Brainwashing with Good Soap and Orange Chocolate Chip Muffins Spiritual Journey Book Reviews

Thank you to those who have sent prayers for mental healing, acceptance, and encouragement in my works. Without your doing that for me, I wouldn’t have been able return to Saints and Recipes.

Spiritual journeys never end. We know this. But sometimes, something on our path slams us in the face so hard, we are stunned and need to hang out with the locals for a while to recover, reestablish our bearings, and adjust our course before we can set sail again.

*sigh* In February, I experienced a psychotic episode all over this blog and Facebook. (I’ve deleted the posts.) I had been suffering psychosis for almost three years, mostly keeping it under wraps until my condition exposed itself. Big time. At which point, I finally received my accurate diagnosis. I have Bipolar Disorder. I suffered mania, delusions, and paranoia. I have been prescribed the appropriate medication, and am receiving therapy with a quality psychologist. As long as I keep taking my medication and seeking help when I need it, I’ll be fine.

And now to review three books that positively affected my mental health. Brainwashing in a good way refers to the human brain’s ability to feel about feelings, think about thinking, and pray about praying.

CALMING THE EMOTIONAL STORM: Using Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills to Manage Your Emotions & Balance Your Life by Sheri Van Dijk, MSW is an excellent how-to self therapy book. Highly recommend!

In addition to learning Dialectical Behavior Therapy with my therapist, I purchased the book and studied on my own. I have learned that I have had a difficult time with my emotions throughout my life because I wasn’t properly taught how to feel and express them. I was also abused. And abusers rarely want you to react to their abuse, because they can’t stand being called out on their bad behavior. I also had problems with overreacting when people were genuinely good to me over a sustained period of time. Because I simply wasn’t used to it.

One of the best concepts Sheri teaches is that we have the ability to experience secondary emotions based on our negative judgement of the primary emotions we experience due to a condition or event in our life. She advises us to give ourselves permission to feel our primary emotions. Just feel them and allow them to pass through us and then fade away.

This is a difficult thing to do if you were taught incorrectly about emotions. Sheri writes about Emotional Myths. You can use the below quote to determine if you need to learn how to practice Dialectical Behavior Therapy yourself, or if you were taught appropriately in childhood and just need an overview. Remember, these are false beliefs:

1. There is a right and a wrong way to feel in every situation. This is untrue. Everyone experiences different emotions about the same event, because their interpretations of that event will vary. Your emotional response will also depend on many other factors, such as your involvement in the situation, your relationship to others involved, your state of mind before the event took place, and so on. It’s important to remember that emotions are not good or bad, right or wrong; however you feel in a situation is the way you should feel.

2. It’s not good or healthy to feel angry. Myth. Anger is a natural human emotion; it serves a purpose, as we discussed earlier, and so therefore it is good, and it is healthy. What may not be positive or healthy is the way you’re expressing that emotion.

3.  Happy or emotionally healthy people don’t experience painful emotions. That is not true! Even the happiest people have pain in their lives sometimes; life is all about the good and the bad, pain and joy. Life is naturally going to have painful moments, and any person is going to experience pain as a result of those moments, regardless of how happy or well adjusted the person is.

4. Feeling sad (or another emotion) is weak. Again, this is a myth. Emotions arise for a reason, to motivate you to change something, to help you communicate, and so on. The emotion is normal and healthy. Your response to the emotion might not be healthy, and if that’s the case, that’s what you need to focus on: without self-judgement, determining what would be a healthier course of action that could help you cope with this intense emotion.

5. Painful emotions are destructive. False. It’s not the emotion that’s destructive; it’s how you choose to act because of the emotion. For example, feeling angry doesn’t physically hurt you or anyone else; it’s when you choose to act in a physically violent way because of the anger that people get hurt.

6. If others don’t approve of how you feel, you shouldn’t feel this way. As noted in myth number one, people will feel differently about a situation depending on their interpretation of the event and other factors. There is no right or wrong way to feel, ever. If others seem to judge you for the feeling you’re experiencing, remind yourself that the way you feel is just the way you feel, and it’s okay.

7. Painful emotions are bad and need to be fixed. Another myth. Painful emotions are painful, but that doesn’t make them bad. Because all of our emotions serve a function, I could actually argue that all emotions are good! They come up for a reason. Granted, once you realize why an emotional is there, you likely don’t want that uncomfortable emotion hanging around; there are things you can do to help yourself with this. For now, simply recognize that no emotion needs to be fixed.

8. Being emotional means being out of control. Not necessarily true; perhaps right now, whenever you’re emotional, you are out of control. But that’s what this book is all about: how to manage your emotions more effectively so that you remain in control even when you experience strong emotions.

9. It’s not healthy to express your emotions. Quite the opposite; it’s not healthy if you don’t express your emotions! Expressing your emotions in an assertive way is very healthy. Failing to express your emotions, or expressing them in an aggressive or passive way, is not effective and can even be harmful.

10. Painful emotions will never go away if you don’t act to make them go away. Another myth. The truth is that painful emotions often go away without us having to do anything about them. Trying to make them go away actually keeps them hanging around longer. – Page 71-72

On top of teaching me the appropriate way to feel about my emotions, CALMING THE EMOTIONAL STORM, is a readable book with relatable examples. Not so much was A GUIDE TO RATIONAL LIVING by Albert Ellis, PH.D. and Robert A. Harper, PH.D.

In fact, I don’t recommend you read this particular book, UNLESS you have a high tolerance for male chauvinism and condescension. It’s basically the “text book” for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and teaches the reader how to think about thinking. And, more importantly, shows us that we have the ability to change the way we think. In other words, our automatic responses to situations don’t always have to be so.

Struggling through the reading of this book, sticking with it until you understand and are able to implement it’s concepts, is a powerful and life changing exercise. It’s amazing what our brains can accomplish once we set our minds to it. But, I wonder if it’s necessary to work so hard these days. Perhaps there are more modern easier-to-read Cognitive Behavioral Therapy self help books out there. I recommend doing a search for such first.

Speaking about exercise one’s brain and one’s faith, let’s talk about THE ROSARY WITH POPE FRANCIS, compiled with an introduction by Marianne Lorraine Trouve, FSP. This is the best Rosary guidebook I’ve found. The prayers of the Rosary are interspersed with quotes from Pope Francis to contemplate as we pray. Here’s an example of how it works:

The First Joyful Mystery

The Annunciation

Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her. (Luke 1:38, NRSV)

Our Father

Let us invoke the intercession of Mary who is the woman of the “yes.” Mary said “yes” throughout her life!

Hail Mary

Mary learned to recognize Jesus’s voice from the time she carried him in her womb. May Mary, our Mother, help us to know Jesus’s voice better and better and to follow it, so as to walk on the path of life!

Hail Mary

The Immaculata was written in God’s design; she is the fruit of God’s love that saves the world.

Hail Mary 

Our Lady never distanced herself from that love; throughout her life her whole being is a “yes” to that love, it is the “yes” to God. But that didn’t make life easy for her!

Hail Mary

When the angel calls her “full of grace” (Luke 1:28), she is “greatly troubled,” for in her humility she feels she is nothing before God.

Hail Mary

The angel consoles her: “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus” (Luke 1:30, 31).

Hail Mary

This announcement troubles her even more because she was not yet married to Joseph; but the angel adds, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you . . . therefore the child to be born will be call holy, the Son of God” (Luke 1:35).

Hail Mary

Mary listens, interiorly obeys, and responds: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).

Hail Mary

Let us look to her, our mother, and allow her to look upon us, for she is our mother and she loves us so much.

Hail Mary

Mary is the mother who comforts us, the mother of consolation and the mother who accompanies us on the journey.

Hail Mary

Glory be – Page 3-5 

I 100% recommend this Rosary prayer book and the praying of the Rosary to bring you closer to understanding Jesus’s true nature. I don’t regret all the miracles and the healthy changes in my life I was courageous enough to make with Jesus by my side.

All three books provide a right good exercise to recondition of our brains toward healthy thought patterns.

Let’s reward ourselves for all our hard mental work with this feel-good treat:

Orange Chocolate Chip Muffins

1 teaspoon canola oil for greasing

1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup old-fashioned oat meal

4 tablespoons ground flax seed

¾ cup sugar (or 1/2 cup honey and 1/4 teaspoon baking SODA)

2 teaspoons baking POWDER

½ teaspoon salt (or 1/4 teaspoon or to taste)

1 teaspoon medieval (Pumpkin Pie) spices*

1 teaspoon fresh orange zest

½ cup or 1 stick of butter (or vegan butter such as Miyoko’s) , melted and cooled slightly

2 eggs

½ cup buttermilk (or vegan substitute such as oat milk)

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup peeled oranges with the membrane removed

1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips


1 1/2 tablespoons light brown sugar

1 teaspoon medieval spices

*medieval (Pumpkin Pie) spices = 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg, 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves, 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice.

Preheat oven to 375 degree. Grease a 12-cup muffin pan.

Combine flour, oatmeal, flax seed, sugar, baking POWDER, salt, 1 teaspoon medieval spices and orange zest in a large bowl.

Whisk butter, eggs, milk, and vanilla together in a small bowl.

Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Stir in chopped oranges and chocolate chips.

Divide batter evenly among muffin cups.

In a small bowl, mix sugar, light brown sugar, and medieval spices. Sprinkle mixture on top of each muffin.

Bake 25 to 30 minutes until toothpick inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean or with dry crumbs.

Cool slightly before popping out of muffin pan and serving. It’s fun to make multiple batches for sharing!



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