Author Archives: Joe

About Joe

I am a simple guy. I live in West Michigan and have a counseling business. I also do public speaking. I'd love to hear your story.

Succeeding when you’re supposed to fail by Ram Brafman

I bought this book on a lark. I am glad that I did.

Rom Brafman points out that for as nearly as long as can be remembered in mental health services that what happened to you dictated what you did. By and large, he states, “The prevailing notion in the field used to be that few could realistically overcome their circumstances” (Bram, 2011 p. 12).

They can’t help it, they were born into a really bad situation. Their parents were (fill in the blank). Look at the hand they were dealt, no wonder they do what they do.

Then one day it all changed. Brafman points out that it was by accident that the field discovered that there were people who overcame their circumstances. They didn’t allow the pathology of others to drag them down. They didn’t allow being born into bad circumstances hold them back. They didn’t allow being captured by an enemy to break them or keep them from achieving amazing things.  He calls these people tunnelers, which is a science term.

The field discovered people who succeeded when they should have failed. When many would have written them a pass for failing. When many would have been willing to chalk up that failure to circumstances outside of their control.  Brafman states that when the masses of people who have succeeded when they should have failed are studied six characteristics emerge.

They are:

The limelight effect—Tunnelers have a high sense of inner locus of control. This means that they believe they control their destiny.
Meaning making—Tunnelers find meaning in what is before them and what they are doing.
Unwavering commitment—Tunnelers believe in themselves and their calling. They will stick with a task as long as necessary.
Temperament and success—Tunnelers believe in developing an “even tempered disposition” They’re unwavering commitment means that a loss or set back or a series of them will not cause them to lose faith.
Humor counteracting adversity—Tunnelers enjoy laughing and humor. It helps them deal with the different opportunities that life tends to send their way.
The importance of a Satellite—Tunnelers have someone in their life (sometimes only for a necessary season) who invests in them and acts as a satellite.
This book is a great read. If you are one of the people who society seems to think “should fail” read this book. It may encourage you. If you believe that people are a simply a product of their what life has dealt them, read this book. It will challenge you.

Life is hard, of that there is no doubt. But we do not have to be slaves to our circumstances.
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The Whole Brain Child

Every parent should buy this book. Siegel and Bryson do an excellent job of breaking down parenting as a process and not an event.

They teach the reader how to navigate through the right brain, left brain model. So if your child is having a right brain meltdown, they teach you how to reach them there before you move to logic. Some parents will find that to be a basic skill, but many will find it very new and rewarding.

Understanding the idea of an upstairs and downstairs brain is also a major accomplishment in this book. Most of the time, we as a people do not give thought to the why of what we do. This book helps explain a more integrated approach to parenting. One of the most controversial parts of the book will no doubt be when the author’s take on the idea that parents should ignore tantrums. They dare to suggest that actually attempting to teach your child to process their feelings in the middle of the tantrum could be the best approach.

Another excellent take-away with this book is the idea that parents need to move away from denying and dismissing their child’s feelings. Too often, I see parents dismiss their child’s feelings because the feelings manifest in a way that the parent doesn’t like or the parent doesn’t know how to process his or her own feelings.

This book does an excellent job of helping understand how to process emotions in a healthy way. If you child is experiencing fear, there are simple and real life takeaways that you can utilize to help them. If your child is angry with you because you set a boundary for them, there are easy to use ways that you can help your child express that in a healthy way! This is one of the best aspects of this book.

Lastly, this book gives a very cursory overview of mirror neurons. They are amazing and we all have them. If you have angry children, it might be because you are angry. Our brains are wired for “we” is an exact quote from the book. As parents, we have to be integrated in order to raise integrated children. This book will find a lot of push back by the far right who believe a parents number one goal is to punish the evil out of their children and by those who find it doesn’t match the way they parented.

Regardless, buy it. You will not regret it. In fact, I suspect that you will be very happy that you did.

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Dragons of the Valley-Donita K Paul

I consider myself a fairly wide read fantasy fan. I enjoy many different styles of fantasy writers and books. This book simply did not do it for me. I am not sure if it is because this is book two in a story. If I had not received this through a book review program, I would have stopped half way through, maybe a quarter of the way through. I was never able to bring myself to care about the characters. For me, characters make the story and these characters were boring. Perhaps, if I had the back-story from the first book, it would have helped. Maybe I personally just didn’t connect with the characters and you will. The best I can give this book is two stars. I don’t agree with some reviewers that I’ve read who say the sentence structures are all the same. There is some variance in the cadence and structure, and the storyline has promise. In the end, the characters just did not seem to be all that interesting.

I received this book for free from Waterbrook publishers in exchange for an honest review.

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Sabbath by Dan Allender

Sabbath by Dan Allender, with a forward by Phyllis Tickle and published by Thomas Nelson is a fantastic book.  When I saw it on the possible books to review list, I snatched it up as fast as was possible. I waited with anticipation for it to come. I was not disappointed.

I was first introduced to Allender’s writings in college. Since then, I’ve been hooked. I was a bit nervous because the Sabbath seems to be an idea that is often approached with dogmatism and division. Nothing could be untrue about Allender’s book. There are absolutely no heavy-handed shenanigans in this book. Allender takes an extremely balanced and positive view of the day.  When I was growing up I knew a family that would not allow their children to play outside. They could play inside as often as they wanted to play, but not outside. It always struck me as hypocritical–after reading this book, I think that Allender would agree with me.

The author makes some rather bold statements about Sabbath. He says, “In all cases, we can celebrate Sabbath, even in a fifteen minute window, and receive the gift of the day.”  He goes on in another section of the book to say, “the Sabbath is a day of delight for humankind, animals, and the earth; it is not merely a pious day and it is not fundamentally a break, a day off, or a twenty-four hour vacation. The Sabbath is a feast day that remembers our leisure in Eden and anticipates our play in the new heavens and earth with family, friends, and strangers for the sake of the glory of God.” In yet another spot he says, “All too often we approach Sabbath like a forced conversation at a social gathering.”

Some more of my favorite quotes from the book:
*    The Sabbath is a sensual delight to be enjoyed in communion with God, others and creation.
*    We must enter the earth to be struck dumb by the beauty of the trinity
*    In God’s economy, there is no distinction between work and play: his creation is not due to lack loneliness, or necessity. It was free and groundless–that is without reason other than delight.
*    Sabbath doesn’t deny that death exists; instead it celebrates life
*    Grace is not the exception to justice, but it’s fulfillment

Allender’s main point seems to be that Sabbath is so that we can enjoy ourselves and in so doing, we enjoy God. In one section he talks about listening to favorite music, drinking beer and smoking pipes as Sabbath activity.  This book will not sit well with a lot of people, and that’s probably ok. I highly recommend it because it will start some conversations that need to happen. There’s a reason we tend to want to overlook the commandment about Sabbath, maybe it’s because we have been treating like something it’s not.

You can buy this book at Amazon by clicking here.

I received this book free from the publisher through the book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”.”

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Voltuntary Madness by Nora Vincent

Voluntary Madness is a disappointing book. I was intriqued by the premise of the book and the writing started out all right. Ms. Vincent “voluntarily” checks herself into three separate mental health organizations in attempt to bring down the system around our ears. She sets out to expose the big bad system. She doesn’t actually pull it off, although she does get some points across well and manages to make a personal breakthrough in her last placement.

The interesting thing is that Norah Vincent just comes across as angry. Angry at the whole world.  She slams the people who work in a mental hospital or ward calling them lazy and unsympathetic.  She rants against the rules. She rants against this drugs. I actually wanted to agree with her on this one because I believe by and large we overuse drugs in our society and she made some valid points but they get lost in her anger.  She blames the residents/clients who start coming to her with a sense of entitlement .

The author ends the book with perhaps the best writing of the entire tome. She wonders about institutions being the way they are because of people or it is vice versa?  She then turns her anger from the institutions to the people and asks,

“Why waste therapy and resources on people who will actively resist, and so derive no benefit from them anyway? Why not just medicate the bejesus out of people, when medication is the one thing that requires no effort or willpower to have an effect? If people arent’ going to heal, because they don’t want to heal, then containment is the most any system can do for them and for us. And containment is necessary.” (p. 275-76).


Ms. Vincent continues to philosophize in such a manner for a while before she flips the script and tells the reader that there is a bright side. People can help themselves. Ultimately, change is up to the individual, he or she must take responsibility for their own change. It is in this that I agree with the author fully. It is also this part that will cause those entrenched “in the system” to become angry with her.  This book is a quick read and not exactly a deep read. It’s a lot about the author and I never felt like I should care about her all that much. Some of her conclusions are interesting. Ultimately, the value in this book came from being able to watch her work through her naivety (she even admits to it in the book). I’d be fascinated to meet her I suppose to see if her anger comes out in her personal life as it does in her writing.

Right now, Amazon has this book for 6 bucks. It’s probably not worth a whole lot more than that, but at that price you might enjoy it.

2.5 Stars out of 5.

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Hope, Help and Healing for Eating Disorders by Gregory Jantz

Dr. Gregory L Jantz’s book, Hope, Help and Healing for Eating Disorders deals with both “eating disorders” and “disordered eating.”  As a Counselor I was immediately drawn to this book. It seems in our society, overweight people are the last  people group that it is OK to mock and make fun of for our enjoyment. I actually had a guy tell me that he enjoyed me being at the poker game because I was fat and it was not only OK but it was expected that people would make fun of people. For some reason, I had no desire to visit his faith community.

In another conversation I heard someone use the terms overweight and glutton synonymously.  When I asked about this, I got a rather convoluted answer—in my opinion. What does this have to do with the book? Well, a lot of people who talk about food intake are rather judgmental about it. Rather than admit that they are selling out to our society’s obsession with being thin, they are cloak it in spirituality and science, which is usually a parroting of the latest book/DVD/commercial they read or saw. The truth is that body image is a huge issue for almost everyone. Many people are struggling to answer core questions about themselves through their management of food and their body image. Some try to answer this question through exercise and food control, while others choose to answer it through over-indulging.

This book deals with eating disorders without becoming judgmental about them. He points out that there are people who look healthy, who have disordered eating.  A great quote early in the book is “Some people suffer from a diagnosed eating disorder and some suffer from a debilitating pattern of disordered eating” (p. 27).  He points out that it’s not just people who have bulimia, or anorexia that have food disorders. If food has moved from being about nutrition to some sort of control in your life, you probably have an eating disorder. I found this perspective to resonate powerfully.

He comes at these issues from what is essentially a Family Systems approach first and foremost.  There is nothing wrong with that necessarily, but I do think there are other issues that factor in from an existential point of view, which he doesn’t seem to address but that could be because I tend to view almost everything from a search for meaning point of view.   He also deals with the issue of abuse and how that factors into eating disorders/disordered eating.  These two aspects are the strength of the book. He offers hope and guidelines to help people through these disorders. I do wonder how helpful a book can be on its own merit. It seems to me that eventually a person dealing with these will have to enter into Therapy.

Overall, I think this book is an excellent read. There are a few minor points where he and I would part ways but I am not the one of us that is running a successful recovery institute.

3.5 out of 5 stars

I received this book free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group as part of their Blogging for Books program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

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Shield of Thunder and Fall of Kings: Troy Triology books 2 and 3

I am fascinated with a good story. I love it when I encounter one. I especially appreciate the books that have characters that I come to view as something akin to friends.  When I finished the last book of this trilogy, I was actually sad.   I felt a sense of loss that the story had come to an end.

The characters are deep. They are believable. The choices they make feel real, painful, and alive. The pace of the story is nearly perfect. I bought the first book of this series based on a recommendation unsure of what I would find when I cracked the cover.  The complication of life is found on each page, with each character.  Our choices move us to make other choices. It is often not the intended consequences of our actions that move us but the unintended consequences. The results that we didn’t think about, or that we were not able to consider. Heroes and rarely as glorious as we perceive them and most villains are not nearly as banal as we would like to make them—although they are occasionally every bit as evil as we imagine.

In short, life is a lot of soupy gray, with some clear black and white thrown in.

I found this series to be phenomenal. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good story.   It is a classic retelling of the story of Troy, but more than that, it is a retelling of real life.

5 Stars

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