I have been looking for a book like this for a while. Most of us have become estranged from a very powerful part of ourselves. Although not all of thiI have been looking for a book like this for a while. Most of us have become estranged from a very powerful part of ourselves. Although not all of this material was new to me, I really liked the way it was organized and presented here.
Why do some people survive seemingly extreme traumatic experiences relatively unscathed while others emerge with deep psychological scars? Furthermore, why do some people experience more routine and seemingly benign events as traumatic and debilitating? Is it possible to learn or to be taught how to function more effectively in a crisis situation? Can we learn from these people how trauma works and find a method to more effectively heal trauma victims?
Some of those answers to these questions are in this book. While Trauma (and PTSD) is less of a mystery than it once was, the riddle is still far from solved.
Levine claims the way to heal our trauma is through utilizing our “felt sense”, which is a sort of meditation in which we focus our attention on our body’s sensations. He points out repeatedly that body sensation is more important than intense feeling (emotion) in healing trauma –- just because a feeling is intense doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily true. He also discusses false memory and the difficulty with really knowing what actually happened during a crisis because of the way memories are stored in the brain.
Keeping our attention centered on our body during an actual crisis, or less ideally during a later therapy session, can release the pent up energy that has been stored in our nervous system (which is released during the fight-or-flight response).
Levine has some interesting things to say about survivors; he believes that most people who identify themselves as ‘survivors’ end up inhibiting themselves from healing and from realizing their own animal nature that lies within. Along with this, he believes that animals in the wild can serve as a model of comparative physiology for humans –- an animal’s ability to rebound from trauma can point the way for understanding how humans can heal trauma using their own innate abilities.
Levine uses neuroscientist Paul MacLean’s triune brain theory here to help explain his own theory. While this theory has been disproven as a functional neurological model, it has been kept as a useful conceptual model to help organize new discoveries about the brain. Neuroscience offers some fascinating insights into how our brains actually work and is rapidly changing what we thought we knew about this most mysterious organ.
In MacLean speak, the neo-cortex complicates the problem of our reptilian brain’s instinctual responses to healing trauma through fear and over-control. The goal is to have the neo-cortex enhance instinctual information rather than control it.
My own experience mirrors very closely of what Levine writes about in this book. To be solely reductionist about it would ultimately do it disservice. Our survival instinct is a truly amazing experience, some might call it spiritual; I certainly would. At the same time, it’s nothing extraordinary; we’ve just become estranged from it.
Ultimately, the value of this information and research is to be determined by taking it out into and applying it in the real world, not kept in the laboratory. The application of this incredible material is what really matters. ...more
While I thought this book to be a decent self-help book overall, I found it to be a mediocre application of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT hereafteWhile I thought this book to be a decent self-help book overall, I found it to be a mediocre application of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT hereafter) at best. I found the section on the cognitive distortions to be particularly helpful, but I felt many of the other sections could have been substantially improved.
Throughout this book, I had two persistent criticisms. The first is that this book was much longer than it needed to be. There was a great deal of repetition and, in my opinion, this really detracted from its overall effectiveness. Perhaps the author was only trying to drive home these concepts to his readers. Nonetheless, it could have been a lot shorter. The consumer's guide to antidepressant drugs was very informative, but in addition to being repetitive was somewhat disorganized.
My second criticism is the tone in which this book is written. The author doesn’t seem to understand that the effectiveness of these techniques are not determined by his sales pitch and tries too hard to be overly positive and uppity - in the way a lot of self-help books do - in order to sell its material. If the author had maintained a tone of neutrality (something a good therapist actually does) and devoted more space to demonstrating the effectiveness of CBT in different contexts to gain the reader's trust, I believe this book would have been much more effective. One of the great things about CBT is that these techniques don’t need to be sold hard; they sell themselves because they actually work and are powerful. ...more
One of the main challenges in marriage are the unwritten rules/expectations that each spouse has for the other – everything from how to give and receiOne of the main challenges in marriage are the unwritten rules/expectations that each spouse has for the other – everything from how to give and receive love, to how much time one is allowed with friends, to the proper way to raise children, to how much time to spend with the in-laws on vacation, to any other number of things. Expectations that are never voiced allowed create havoc in a relationship precisely because they go unspoken. Furthermore, they lead to criticisms about the other person that are general rather than specific. Without proper training, it's usually difficult for the couple to discuss these expectations aloud because one, they are unaware (only semi-conscious) of these expectations in the first place and two, they are usually too wrapped up in conflict to properly examine these automatic thoughts, let alone express them properly. Usually these expectations become evoked as the couple grows closer and more intimate. Usually.
While the material presented in the book is solid, I found the book to be somewhat limited in its scope on marital therapy. Throughout the book, the author constantly harped on the fact that no marriage is perfect. While this is certainly true, I felt he glossed over the fact that some marriages certainly function more effectively than others and why this is so (compatibility). Also along these lines, there seemed to be too many negative examples/role models of marriage and not enough positive examples/role models of marriage – and what the two do differently (Granted, this book’s primary emphasis was applying cognitive behavioral therapy to the context of marital therapy and on correcting cognitive distortions that exist between couples, an important undertaking in itself. At the time the book was published this was no doubt a cutting-edge technique for marital therapy).
Furthermore, there seemed to be a substantial amount of repetition; I felt the book could have been much shorter in length and would have been able to convey the same message. Perhaps the author was just trying to repeat these bits of advice to make them stick in the reader's mind....more
First of all, I liked this book much more than I thought I was going to. While I prefer Aaron Beck/CBT to Albert Ellis overall, I was more than pleasaFirst of all, I liked this book much more than I thought I was going to. While I prefer Aaron Beck/CBT to Albert Ellis overall, I was more than pleasantly surprised by Ellis; I suppose he was, after all, the father of what is now known as Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) – Ellis actually preceding cognitive behavioral therapy and Aaron Beck. This book provides a good overview of Ellis’ REBT brand of therapy.
While I found Ellis' "tough love" approach refreshing at times; his therapeutic style ultimately lacked a certain tenderness which rubbed me the wrong way (perhaps neutrality is the more fitting term). Don’t get me wrong; this hard-nosed approach can be indispensable with particular clients and/or in certain contexts. However, I don’t think it works well as a therapist’s default ‘stance’ or attitude....more
**spoiler alert** I had a very divided reaction to this book.
First of all, ‘learned helplessness’ is quite arguably one of the most important**spoiler alert** I had a very divided reaction to this book.
First of all, ‘learned helplessness’ is quite arguably one of the most important and revolutionary concepts in psychology today. It’s made a wonderful contribution to Aaron Becks’s Cognitive Therapy; cognitive behavioral therapy having an unmatched track record for its treatment of depression – an epidemic in our society today. As a result of his research, Seligman offers real, learnable, and proven effective techniques for learning to be more optimistic. It is certainly one of my favorite concepts in psychology.
Furthermore, I love that he challenges the notion of the exponential rise in depression today as being a largely genetic phenomenon. I found this to be some very refreshing common sense. The unprecedented level of depression in this society today cannot be attributed to biology (or solely to biology) – something else is at work here. I don’t mean to say that there is no biological basis for depression – there most certainly is. However, it only makes sense that something in our society is going on, perhaps at times triggering particular genes on a wide scale, to create such an unprecedented level of depression. I found the last chapter to be very insightful where he examines radical individualism (he calls it the ‘Maximal Self’) as the source of depression from a more sociological position – an often overlooked source for depression in contemporary society.
The three major hypotheses of explanatory style were also quite enlightening: 1) Mother’s Explanatory Style; 2) Adult Criticism: Teachers and Parents; and 3) Children’s Life Crisis. In addition to these hypotheses of explanatory style are the three essential aspects of explanatory style: permanence, pervasiveness and personalization.
While I did obtain some solid information/advice in this book, it has some problems and I believe Seligman has some holes in his argument.
The main problem for me was that Seligman seemed to create too much of a mutually exclusive relationship between optimism and realism. One quote I found rather disturbing to illustrate my point: “The pessimist seems to be at mercy with reality, whereas the optimist has a massive defense against reality that maintains good cheer in the face of a relentless indifferent universe” (p. 111) – Sorry, Dr. Seligman, I may be misreading you, but you lost me here. While this was somewhat remedied toward the end of the book, it felt a little too inconsistent with the rest of the book’s tone.
Tying into this, not only does Seligman not take nearly enough of a look at ‘false’ or ‘misguided’ optimism, he seems to – at times – endorse it. This is a serious problem that has not been examined adequately (I suspect that he generated a lot of empirical data, and was a little too eager to tailor his theory to fit in with this). Having spent some time in corporate America, I believe this false optimism is creating record levels of denial in our country, which seem to be extending at an alarming rate – all in the name of being more optimistic. Only towards the end of the book does he seem to write more about the perils of optimism with a brief section in the middle regarding depressives having a more accurate memory and owning up much more readily to both their failures and their successes rather than the optimists who tend to look upon the past through rose-colored glasses.
In all fairness, he does write a little bit about the problem of a lack of personal responsibility today and how he has no interest in personally endorsing this kind of psychology. Again, I just didn’t feel like he spent enough time here.
Lastly, on a minor note, I believe he is too overconfident in his beliefs why women suffer depression at a rate twice that of men. While this is an established statistic, there is much debate over what this statistic means exactly. Are women somehow biochemically or hormonally predisposed to depression? Perhaps. Or do they report it more readily than men? Do men hide their depression through substance abuse or other non-constructive outlets? – I believe Seligman is too simplistic here in his offered explanation....more
The best thing about this book is the author explains that being introverted ≠ shy. YES! This is, unfortunately, how “introverted” is used in a commonThe best thing about this book is the author explains that being introverted ≠ shy. YES! This is, unfortunately, how “introverted” is used in a common, everyday sense by too many people and this is FALSE. ‘Shyness’ or social anxiety has to do with how you perceive other people think about you whereas introversion (and extroversion) depend on how people derive their energy, so to speak. Introverts aren’t necessarily shy (though they can be and plenty are); they just get drained meeting a lot of people, they prefer intimacy and deeper one-on-one relationships with a select few rather than having a lot of acquaintances.
The next best thing about this book is that the author explains introversion/extroversion are inborn temperaments. She gives a decent overview of the neurochemistry of introversion/ extroversion to illustrate this inborn temperament. While a person can (and usually does) change over time depending on how they are nurtured along with life experience and other factors, we still have this terribly pervading (largely unconscious) myth within our culture that people are blank slates and can be molded however someone deems suitable. It just isn’t true. Far too often overly neurotic parents intervene to attempt to make their children fit the mold that culture, society – whoever – demands. More often than not, this only leads to stressing the child out and frustrating them. As with any other minority, introverts often feel they have to justify themselves and their existence. It isn’t their fault that they’re wired the way they are.
Note: While there is certainly plenty of truth to her summary – the introvert’s longer acetylcholine pathway versus the extrovert’s shorter dopamine pathway – that can be helpful in understanding the different neurochemistry of introversion/extroversion, it can be a little misleading, as it’s more complicated than she makes it out to be. A little bit of truth can be a dangerous thing.
Overall, I felt the book was lacking in substance and was too repetitive. The science was decent. I felt there was a little too much pigeonholing at times and not enough solutions given for the introvert that she spent so much time defending. I won’t fault her too much in this respect, since there isn’t a perfect solution. ...more