I don't quite know how to rate and review Brain Lock, but I'll give it the old college try. Please note that several f-bombs are laced throughout my r...moreI don't quite know how to rate and review Brain Lock, but I'll give it the old college try. Please note that several f-bombs are laced throughout my review. Profanity feels really good when it comes to fighting back.
I don't have OCD, but a friend who knows I struggle with claustrophobia and anxiety sent it along with a strong recommendation. And I'm oh-so-glad she did.
On the surface, the treatment method for OCD outlined and explained in Brain Lock wouldn't seem to have much to do with treating phobias. Yet, what is a phobia but an obsessive, irrational fear of harmless or even unlikely circumstances? It's not even that, really. A phobia is the fear of losing control when faced with a particular circumstance.
For me, it's getting a handle on the ridiculousness of claustrophobia that interferes with my love of travel; specifically, I fucking hate to fly. And, like, I've flown all over the world, north to south, east to west. I've had jobs predicated on the ability to travel all over, frequently, by small, steel tube with no access to fresh air for hours on end. I've been claustrophobic forever, but the flight thing just keeps getting worse. I never, ever get on an elevator, but for the most part I can work around that (recent surgery, I couldn't escape the elevator, but I was on a gurney with drugs in my system. That's how I roll). It's hard, however, to get to Vietnam, Chile, Morocco or Turkey - all places I intend to get to soon - without boarding a plane. Fuck this. I'm tired of carrying the burden of my own brain around. Enough.
I love a plan. And now I have one. The first two pages of the journal I'm taking with me to France (YES! FUCK YES! I'M GETTING ON A FUCKING PLANE IN TWO WEEKS) are filled with notes from Brain Lock, including the Four Steps: RELABEL, REATTRIBUTE, REFOCUS, REVALUE.
For years, I've Refocused, without even knowing I should be. When I feel a pre-take-off or mid-flight panic attack tickling the nether reaches of my brain, I pull out my book of NY Times Sunday crossword puzzles and get to work. It's hard to panic when you are trying to think of the nine-letter name for a canonized Norwegian king. But I never knew the power of anticipating and accepting that I WILL start to panic, that every fiber in me will be screaming ICANTICANTICANTICANT as I walk down the jetway or when the flight attendants close the doors and I know I am TRAPPED FOR HOURS AND I CAN'T GET OUT. There's power in knowing that horror is going to happen. Knowledge is power, because it puts me in control.
The moment I read this thing, this thing about saying, "Oh, hey there, Brain. Yep, there you go, freaking out. What else is new? You've allowed in stupid obsessive thoughts, but sit down and STFU!" (Relabel & Reattribute) a light flickered on. No one ever told me I could say THAT to my brain. No one ever told me that the panic won't go away, but I don't have to DO anything about it. I don't have to try to stop it, I just don't have to ACT on it. I can carry on with the rest of my life (Refocus) and devalue the panic as worthless garbage (Revalue). This alone was worth the price of admission. I see other reviews suggesting that you skip right to the end of the book, where the four steps are explained in a handful of pages, but don't do that. It's really worth getting some background on OCD and relating it to your particular issues, even if it's not a disorder you possess.
The case studies I skipped, as well as chapters on relationships to other disorders and living with a loved one who has OCD. I was also a bit taken aback by the frequent references to God. I wasn't expecting that from a behavior therapist. It's fine, really. I'm not a religious person, but I do my fair share of appealing to a higher power. It just caught me off guard.
But I was glad to see the strong focus on mindfulness, the nuanced approach to medication (the goal being to alter your brain chemistry, thereby negating the need for medication), and the nods to meditation. I've found a couple of phobia-specific guided meditation practices that have been incredibly helpful and they will be loaded on my iPod, ready for action during that flight.
I know I'll be fine. I've made this flight dozens of times. It's never easy, but once, long ago, it was, so I know the power to change my brain and gain control over these false messages is completely within my grasp.
Perhaps it’s best that I read The Children Act in the space of a day, curled on my sofa. Otherwise I might have been spied in my favorite cafe purring...morePerhaps it’s best that I read The Children Act in the space of a day, curled on my sofa. Otherwise I might have been spied in my favorite cafe purring like a contented cat, stroked by the sublimity of Ian McEwan’s prose.
Words adore Ian McEwan, submitting readily to his firm but empathetic hand. They are sleek and gorgeous dancers to his choreography; alone, they are admirable, but under his direction they assume nuance and strength. His works never fail to take my breath away. It is a comfort to know, regardless of the story I am about to witness, that I will be treated with the utmost respect by an author who assumes I revere language and composition as much as he does. It is because of writers like Ian McEwan that I have come to cherish the art of writing.
But even the most skilled and erudite writing cannot save a flawed story. Fortunately, this author takes his subject matter as seriously as his prose.
In the vein of Saturday, The Children Act imposes an ethical dilemma on a member of the elite caste of British society and places its protagonist in crisis. In this most recent of McEwan’s thirteen novels, Fiona Maye, a High Court judge in Britain’s Family Division, hears a case of a young Jehovah's Witness with leukemia whose parents refuse to allow a critical medical procedure. His religion forbids blood transfusions and the hospital has appealed to the High Court to force the treatment on the dying patient. Time is running out—Fiona, My Lady, as she is addressed in court, has only a few days to hear the case and render her decision before it is too late to save the young man’s life.
Complicating an already impossible situation is Adam, the patient. He is nearly the age of consent—just a few months shy of his eighteenth birthday—and his objection to the transfusion is as strong as his parents’. There is legal precedent to allowing a older minor to make life or death decisions about his care, and the judge must decide if Adam is fully aware of the consequences of his choice. His death will be agonizing, or in the unlikely event he lives, his future will be a half-life spent in blindness and compromised mental capacity. Standing against her is a sheltered faith of dubious theological framework, and the right to determine one’s own destiny.
The control and confidence with which Fiona Maye handles her cases belies the mess of her life at home. At the start of this slim novel, her husband Jack, a university professor, announces he would like to have an affair and hopes she’ll understand his need to assert his sexuality in the waning light of his life. Fiona and Jack have been married for thirty years and although they have no children, their life is enriched with the frequent presence of nieces and nephews.
McEwan brings to the page a paradox that fascinates me: how many can be in such supreme command of their professional lives, yet find themselves mired in disaster at home. But this is where The Children Act stumbles and strains for me. Jack offers as defense for the necessity of his fling the fact that he and Fiona have not had sex for “seven weeks and one day,” a period during which Fiona was trying an exceptionally draining and emotional case. As she ruminates about their marriage, Fiona recalls a particularly active and passionate sex life. There’s something about all of this that rings hollow for me. As sensitive and starkly real a portrayal of new marriage as McEwan rendered in On Chesil Beach, I found myself disbelieving the mature marriage in The Children Act. I couldn’t determine if the author expects us to believe a man would pursue an affair after a brief dry season and that he would want his wife to accept to an open marriage, a marriage that had heretofore known great sex. But later, as Fiona and Jack find their way back to each other, the tiny, tender moments of frail solidarity seep in and mostly redeem the incredulous bits.
The troubled marriage plays in the background. It is the case of Adam and his faith that allows us to enter Fiona’s intellect and to battle with our own ethical and moral demons. Fiona’s internalized anguish over her own childlessness adds poignancy to her strength on the bench of family court. She determines the fate of so many children, yet Fate has determined that she will have none of her own.
In this era of doorstop novels—those giant, bloated affairs that become the darlings of the literati (and of me, yes, I have loved many a 500-hundred-plus-pager in recent months!)—it is a gift to read a rich, complete, thoughtful novel that combines meticulous research with exciting imagination in a mere 221 pages. The Children Act isn’t perfect (and what a relief that is, right?). But it’s vital, full of emotion, and so beautifully written, it made me purr. (less)
OH! I'm so glad I ran into this book. Of course, I'll be a better judge of its merits after our trip, but her details and comments are excellent. Most...moreOH! I'm so glad I ran into this book. Of course, I'll be a better judge of its merits after our trip, but her details and comments are excellent. Most of the walks are centered in the Périgord Noir, where we are staying. We've already dog-eared several of these, as well as several around Bergerac. Vive la randonnée! (less)