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Irina Banfi-Mare, Psy.D.

Licensed Psychologist


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Irina Banfi-Mare, Psy.D.   303.547.3615

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recommended stories, books, & films


The Bridge
Edwin Friedman
This is one of my favorite stories because it symbolizes the responsibility we all have for our own lives and choices…and the great difficulty (if not impossibility) of helping someone who will not help himself. It points out that while we may want to help, sometimes it can come at a great cost of sacrificing ourselves. I think the story helps us think about the complexities on the road in life, the difficulty in making a path for ourselves, and the desire for guidance and help. The story is very thought-provoking. We cannot truly help by doing things FOR others or taking responsibility for others. Helping is not about tying ourselves to others and often hard choices are involved. This story is about taking on too much responsibility for others' lives and happiness at our own detriment.

Two Wolves
(anonymous, attributed to many sources)
A grandfather was teaching his grandchildren about life.

He said to them, "A fight is going on inside me. It is a terrible fight, and it is between two wolves. One wolf represents fear, anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, jealousy, and lies.

The other wolf stands for joy, peace, love, hope, sharing, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, friendship, empathy, generosity, truth, and compassion.

The same fight is going on inside of you and every other person too."

The children thought about it for a minute and then one child asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?"

The wise one simply replied, "The one I feed."

I love this story because it reflects how the tendencies and feelings we nurture and "feed" are the ones that dominate our thoughts and actions, while the other tendencies weaken and fade. The side you feed strengthens and takes over.

Both sides exist and both sides serve a purpose. We have a choice in which side we nurture and emphasize. It may not be a matter of having one side "win" over the other, but rather how to find a way to have them co-exist peacefully, without harm to ourselves or others. Acknowledge both sides of yourself and actively, consciously choose which side you want to nourish.

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Man's Search for Meaning
Viktor Frankl
This book is the memoir of psychiatrist Viktor Frankl and describes his experiences in Nazi concentration camps and the lessons he learned about spiritual survival and coping with suffering.

Authentic Happiness
Martin Seligman
A book about focusing on what is right with people as opposed to what is wrong with them! Martin Seligman is a psychologist that studied depression and then turned his attention to studying the nature of happiness. He helped launch a new area of psychology called Positive Psychology. This book can help you identify your key strengths and provide practical ideas for increasing your level of happiness.

Learned Optimism
Martin Seligman
This book draws on clinical research about how optimism impacts the quality of life and how it is possible to develop optimism even if your natural tendency is toward pessimism. I encourage anyone struggling with depression and poor health to consider reading this book.

Staring at the Sun
Irvin Yalom
Irvin Yalom, an influential psychiatrist, discusses his ideas regarding the universal issues of mortality in a deeply engaging story-telling style. The fear of death (including not being able to fulfill our potential) are at the core of much of our anxiety. The willingness to face our own mortality and fear of death can help reduce anxiety and make life more satisfying and meaningful.

Toward a Psychology of Being
Abraham H. Maslow
You may be familiar with Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs (physiological, safety, belongingness and love, esteem, and self-actualization). Maslow explores the idea that human beings want to reach their full potential but are also reluctant or afraid to do so.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull
Richard Bach
This is a short book about a rebel seagull who chooses to go against his flock and follow his own rules in life. He aspires to be the best he can be, even if others don't approve or actively discourage him from being different than everyone else. A wonderful story about being true to yourself and to your goals.

The Relaxation Response
Herbert Benson
A classic book about stress, its impact on our health, and various ways to counteract the harmful effects of chronic stress.

Why Marriages Succeed or Fail
John Gottman
Psychologist John Gottman has specialized in studying married couples and what makes marriages last. Learn how contempt, criticism, defensiveness, and stonewalling can deeply damage your relationship and what you can do to create better communication and intimacy with your partner.

The 60-Second Shrink: 101 Strategies for Staying Sane in a Crazy World
Arnold Lazarus
Practical and brief, this book describes a series of helpful tips to better cope with your feelings and manage stress. A great start if you want a short and fast overview of important coping skills.

The Myth of Self-Esteem
Albert Ellis
In-depth exploration of the consequences of basing your self-worth on conditional things (beauty, youth, financial success, approval of others, performance, etc) and the benefits of unconditional self-acceptance.

Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Flow is a state of consciousness that characterizes genuinely satisfying experiences. When you are in a state of flow, you experience deep enjoyment, creativity, and total absorption in what you are doing. Time seems to stand still. See how you can purposefully seek out such experiences and improve your quality of life.

The Stress and Relaxation Workbook
Davis, Eshelman, & McKay
A practical workbook with clear explanations and suggestions on managing stress and practicing relaxation skills.

The Gift of Fear
Gavin DeBecker
A must-read for any woman! This book encourages listening to your intuition about danger and not ignoring your instincts. You will learn about classic "red flags" to look out for and use this knowledge to increase your ability to protect yourself in dangerous situations.

The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom--Why the Meaningful Life Is Closer Than You Think
Jonathan Haidt
Each chapter explores ancient ideas about happiness and insights from modern psychology.

Stumbling on Happiness
Daniel Gilbert
Gilbert explores what science has discovered about our ability to imagine the future and to predict what makes us happy. We think we know what makes us happy and that we can accurately imagine the future, but we are often wrong.

Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment
Tal Ben-Shahar
Provides a set of principles that you can apply to your daily life to increase your sense of happiness. The content of this book is the basis of Dr. Ben-Shahar's popular "Positive Psychology" course at Harvard University.

Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being
Martin Seligman
An expansion of the concept of Positive Psychology with an emphasis on well-being rather than traditional definitions of happiness. Four key factors help us thrive in life: positive emotion, engagement in what we are doing, a sense of accomplishment, and good relationships.

Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ
Daniel Goleman
Goleman reviews the crucial skills of emotional intelligence and how they help determine much of our success in relationships, work, and health. EQ involves impulse control, self-motivation, empathy and social competence in interpersonal relationships. While our level of EQ may develop early in life, we have the capacity to increase these skills.

Emotional Intelligence 2.0
Travis R. Bradberry
Emotional Intelligence 2.0 delivers a step-by-step program for increasing your EQ via four core EQ skills that enable you to achieve your fullest potential: Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness, and Relationship Management.

Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love
Sue Johnson
Emotionally Focused Therapy views the love relationship as an attachment bond. This idea, supported by science, has become widely popular among therapists around the world as EFT has high rates of success with couples. Dr. Johnson teaches that the way to save and enrich a relationship is to reestablish safe emotional connection and preserve the attachment bond. Through case studies and practical exercises, couples will learn how to better understand each other and improve their relationships.

The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts
Gary Chapman
The #1 New York Times bestselling book. The 5 Love Languages suggests that unhappiness in a love relationship often comes from not speaking the same love language. Dr. Chapman explores the 5 love languages: words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. This short book can help you identify each other's love language (how you like to show and receive love) and get ideas on how to speak your lover's love language.

When Bad Things Happen to Good People
Harold Kushner
A moving book about coping with suffering and trying to make sense of things when "bad things happen to good people."

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The Barbarian Invasions
A dying man is reunited with family and friends.

Lost in Translation
A lonely wife and fading movie star form a strong bond in Tokyo

The Pianist
A Polish Jewish pianist struggles to survive in World War II.

About Schmidt
After his wife dies, a man adjusts to widowhood and retirement.

Before Sunrise
Two strangers meet on a train and fall in love.

The Shawshank Redemption
A story about friendship, resilience, and perseverance.

Groundhog Day
A weatherman repeats the same day over and over again and in the process finds love and happiness.

Ordinary People
An affluent family struggles in the aftermath of the death of the older son.

My Life
A dying man reflects on lessons he has learned in life in order to pass them on to his unborn child.

A man and wife adjust to her battle with Alzheimer's disease.

The Sea Inside
The story of a ship mechanic left quadriplegic after a diving accident and his campaign to win the right to end his life with dignity.

Two best friends embark on a final hoorah before one of them gets married.

The Graduate
A young man struggles with direction and meaning after graduating college.

Flight from Death: The Quest for Immortality
Gabriel Byrne narrates this award-winning documentary that examines death and how anxiety about dying drives human behavior on a psychological, spiritual and cultural level. Available on Netflix.

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