonymous said...

Hi James,

I to am living with everyday struggles as you have stated above. Although I have never been clinically diagnosed due to financial reasons I feel I am bi polar and go into slumps of depression when I see others who are less fortunate and how harmful life can be. I hope you can win over your struggles and be brave to share with everyone. Best of luck to you.

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