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review 2018-03-10 11:54
Lost Connections by Johann Hari
Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions - Johann Hari

TITLE: Lost Connections:  Uncovering the Real Causes of depression - and the Unexpected Solutions

AUTHOR:  Johann Hari


FORMAT:  e-book

ISBN-13:  978-1-4088-7870-5

From the blurb:

    "What really causes depression and anxiety – and how can we really solve them? Award-winning journalist Johann Hari suffered from depression since he was a child and started taking anti-depressants when he was a teenager. He was told that his problems were caused by a chemical imbalance in his brain. As an adult, trained in the social sciences, he began to investigate whether this was true – and he learned that almost everything we have been told about depression and anxiety is wrong.

    Across the world, Hari found social scientists who were uncovering evidence that depression and anxiety are not caused by a chemical imbalance in our brains. In fact, they are largely caused by key problems with the way we live today. Hari´s journey took him from a mind-blowing series of experiments in Baltimore, to an Amish community in Indiana, to an uprising in Berlin. Once he had uncovered nine real causes of depression and anxiety, they led him to scientists who are discovering seven very different solutions – ones that work.

    It is an epic journey that will change how we think about one of the biggest crises in our culture today."

This is an interesting and well researched book that examines the underlying causes of depression and anxiety, how to "fix" it and why drugs don't always work.  Some of what Hari writes is fairly obvious to most people, but it's nice to have everything in one place and analyzed like this. I did feel Hari didn't cover the biological causes for depression in enough detail - he completely left out hormones and environmental pollutants.  I am also not convinced psychologists/psychiatrists are as stupid as Hari makes out - so stupid that they don't realize life issues can effect your mood?  None the less, there are interesting, food-for-thought  topics covered in this book.

NOTE:  I just wish the author had kept his political views out of the book.  They weren't relevant.

RECOMMENDED BOOK ABOUT ENVIRONMENTAL POLLUTION & HUMAN HEALTH Our Stolen Future - Are We Threatening Our Fertility, Intelligence, And Survival? by Theo Colborn, Dianne Dumanoski, John Peterson Myers
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review 2018-03-08 01:36
Freshwater -- A new perspective on mental health and trauma
Freshwater - Akwaeke Emezi

Akwaeke Emezi is a new, wonderfully fresh, voice to add to the many memoirs of living with C-PTSD (psychobabble below review) and surviving a traumatic childhood. Most go in rote portrayal through X happened, Y is the dysfunctional way we (identity states) dealt with it, Z is the (usually much healthier) way we learned to cope and the place we landed by the writing of the memoir/book.


Instead Emezi gives protagonist Ada and her self-states their own music and more importantly, own heritage, in telling a magical, spiritual, semi-autobiographical story of how the many came to be and worked their way through life to become the person they are now. They are distinctly Nigerian, and all of that Western psychobabble below is inadequate for anyone who hasn't sprung forth directly from a textbook - even for a person who grew up in the West. Imagine how absurd it is to anyone whose background is infused with spiritual aspects, beliefs and legends the West does not allow for.


An ogbanje is an Igbo spirit born into a human body, and this is how Emezi sees her young protagonist's system of being. There is a body and the body plays host to a number of gods and people, each running the whole system from time to time, weaving in and out to deal with the situation. When you think about it, we all have parts of ourselves that take over for certain situations. You at work are not the same you that crawls into bed with a partner at night or the same you who studied hard in university or the same you who did something you may not be so proud of. Everyone's identity works on a sort of continuum.


What Emezi has done so specially is tell her protagonist's story including all of the possibilities. Yes traumatic things happened, but perhaps she was born primed to be more than just one. Perhaps the ogbanje were there, just waiting for a chance to assert themselves. Others are born along the way. We do follow the general arc of birth to present, but the path is gorgeously written, spiritual and magical.


I could either quote the whole book or tell you what happens at every step, but I won't. I will tell you that like many lives, hers is not easy. They are different; Ada's life has more scary places than others. Parts of her react dysfunctionally, she goes "mad." Hard things happen, but they take on significance for the unique way the many who live within the body called Ada cope with each new horror, wonder or challenge.


The prose is lyrical and beautiful even when the events described are not. While it's fantastical, it's also very truthful. Perhaps this much truth can only be safely told by spirits, gods and a little bit of magic. The end is uplifting. If we are going to read "DID Memoirs" or stories of difference - be they about race, states of being, health, illness, whatever, let this be one you read.



 -- And as promised, psychobabble:


Complex Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) is the newest Western nomenclature for what we used to call Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) - which itself is the name used since 1994 for something formerly called "Multiple Personality Disorder" - a very misleading and much maligned term/diagnosis. C-PTSD et al are not a personality disorder, but rather the lack of a unified self-state or identity. The identities act as centers of information processing.


The term "personality" means "characteristic patterns of thoughts, feelings, moods and behaviors of the whole individual," while for a person with C-PTSD, the switches between identities and behavior patterns is the personality. So it's just a different way to process the world and oneself. It's not Sybil or the Three Faces of Eve or even very strange. It's called C-PTSD because it usually stems from a trauma so long-lasting or severe that the child creates a complex way to cope.


Glad we cleared that up.


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review 2018-03-05 22:54
Stephen King: Master of Horror
It - Stephen King

I don't remember if I've ever talked about my fondness for Stephen King before on the blog. I know that I've mentioned that horror is a genre that from time to time I thoroughly enjoy. There was one summer in particular that I found myself binge reading some of King's works. I read through Carrie, The Tommyknockers, The Shining, and Needful Things that summer but that wasn't where my love affair started. It actually started with It: King's novel about a group of kids who face an unspeakable horror while growing up that comes back to haunt them as adults. I've actually re-read this one a few times simply because I find something new each time that I read it. There are all of the elements of horror as well as a healthy dosage of psychological thriller which King is known for. It's all set in Derry, Maine which I for one would love to visit as it seems to be the epicenter of King's works. It is not for those who suffer from Coulrophobia or the fear of clowns. The nexus of evil in this novel is a shape-shifting entity that primarily takes the shape of a clown so that it can lure children to its lair. (Not sure what kid would willingly follow a clown but these kids seem to be into it.) The main group of children that this book focuses on were outcasts who formed the 'Losers Club' and because of their combined strength they were able to provide a united, threatening front. The book flips between the present day (1984-85) and the past (1957-58) and tells each of the main characters stories. You get to know them and root for them all to various degrees. If you've never read any of Stephen King's books and you want a good place to start then I definitely recommend It. (Warning: There are adult themes and coarse language so keep that in mind.) If you'd like to delve into horror but you're a little overwhelmed with all of the choices then I recommend this one to you as well. :-D (Warning: Likely to induce nightmares for the faint of heart.)

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review 2018-03-03 08:07
Ape Mind, Old Mind, New Mind- John Wylie

A well written academic book written in a style and at a scientific level that most of us can connect with, even if we can’t quite compute all the scholarly depth that make up the full picture. I definitely place myself in ‘the superficial understanding’ category but never felt intimidated by complexity. Wylie reexplores evolutionary biology bringing into play his clinical and philosophical knowledge and private observations in the fields of psychology, psychiatry, psychotherapy, and medicine. Wylie’s observations which build into a broad psychological theory that fits as a complementary extension to classic Darwinism, add considerably to our conventional understanding of human evolution. With the obvious exception of many dogmatic scripturalists, I think this book has a lot for all those interested in why we are what we are questions. Wylie adds to our understanding of personality evolution, looking at the intellectual creature that with all the psychological baggage we carry from our ancestors.

I did rather question some of what I read to be rather afterthought attempts to tie in sacred spirituality and philosophy. I guess some attempt at this is, though, beneficial if it might draw in all but the most dogmatic of ‘Abrahamists’. Anyway, arguably, religion could not be left out of a fully rounded ‘thesis’. Otherwise I had no personal issues with any ideas in this very well written book. Nearly always, Wylie found simple ways of distilling out the complexity of his arguments. A few more real-life anecdotes from Wylie’s career would I’m sure add a great deal of enjoyment for the general reader, without losing the focus required by the more scholastic. This is a serious book, exploring the whys and wherefores from a full range of psychological illnesses balanced against normal, (average), behaviours, that make us the deep thinking but not always rational creatures that we have become.



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review 2018-03-03 01:06
Poor execution
Mine own executioner, - Nigel Balchin

I have to confess that I did a thing which I am always telling people they shouldn't guilt themselves into doing...I read a book that I wasn't really all that interested in reading. My rationale was that I had gone out of my way (interlibrary loan from a different state) to get this book and I didn't want to admit that it wasn't worth the effort. *sigh* 


The book that I'm referring to is Mine Own Executioner by Nigel Balchin. I want to give you a central theme or something to succinctly explain it but the closest I can manage is saying that it's about a man who is battling an inner turmoil while also trying to be a competent psycho-analyst. There's a lot of discussion around the validity of a medical degree vs hands-on training which leads to our main character, Felix Milne, taking on a very difficult case to 'prove' that he is just as capable as a medical professional. His patient was recently involved in a traumatic experience in the war and as a result he experienced a psychotic break from reality and tried to murder his wife. While Milne tries to uncover the root of this man's troubles he continues to ignore the cause of his own marital problems. He has a strained and virtually platonic relationship with his wife and actively struggles with his feelings for her best friend. I guess there's an irony there that he is able to ascertain and ultimately help heal what ails his patients but he can't clearly see that he is the cause of his own misfortunes and unhappiness. Milne is an acerbic and not altogether likable character who plays God with those he seeks to help (and his wife). He justifies this by saying that it's a necessary part of their treatment that they come to see him this way. I don't think I can say with any conviction that I liked this book. The characters were one dimensional, the plot was fairly predictable, and the ending was highly unsatisfactory. I can't even say that I recommend it to ________ or ________. 0/10


PS They made it into a film. Why?


What's Up Next: Einstein's Dreams by Alan Lightman


What I'm Currently Reading: Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places by Colin Dickey


Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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