Aron has caught on to the fact that some of us are more susceptible to stimulation than others. Rather than use standard medical terminologies such as...moreAron has caught on to the fact that some of us are more susceptible to stimulation than others. Rather than use standard medical terminologies such as obsessive compulsion, depression, or bipolar disorder, she calls people afflicted/blessed with this frame of mind "Highly Sensitive Persons" or HSPs.
Aron probes the personality of that 10 to 20% of persons who are especially sensitive to stimula. She offers a checklist of characteristics that might indicate that you are highly sensitive including awareness of subtleties in your environment, being easily startled, having a rich inner life, being moved by the arts and music, and being sensitive to things like bright lights, loud noises, and caffeine.
Why is it, she asks, that HSPs are revered in China but at the bottom of their classes in Canada? It's a matter of culture, she insists. And her job is to help HSPs see their promise as persons in a civilization that holds the warrior to be of greater value than the scientist.
You're a complicated being, she insists, and you should not reduce yourself to genes and systems. Here I think she has a valid point. Too often we who suffer from depression and bipolar disorder identify ourselves as our disease. If we see our destiny as hard-wired, there's not a lot we can do for ourselves. We become little more than lab rats, testing one medication after another because the results aren't perfect. We may decide that the aim of our therapy is to numb ourselves to all pain -- a goal that we may be surprised to find is not shared by our psychiatrist or therapist.
On the other hand, Aron is a tad too suspicious of medications, especially SSRIs such as Prozac. She believes that there may be a doctor's culture which seems any kind of sensitivity as being a bad thing.
I would remind her that most of us turned to doctors because the world leaned on us too hard, that being totally open and free not only got us in trouble but hurt - bad.
Still, there are things about this book that make it a worthwhile read for those of us suffering from mood disorders. The world does often stimulate us beyond our sensitivities and we need to take steps to lessen that effect. Aron points out that medications need to be seen as a safety net to keep us from going too high or too low. In no way should we see them as the way to introduce dramatic changes in our personality. Drugs or no drugs, we have an obligation to understand ourselves and to take steps to fulfill our promise as persons. - Joel(less)
I feel strange after reading this book. The story, itself, is inconsequential, simple. But layered on top of it is a mischievous exploration of academ...moreI feel strange after reading this book. The story, itself, is inconsequential, simple. But layered on top of it is a mischievous exploration of academia and the intelligensia, particularly the French. If Wittgenstein had cowritten comedy with Max Senett, he might have published it in a notebook whose elements were divided up like this are.
The book is rare and out of print at this writing. The strictures of Inter-Library Loan have limited the time to which I can give it. To get all the jokes, I need to go back to college and take the full course of philosophy.(less)
**spoiler alert** A prophetic book. In the opening pages, you might see this as a neo-conservative warning against the socialism of post-War England,...more**spoiler alert** A prophetic book. In the opening pages, you might see this as a neo-conservative warning against the socialism of post-War England, but closer reading delivers a different message, namely how fragile our civilization really is. In 1951, Wyndham saw many potential threats including creeping neo-fascism, germ warfare, orbital weapons platforms, and genetic engineering, all of which conspire to make the narrator's life hell.
You are left looking around you and wondering how you might survive if the conveniences of civilization abruptly disappeared and your neighbors became disabled. On this point the novel offers visions that transcend the Robinson Crusoe and Garden of Eden fairy tales that many people take up at narrative's beginning. You see their schemes fail one by one while some survivors take a clue and others barricade themselves into extinction.
The choices we make, Wyndham asserts, matter. Think now.(less)
An excruciating history is revealed here, reminiscent in some ways of the prelude to World War I. Detzer tells the story of the shelling of Fort Sumte...moreAn excruciating history is revealed here, reminiscent in some ways of the prelude to World War I. Detzer tells the story of the shelling of Fort Sumter. We have all heard about this event in school, but little do we know of the political matters and the vainglorious romance that prefaced it.
The first few chapters move slowly as statesmen probe and waffle, soldiers do their duty to the best of their understanding. No one wanted this, but it happened. As Detzer points out, not a single actor had participated in or even heard the details of an internecine conflict. They went ahead anyways, the South with secession, the North with its refusal to turn over Federal property to the rebels.
Detzer gives us the city of Charleston as it unexpectedly was in 1860-61, the Southern sympathizing officer who became a hero to the North, and the frenzy that led to the emplacement of guns around Charleston’s harbor, all aimed at the brick bastion positioned to choke off all shipping to the port. We see the slaves and the freemen, the white working class, the gentry who climbed up onto their rooftops to watch the bombardment in the early hours of the morning.
When it gets to the action, the author tells us of the intricacies of manning the guns and the extreme exhaustion of the Federal garrison. Civil War buffs will find this an interesting read that will fill in their knowledge of the months that led to war and the first days of a conflict that would ultimately wreck a whole section of the country. Read this slowly for the details, Savor the blunders, the blindness, and the prejudices that cleaved a nation.(less)
My personal experience of people in mania (including myself) clumsily parcels out those who revel in their manias and those who fight them with every...moreMy personal experience of people in mania (including myself) clumsily parcels out those who revel in their manias and those who fight them with every ounce of their spirit through self-examination and re-examination. The ones who kept ending up in the hospital and getting into trouble were of the first order. They may have been sharp at math, possessing of stupendous vocabularies, or cleverness, but when it came to having insight into their disorder, they kept making the same mistakes over and over again. Their thinking tended towards the magical. When they took part in support groups, they were the smartest, the ones who had nothing to learn from anyone else. They were forever second-guessing their doctors and stopping their meds. It was imperative for them to be optimistic to the fault of refusing to see bipolar disorder as anything more than a "different" or "highly-sensitized" way of seeing things in a universe where there was no truth. When they fell, it was spectacular.
Meet Holly Hollan who fits these criteria to a T. Hollan is by her own self-description "brilliant", able to pass any test, master any machine, forsee earthquakes, and understand psychology as well as any professional. Every bad decision she makes, every catastrophe turns out to have a silver lining. She is Candide awash in religiosity, grandiosity, and Neil Diamond.
Her story, nevertheless, enthralls mostly by frightening. Hollan's mother was the Mistress of Unjust Punishments, denying her daughter a whole school year without makeup and nylon stockings because of a practical joke Holly played on her little sister. Her parents became acolytes of Nathaniel Branden, the one-time heir apparent of Ayn Rand. Her earliest therapists were of that movements. In one particularly memorable episode, she left her job at the Morton Salt Company in Michigan to stalk Neil Diamond in Hollywood as part of a quest to realize the Second Coming. The obsession became so ingrained in her life and her delusions that one therapist screamed at her "You are not going to marry Neil Diamond!" Near book's end, she suggests that a meeting with Diamond over the phone was the realization of that vision as proved by the capture of Saddam Hussein two days later. She says that afterwards she let go, but that declaration implies that the delusion still informs her self-history.
Her response to her symptoms are passionate, if sometimes wrong-headed. I have to admit like her being pulled through hard times by listening to songs such as "I am, I said". Getting through times, I have found however, is not the same as living them well. Speaking as one actively fought his manias every step of the way, I must say that those who are inclined towards mania need less of the optimism so lost upon depressives and more of an honest skepticism, the ability to say "Uh oh. I'm might be indulging in magical thinking here." Then when a relative prays for us and declares us healed so we won't need our meds anymore (as Hollan's little sister declared to her at one point) we avoid applauding the miracle and plunging into a fresh calamity.
The difference between me and Hollans is that I never trusted the miracle workers.
I would not hesitate to recommend Hollan's book to family members, clinicians, or stable sufferers who want to broaden their understanding of the disease. But into the hands of the newly diagnosed or those with a history of defying treatment I would not place it. Hollan's book has too many factual errors -- for example, she says that Tegretal is contra-indicated for people with seizures! It's not clear what medications she is on: on one page she claims that she takes only the lowest dose of Abilify. Within a chapter or so, she is saying that she has eliminated all medications except Xanax which she uses to slow her upturns. At points she blurs the distinction between what she believed while in her worst episodes and what she feels now. She is always, nevertheless, sure of herself. And that is why I recommend her narrowly, with abundant warnings. (less)
**spoiler alert** To read this is to indulge in word-primed hashish, not laced in chocolate brownies to sweeten the bite, but hard and true. On every...more**spoiler alert** To read this is to indulge in word-primed hashish, not laced in chocolate brownies to sweeten the bite, but hard and true. On every page I found myself in Africa, not the place where wildlife glide gently in game parks, but sere deserts and towns rough with human contact and flies. This is a novel about Americans abroad, not ugly Americans but clueless ones.
Bowles says that the traveler is someone who takes and leaves bits of culture as he goes. Here the two principle characters lose so much of what they are that they die in one instance and go insane in the other.
This a harsh book, a hallucinogenic book, one that should be read for its cold-walled telescope gazing upon the mottled, abrasive desert, the brusque, unfathomable natives and the souls of its protagonists. Do not expect a happy or a triumphant story, but enjoy an unfeigned one.(less)
It turns out that more than acting, Alda loves to be a writer. His autobriography is episodic, anecdotal, zooming from one crisis to the next like the...moreIt turns out that more than acting, Alda loves to be a writer. His autobriography is episodic, anecdotal, zooming from one crisis to the next like the film of his life that he would undoubtably like to have written. He doesn't say so, but that's the feel of the book -- a movie in waiting.(less)
My all time favorite book, a true masque of the confusion which can fill life amidst an insincere bureaucracy. Note that in this book, a Catch-22 is n...moreMy all time favorite book, a true masque of the confusion which can fill life amidst an insincere bureaucracy. Note that in this book, a Catch-22 is not a dilemna (as it is popularly used) but an impromptu rule invoked by someone who you can't stop from doing so. Don't we run into that all the time?(less)
Every now and then, I need an infusion of wisdom. All I have to do is reach into my pants pocket and read this to remind me of how I need to be focusi...moreEvery now and then, I need an infusion of wisdom. All I have to do is reach into my pants pocket and read this to remind me of how I need to be focusing on the world around me.(less)