When the Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress – Gabor Maté

When we have been prevented from learning how to say no, our bodies may end up saying it for us.

While it is common knowledge that stress is affecting one’s health, Dr Gabor Mate takes it a step further and analyses the impact of stress on body by looking into a patient’s childhood, relationship with partners, work and life in general.

The book is bold in its suggestion that body is over mind, considering that a person cannot accumulate stress and tension without effect. Dr Mate goes as far as saying that there is a “cancer” profile, where physicians can increase the chances of confirming cancer by looking at a patient’s personality. The ones who always try to help others, cannot say no to demands and are always smiling, those people simply bottle up negative emotions that would surface as an autoimmune disease.

An interest concept put forward by the author is the difference between rage and anger. He promotes the idea that it is ok to be angry and let tension exit the body. An angry person relaxes its body, takes a long breath and lets tension out. This comes in contrast with rage, which is uncontrolled violence (physical, verbal, behavioural). A person in a rage has all muscles contracted, does not breath correctly and accumulates tension.

The cost of hidden stress

The book is full of various medical cases and draws heavily on medical research, making it a somewhat dry reading. Nevertheless, this does not draw from the appeal of understand how our choices are affecting us.

It finishes with Seven A’s of Healing: principles of healing and the prevention of illness from hidden stress:

    • Acceptance – accepting us how we are
    • Awareness – of our bodies and what they are telling us
    • Anger – in Dr. Mate’s view, anger has cognitive value and works as a way to release tension and negative emotions
    • Autonomy – independent thoughts and actions
    • Attachment – being connected with others is healing
    • Assertion – speak up for ourselves
    • Affirmation – affirming our creating selves, and also our connection to something bigger.

    The book is really wonderful and warmly recommend to read, whenever we feel that life takes over us.

    Les 50 règles d’or de l’éducation positive – Bénédicte Péribère, Solenne Roland-Riché

    Sachez que les violences éducatives (physiques, verbales ou “simplement” émotionnelles) laissent une trace sur un IRM cérébrale. Certaines zones du cerveau sont alors insuffisamment développées, notamment celle permettant de réguler les émotions.

    ( Règle 22 : Évitez les punitions)

    Ce petit livre propose 50 conseils sur la parentalité. Les règles mêlent des règles de bon sens à des arguments scientifiques, donnant une bonne vue d’ensemble.

    Les règles évitent les conseils controversés et le lecteur peut facilement suivre les différentes principes. Le livre est conçu pour être souvent consulté et relu, avec des règles faciles à trouver, une bonne vue d’ensemble et un petit format.

    J’ai lu le livre en quelques jours et j’y suis toujours revenu avec plaisir. C’est un excellent livre à lire pour tous les parents qui veulent apprendre quelque chose de nouveau sur la parentalité ou simplement apprendre plusieurs règles de base.

    Factfulness – Hans Rosling

    This is data as you have never known it: it is data as therapy. It is understanding as a source of mental peace. Because the world is not as dramatic as it seems. Factfulness, like a healthy diet and regular exercise, can and should become part of your daily life. Start to practice it, and you will be able to replace your overdramatic worldview with a worldview based on facts. You will be able to get the world right without learning it by heart. You will make better decisions, stay alert to real dangers and possibilities, and avoid being constantly stressed about the wrong things.

    The central idea of the book is that world is much better than you think and it is getting better. Hans Rosling presents with data how world improved over time and shows with surveys how pessimistic without cause the reader is. While not perfect, the world is indeed getting better and the author presents the pessimistic biases we have.

    The book is structured in 10 chapters, presenting an instinct that we must be aware from:

    1. The Gap Instinct
    2. The Negativity Instinct
    3. The Straight Line Instinct Exercise: Question Your Assumptions
    4. The Fear Instinct
    5. The Size Instinct
    6. The Generalization Instinct Exercise: Getting the Full Picture
    7. The Destiny Instinct
    8. The Single Perspective Instinct
    9. The Blame Instinct
    10. The Urgency Instinct

    The book was written in the last months of life of Doctor Hans Rosling and seems to encompass his last message to the world: that we should leave bias and look for data, which will help us to create a better world and be more successful in medicine, business and development.

    The book is thoroughly entertaining, full of imagines and survey questions that make the read a pleasure. It challenges the reader to rethink the world around. What is really the masterstroke is presenting data in a way that is easy to understand and delivers a clear message.

    One of the most thought-provoking, well-written books on the world and developing trends currently on the shelves.

    The Virus in the Age of Madness – Bernard-Henri Lévy

    They knew that Pascal’s room, Thoreau’s hut, and especially their own den was a dark chamber, an unhealthy space full of resentment; they knew that one is nothing when alone, that one thinks most often of nothing at all, and that hell is not other people, but the self.

    This short book is a collection of thoughts regarding the Covid-19 pandemic from the French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy. Originally in French, the essay discusses the politics of the pandemic, wondering if the measures taken by governments are good or bad, the reaction of the media, and what we, humanity, should do collectively and individually in these circumstances.

    The references to French literature and influential philosophers betray the cultural range and depth of Lévy , without being didactic. The media referenced is rather balanced, neither progressive or conservative, and covers both sides of the Atlantic.

    The message of the book is a caution against human atomisation, using all the benefits of isolation, made possible by current technology. Food, clothes, items, can be ordered with a simple click. Communication can be done virtually. But the essential human touch cannot be ordered online. Staying at home cannot be praised, it is essentially anti-humane.

    Furthermore, individual liberties are disappearing, in face of distancing and confinement measures. Once taken away, it is hard to restate them. The democratic model itself is at stake, with other socioeconomic models vying for top spot. Media is focusing too much on the virus, while other grave problems remain in the dark: global warming, refugee crises, dictatorships, feeble democracies sliding into authoritarianism. But also good news are fewer in the pages of journals and screens of TVs, we know less about the good in the world.

    Lévy also warns about future pandemics. Humanity has lived with major pandemics all its history. What do we do if we another pandemic hits in five years time? Do we close again the economy? Measures against the spreading are needed, such as social distancing, but need to be debated, rationalized and lessons of the pandemic need to be learn. Because another pandemic is around the corner.

    The book invites to reflection, to think about what makes us human. It is a book about courage, in face of illness. And finally, it is a warning for the human isolation that technology now allows. Isolation cannot be praised, as if we do, we lose our humanity, the French philosopher argues.

    Six Wakes – Mur Lafferty

    I’m so sick of that argument. I’ve been hearing it for centuries. Playing God. Wolfgang, we played God when people believed they could dictate their baby’s gender by having sex in a certain position. We played God when we invented birth control, amniocentesis, cesarean sections, when we developed modern medicine and surgery. Flight is playing God. Fighting cancer is playing God. Contact lenses and glasses are playing God. Anything we do to modify our lives in a way that we were not born into is playing God. In vitro fertilization. Hormone replacement therapy. Gender reassignment surgery. Antibiotics.

    Six Wakes is hard scifi detective story taking place on a start ship headed for a new planet. Six clones, the entire crew of the ship, wake up, their earliest memory being from the start of the journey, 25 years ago. They are surrounded by their murdered bodies.

    We follow the stories and point of view of each character, all having great character development and good motivations.

    The novel debates the effects of cloning, in a masterful piece of suspense and mystery. The storytelling is compelling and the world building feels giving sufficient detail, without overwhelming the reader.

    The book was widely appreciated, being a finalist for both Hugo and Nebula scifi competitions, the most important book competitions of the genre.

    It took me less than a day to finish the book, I could not leave it down. A great detective story in space.

     

    100 Tricks to Appear Smart in Meetings: How to Get By Without Even Trying – Sarah Cooper

    2. Translate percentage metrics into fractions

    If someone says “About 25% of all users click on this button,” quickly chime in with, “So about 1 in 4,” and make a note of it. Everyone will nod their head in agreement, secretly impressed and envious of your quick math skills.

    3. Encourage everyone to “take a step back”

    There comes a point in most meetings where everyone is chiming in, except you. Opinions and data and milestones are being thrown around and you don’t know your CTA from your OTA. This is a great point to go, “Guys, guys, guys, can we take a step back here?” Everyone will turn their heads toward you, amazed at your ability to silence the fray. Follow it up with a quick, “What problem are we really trying to solve?” and, boom! You’ve bought yourself another hour of looking smart.

    The book presents a sarcastic view of how to act during meetings, including 100 advises of how to look smarter, while not having a clue of what the discussion is about. The funny thing is that it resembles so much the modern world.

    Some of the advises include:

    1. Draw a Venn diagram. …

    2. Translate percentage metrics into fractions. …

    3. Encourage everyone to “take a step back” …

    4. Nod continuously while pretending to take notes. …

    5. Repeat the last thing the engineer said, but very very slowly. …

    6. Ask “Will this scale?” …

    7. Pace around the room. …

    8. Ask the presenter to go back a slide.

    The author, Sarah Cooper, is a comedian that worked for companies like Yahoo! and Google and has a blog called The Cooper Review.

    When I started reading the book, I genuinely thought that it is some self-development book. Well, it is mostly a humorous take of corporate meetings, but, as the motto says, “It is funny because it’s true!”.

    The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen R. Covey

    Habit 1: Be Proactive

    Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind

    Habit 3: Put First Things First

    Habit 4: Think Win/Win

    Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood

    Habit 6: Synergize

    Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw

    This is a self-development book with a huge success since it was released in the 1989. Like many self-development books, you are right both if you think it works or of you think it doesn’t.

    The author encourages the reader to divide its life into personal and public spheres and try to improve both by using the good habits he describes. There is no study or research behind the results, except the author’ personal experience and common sense. His Christian belief and principles, clearly confessed in a short paragraph at the end of the volume, is the basis of his philosophy.

    While now synergize and proactive are overused, back in the day they were innovative concepts. Much in vogue in the business schools, the book was popular with managers and people who just want to improve.

    There is nothing new or exceptional in the author’s advice, but just common sense for an active and fulfilling life. The relationship with family, kids, relationships at work are important. Being humble and organized are vital in Stephen Covey’s philosophical system.

    At times, the book seems to force the reader into buying more; being too commercial and aggressive. The advice seems shallow sometimes, without research to back the statements. The arguments appear exaggerated in some circumstances.

    The author passed away in 2014, after an accident, unfortunately.

    Overall, an interesting book, useful for those who want to find their way in life or who are at cross roads.

     

    The New Digital Age – Eric Schmidt, Jared Cohen

    There are an untold number of cultural similarities that have never been fully explored because of the difficulty of communication; in a future revolutionary setting, seemingly random connections between distant populations or people will entail knowledge transfer, outsourcing certain types of duties and amplifying the movement’s message in a new and unexpected way.

    The book is written by the former CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt, and Jared Cohen, former CEO of Google Ideas, and presents a vision of the future.

    This future is largely dominated by digital, including in the medical field, in house appliances, with driverless cars, new ways of a state to govern, all interconnected.

    There are information privacy concerns, a discussion on Assange’s Wikileaks motives and Navalny’s corruption exposures.

    The media is in the era of instant information. Trust is important to determine the veracity of news. News become instant and losses quickly it’s value. As anyone can become a source of news, veracity becomes more important.

    An important point made repeatedly by the book is that anything written online remains forever. There is no erase button. No privacy settings or even deleting emails can block that [the book was written in 2013, before the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation].

    States are much interested in the use of data and a fragile equilibrium is set between security concerns and individual privacy.

    The book is very forward-looking and opens a few delicate debates. However, while putting forward many interesting ideas, I felt that I am reading nothing new. I struggled since 2016 to finish the book.

    The Numbers Game – Chris Anderson, David Sally

    It is easy…to think of soccer as a game of superstars. They provide the glamour, the genius, the moments of inspiration. They sell the shirts and fill the seats. But they do not decide who wins games and who wins championships. That honour falls to the incompetents at the heart of the defense or the miscommunicating clowns in midfield. Soccer is a weak-link game. This has profound implications for how we see soccer, how clubs should be built and teams constructed, how sides should be run and substitutions made. It changes the very way we think about the game.

    Did you know that making your worst players perform better gets you more points than getting your best players improve?

    Did you know that the wage bill of a club is the best indicator for the club’s performance?

    Did you know that most goals have about four passes before the final shot?

    The book analyses football statistics to the bone, looking at all factors: goals, finance, training, transfers, etc. While a bit dry for non-mathematical minds, it shows great understanding and research into the details of the sport.

    Inspired by the famous Moneyball book and movie, based on the real statistician who transformed baseball, this volume does the same to football.

    Pioneering football analytics

    It looks at everything related to the game, from before the match, on the pitch, management and finally after the match.

    Each phase of the game is researched in great statistical detail, showing the analytics that are now norm in the professional game.

    While filled with charts and statistics, the volume is easy to follow and good at explaining facts, despite the mathematical language often used. Goals are the main target of analysis and other factors are brilliantly explained in their relation to the game. The only part that is maybe missing is the marketing part

    Overall, the volume from Chris Anderson and David Sally  is an absolute treasure for football’s cerebral fans.

    The Great Acceleration: How the World is Getting Faster, Faster – Robert Colvile

    The greatest impact will be felt in the east. Today, there are 28 cities with a population of more than ten million people. By 2030, the UN predicts there will be 41 – and more than half of them will be in Asia. In India, as ambition pulls and poverty pushes, urban populations will almost double over the next 20 years, with some 240 million people moving from country to city. China recently announced a plan to build another mega-city around Beijing, containing a third as many people as in the entire United States. In just a decade’s time, China will have 221 cities of more than a million people. There are only 35 such cities in the EU today.

    The book discusses the changes in society, considering them increasingly fast. The author, Robert Colvile,  divides the book in several chapters that analyze separately the evolving human society: friendships and relationships, news, logistics, politics, culminating with environment.

    Colvile argues that humans are more impatient, news are faster, sometimes lacking substance, logistics are incredibly well-timed, politics focus more on the news cycle rather than long-term strategies, cities are growing and become the nodal societal points, and we slowly damaging the environment.

    The book is extremely entertaining, well-written, full of quoted studies and gems of wisdom. The arguments are purposely well-balanced, rather on the optimistic side of technology. It is generally highly recommended by readers of all tastes.

    Robert Colvile is a journalist, writing for various US and UK newspapers, such as Politico, Financial times or The Wire. He was previously news director at BuzzFeed and comment editor at the Daily Telegraph.

    Overall, it’s a good book, entertaining, well-written, exploring the current societal trends. A nice book to have in a train or on a beach.