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Survivor's Library

Which psychology books can help you in difficult times?


During economic crises, natural and man-made disasters, military operations and other shocking events, people can experience powerful stresses and psychophysiological and emotional traumas that may cause serious health problems. Vital existential parameters relating to trust, security, values, and self-expression are violated, and life loses all meanings. The editors of IQ.HSE have prepared a list of books in which you can find information to help you maintain your composure and overcome difficult situations.

Existential Psychotherapy
Irvin D. Yalom

This is one of the key works of the famous existential psychotherapist and writer Irvin Yalom. According to Yalom, the main concerns of life are death, freedom, isolation, and meaninglessness. This book is intended primarily for specialists, however the author manages to convey complex content in straightforward language, so the book will be useful to anyone who is ready to approach frightening and often unspoken, but important universal topics. These include the interdependence of life and death, responsibility and freedom, existential isolation and loss of meaning.

Man's Search for Meaning
Viktor Frankl

This book by the famous psychologist, psychiatrist and philosopher Viktor Frankl chronicles his experiences as a prisoner in a concentration camp during World War II. Through his own example, Viktor Frankl proves that even in the most difficult conditions, a person can maintain inner freedom, and that a purpose in life helps to overcome a seemingly imminent death. After this book was published, Frankl wrote many books and academic papers, delivered lectures all over the world and established a new field in psychology and psychotherapy — logotherapy, dedicated to the meaning of life.

The Survivor Personality: Why Some People are Stronger, Smarter, and more Skillful at Handling Life's Difficulties...and How You Can Be, Too
Albert Siebert

Albert Siebert is an American psychologist who has devoted more than 40 years to the study of the phenomenon of survival. His book 'The Survivor Personality ...' is dedicated to those human qualities and characteristics that help overcome both everyday difficulties and global life stresses. By using research data, he shows how you can obtain survival skills that can help, expanding the horizon of an optimistic vision of the future.

Positive Psychological Approaches to Disaster: Meaning, Resilience, and Posttraumatic Growth
Edited by Stefan E. Schulenberg

This is a collective work prepared by experts in the field of psychology of extreme situations and positive psychology. It explores the connection between these areas in the context of natural and man-made disasters. In particular, the authors analyse significant positive aspects that may help you overcome the consequences of disasters, for example, the search for meaning, resilience, adaptability, and post-traumatic growth.

The Psychology of War: Comprehending Its Mystique and Its Madness
Lawrence Leshan

This book can help you understand what happens to the human mentality during military conflicts. Psychologist Lawrence Leshan, author of the book 'Cancer as a Turning Point', attempts to understand the nature of war from a psychological point of view — why people unleash frequent and large-scale wars. Notably, the author doesn't analyse the motives that can lead to war, but rather focuses on how people process information.

He believes that when war breaks out, people's perception of themselves and what is happening in the world is completely different from their perception during peacetime. The author says that the opponents have a 'mythical' way of thinking: we are good, evil is on the other side; we will 'defeat evil' if we win; our future will be safe and prosperous. This mythical thinking induces people's willingness to win the war at any cost, even if the result raises doubts, and at the same time there is a possibility of a non-aggressive solution to the conflict.

Upheaval: How Nations Cope with Crisis and Change
Jared Diamond

In this book Jared Diamond, evolutionary biologist, biogeographer, and Pulitzer Prize winner, analyses how countries cope with crises and whether human experience of overcoming personal trauma can be applied to them. The author explores past crises experienced by Finland, Japan, Chile, Indonesia, Germany, Australia, and the USA. The conclusion is disappointing: people really do learn from crises, but countries don’t.

Author: Marina Selina, March 31, 2022