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The Myth of Sanity: Divided Consciousness and the Promise of Awareness
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The Myth of Sanity: Divided Consciousness and the Promise of Awareness

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  795 ratings  ·  54 reviews
"When we say a friend was 'like a different person,' we may be more right than we know."
-The Boston Globe

Why does a gifted psychiatrist suddenly begin to torment his own beloved wife?

How can a ninety-pound woman carry a massive air conditioner to the second floor of her home, install it in a window unassisted, and then not remember how it got there?

Why would a brilliant
Paperback, 252 pages
Published February 26th 2002 by Penguin Books (first published 2001)
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Jul 30, 2014 rated it liked it
Recommended to Caroline by: Shaun Bevins
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
It is by no means certain that our individual personality is the single inhabitant of these our corporeal frames...We all do things both awake and asleep which surprise us. Perhaps we have co-tenants in this house we live in. - Oliver Wendell Holmes

I really enjoyed Stout's well-written and engaging narrative describing her years treating dissociative disorders including DID, Dissociative Identity Disorder formerly referred to as Multiple Personality Disorder.

The workings of the human brain a
Jan 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing
a new friend got this book for me after we had a couple conversations where i mentioned dissociation and parts. i feel really grateful. this is a good read, well-written and compassionate, from the perspective of a therapist who works with trauma survivors. i really appreciate her approach, she's not trying make these clear definitions, she's showing ways that dissociation affects all of our lives, and lots of different ways it can show up ranging from spacing out in the middle of a conversation ...more
Dec 02, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book talks about the implications of trauma in childhood on the psychology of adults. The "myth" of sanity is that we all have moments where we "dissociate" based on childhood experiences that can be fear inducing to traumatic.

To the extreme... Dr. Stout, with as much as intellect and clarity as her explanation of sociopathology in the Sociopath Next Door, talks about Dissociative Identity Disorder (Mutliple Personality Disorder) and the symptoms, experiences, and approaches to healing.

Mar 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Theodora by: Nomy
Shelves: books09, self-care
This book was incredible to read. It has been one of the most accessible books I've read on trauma. it also talks about how disassociation affects everyone -- and also the little traumas people go through that cause disassociation. I read this at the right time.
Apr 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
We are all capable of disassociating and often do without knowing it ... from daydreaming to being on "autopilot" to being totally absorbed in a book or project. This is a mild form. The premise of this book is that Disassociative Identity Disorder (DID, formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder) is a protective mechanism of the human ego that occurs when one is faced with terror and abuse literally too great to bear. DID does not equal "crazy". DID does equal traumatized. This is a fascin ...more
Dayne Myers
Sep 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Martha Stout's writings read amazingly well, she structures the concepts such that anyone should grasp them with ease.
Doreen Petersen
Oct 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: medical
Interesting book on mental health but it only focused on one aspect. Wish it had focused on more. Still a very good book though.
Jul 24, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: psychology, ptsd
Do you dissociate? This book by a Harvard clinician explores the range of dissociative phenomena, from momentary spacing out to dissociated ego states to dissociative identity disorder (formerly known as multiple personality disorder). The bad news: you'll probably recognize somebody you know, if not yourself. The good news: with the right approach, they can all be treated.

Bastard Travel
Mar 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I forgot that Martha Stout was the reason I majored in Psychology. My first forays into that particular section of Barnes and Noble came in the form of a book called "Whispers" that zeroed in mostly on schizophrenia, and The Sociopath Next Door, which is definitely Stout's claim to fame. The writing was direct and engaging, and served as a springboard into the field as a whole. I tore through every abnormal psych book B&N had to offer, then, after a momentary stint in community college, I enroll ...more
Apr 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book is the most readable, easily understandable description of Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) that I have read. As a psychiatrist of thirty years practice, I always find it a novel experience to come upon a book that captures the complex heart and soul of a difficult diagnostic category. Dr Stout gives compelling case histories that give one the essence of what treatment could feel like if you were the therapist.

She helped clarify a question that I have had about the "authenticity"
Feb 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars, but I'm rounding up because it really clarified the process/existence/functioning of Dissociative Identity Disorder for me. I was originally annoyed that all of her case studies were amalgamations (and thus her own creations). However, she used these patchwork case studies well to describe and explain an occurrence that is controversial even in the question of it's very validity or existence, and is very often exoticized and dramatized in the accounts of it that do exist. After readin ...more
Jo Ann Hall
Jan 31, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Dissociation is a common coping mechanism employed by all humans to evade the uncomfortable and the painful, even the boring. When the truth is too much to bear, the brain is able to offer sanctuary of some sort through a temporary disconnection from reality. Stout gives an example of dissociation that all can relate to when she describes a return home following a long day at work and the sudden realization by the driver that he or she can't remember anything from the route home. In severe traum ...more
Eric Susak
Mar 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely compelling. Martha Stout humanizes the typically "crazy." In this study on dissociation and trauma, Stout helps the reader gain some understanding and empathy toward those who have developed overbearing dissociations due to early trauma. Through narrative interspersed with clinic analysis, she delves into the complexity, volatility, and strength of the human mind, while also suggesting ways in which people can recover from the vast defenses that our minds can construct against trauma. ...more
Jan 02, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dr. Stout shares provocative and horrifying stories of the true "survivors" of our time. Step by step she walks you through the nuts and bolts of the intangible processes the brain uses to keep terror at bay and allow the human being to function despite adverse circumstances. Did you know how trauma affects the brain? Have you wondered about how memories could possibly be "repressed"? How can people possibly want to cut themselves, and not seem to feel it when they do? Why is it sweet caring peo ...more
Richard Schwindt
Jan 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book had me thinking and reviewing past clients in my head. We are far more aware of trauma these days with regards to PTSD, the experiences of victims of violence, accidents, war, etc. What is trickier are the long term aftershocks and the effect of childhood trauma on the otherwise functioning adult. This book asks us to explore some of the contradictions that exist within personality and offers some explanations for behaviors that can be otherwise difficult to understand. The phenomenon ...more
Sep 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
I read this book for my book group, and I'm so glad I did. Very out of my reading comfort zone. The book was really fascinating, mostly about how trauma sometimes divides one's consciousness as a coping mechanism. The author, a therapist, writes with such a compassionate tone and explained a lot of things that I didn't at all understand before, like the therapeutic use of hypnotism, and dissociative reactions. I found her view of human beings in general to be very inspiring, as she described man ...more
Tess Julia
May 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Just more confirmation that we are all just a little messed up. Readers are helped to understand just how devastating early trauma is to children. The after effects will be felt for a lifetime and they are not able to "just get over it". For those suffering from trauma it is the affirmation they need to understand that they are not alone, and the suffering they endure every day is a direct cause of the unspeakable horrors they were made to suffer when they were at their most vulnerable. It is no ...more
Feb 16, 2009 rated it liked it
A well-narrated account of her experience with dissociation, from the extreme dissociative identity disorder to the common driving-trance, Stout explains dissociation as an adaptive skill for survival in the face of trauma. Despite the seemingly clinical context, many of her insights into childhood and personality are applicable to everybody on some level or another.
Nov 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reference
I love the quote at the beginning of this book: "With our thoughts, we make the world."

11/27/11 - I really liked the first two thirds of this book because I found them so readable and informative. The last third, entitled "switchers," about people who switch back and forth between different personalities, didn't interest me as much, for some reason.
May 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I learned that we all play different roles in life, and depending on the growth of our psychological makeup those roles may come to struggle for power inside of us. It is a beautiful book and I would recommend it to everyone.
Ryan Johnson
Feb 09, 2016 rated it liked it
Good read...

A bit annoyed with Pro-Feminist writing style but, well, the author is a women, LOL.

DID is real, and Dehabilitating, yet at the same time amazing in its presentation and protective manner.
Jul 10, 2007 rated it it was amazing
I have too many friends who really need to read this book. Anyone who's ever experienced a higher level of trauma really needs to read this book. It's amazing.
Dec 23, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: self-help, psychology
surprising and enlightenin book indeed...
WillowAtSunset Bennehoff
Date I started this book: April 18, 2011
Sphinx Feathers
Jun 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: psychology
Well-written and easy to understand.
Feb 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was great. Really easy to understand yet it didn't feel like it was dumbed-down. This lady really knows her stuff. This resonated a lot with what I knew and shed light on what I suspected.
Jan 21, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: psychology
p. 12 Awareness is life-giving. Dissociation and numbness are lethal.
p. 17 "The traumatized brain houses inscrutable eccentricities that cause it to overreact--more precisely, mis-react--to the current realities of life."

sensing -> amygdala via thalamus (attaches emotional significance) -> hippocampus (organizes this input and integrates it into whole events (stress-responsive neurohormones eg norepinephrine)

This process is subject to meaning/modification by future events. In other words,
Apr 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Despite the rating, I highly recommend this book that humanize dissociative disorder through acquainting us with some of the author's extreme cases, of people who even had to invent personalities to preserve themselves in the face of horrific trauma. From there, Dr. Stout associates these extremities to our own daily efforts to survive. My only reason for not bumping this up another star is that her work is so well done I knew of many of the concepts she discussed, as they have become quite well ...more
David Szatkowski
Nov 21, 2016 rated it liked it
This is an interesting book. The author examines the effect that severe trauma has on children and how dissociative episodes, rooted in trauma, have the intended effect of the preservation of life. However, when the child becomes an adult that same defense mechanism becomes ill-adapted to live as an integrated adult.
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Author and Ph.D. in psychology.

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