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Quick Looks Psychology

The Myth of Neurosis: Overcoming the Illness Excuse —Garth Wood

294pp. (H) 1986

Excoriates psychoanalysis and espouses a moral therapy that could use refining. Overemphasizes conscience and ignores the importance of moral reasoning, often equates difficulty with morality. Challenges often have wonderful affects on the mind, and a better mind beats a worse mind, but this work pays scant attention to the fact that some challenges are profoundly trivial or vile. To wit: Chasing great white whales. Not recommended.


Necessary Losses        —Judith Viorst

Good idea, but too long and too much psychoanalytic gunk  in this 499 page tome.


Love and Survival: The Scientific Basis for the Healing Power of Intimacy      —Dean Ornisch

Love is wonderful, but the feelings are never wrong reasoning in here is not.


Listening to Prozac                 —Peter D. Kramer

Fascinating case studies and philosophical ruminations wrapped in some ennui inducing historical developments. I would rather read The Illustrated History of Extension Cords than the drug history in this book.



The Lightin’ Fires Series by Ellen Kreidman

Have passion and make your lover feel good when with you—not much new here. You can order Ellen Kreidman’s material for big money from her spastic infomercials. Or you can order it cheaper somewhere else. Or you can not order it at all.


Teaching with Heart: Making Healthy Connections with Students—Judith A. Deiro

230pp.  (H)  1996

Deiro argues for a teacher to be unfreakable, baby! Teachers should develop relationships, nurture dignity and respect. Deiro includes some bad definitions, edubabble, and psychobabble.


The worst pages argues for the superiority of androgyny. Who decided that strong and caring actions equal androgynous actions? Being androgynous isn't morally superior any more than having detached earlobes is morally superior.


Swimming with the Sharks

More like Sinking with Obvious Advice.


The Pursuit of Happiness: Who Is Happy—and Why

by David G. Myers

331p (H) 1992

Meyers explores these factors:  Accomplishments, strong purposefulness, exercise, optimism, religion, extroversion, intimate relationships, having a playful spirit, and feeling in control,

Once individuals leave poverty, income weakly correlates with happiness. Many factors may interfere with a nice, neat lack of correlation between income and happiness. For example, some research suggests that less happy workers work harder than happier workers. And individuals who work harder generally earn more than those who do not. Increases in happiness due to increases in income, therefore, may not show up in the correlation because less happy people work harder and earn more. Happy individuals might see work as something that could ruin happiness. Worth a browse.


You Are the Message: Getting What You Want By Being Who You Are by Roger Ailes and Jon Kraushar

The appendix is the message because its all you might bother to read. Except, of course, when 15 second political ads are the message. This work differs from the book I would write. My book? You Are the Moral Being: Being Who You Should By Doing What You Should. Not recommended.


Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus by John Gray

Men are from earth. Women are from earth. Psychologists with degrees from mail order diploma factories are from Pluto. Not recommended.


Myths of Childhood by Joel Paris

A "moderate" version of The Nurture Assumption, this is a good book, but the "extremist" version offered by Judith Rich Harris is better and more accurate. Paris writes that pain, death, and disease were common among our ancestors. They were not psychologically paralyzed by events. Research suggests individual thought responses to bad events have greater impact on resiliency than events themselves. The younger the child, the more psychologically resilient they are. Studies suggest only 20 percent of children having screwed up backgrounds developed mental disorders. When foster children are placed in secure, permanent homes before age six, early deprivation is reversible. Persistence, intelligence, and social skills are important protective factors. Successful marriages correlate with high levels of persistence and low impulsivity.


Resilient individuals:

·        Focus on important matters.

·        Are tenacious.

·        Cut Gordian knots.

·        Believe they deserve better.

·        Believe they can control matters.

·        Get help from others.


In addition, Deborah Blum claims elsewhere resilient individuals share these traits:

·        Believe and act as if they can make a difference now and in the future.

·        Believe in the importance of now and the future.

·        Make the environment their ally.

·        Set short and long term goals, then monitor their actions.

·        Believe they have what it takes.

·        Know their strengths and use them.

·        Visualize themselves as strategists.

Worth skimming.


Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers

227p (H) 1987

Great title—at least if the feared thing should be done—but a half bad book. You can not always be unafraid, but you can act as if you were unafraid.


Meanings of Life by Roy Baumeister

Contents include many good ideas, but Baumeister’s work sometimes implies this is the way things are, so that is the way they should be. Worth browsing.


A Dose of Sanity: Mind, Medicine and Misdiagnosis  1996  —Sydney Walker III

I was planning to write a full review, but I lost my notes. Oh, well. Explores psychological philosophy and often unrecognized brain disorders. It includes a fine chapter on protecting yourself from misdiagnosis. Case studies do not often intrigue me, but these ones did. I read this well past my bedtime (acute interest apnea disorder). Worth a look.


Your Own Worst Enemy: Understanding the Paradox of Self-Defeating Behavior —Steven Berglas and Roy Baumeister

Choking, abuse, self-handicapping, perseveration, over commitment, overconfidence, procrastination, and pyrrhic revenge are among the topics here. Much of this is covered in Losing Control. Worth browsing.


Why We Do What We Do by Edward L. Deci

1995 (H) 230p

This work may explain what wantons do what they do, but it contains the immoral tendencies that make psychology such a joy. Deci thinks our responsibility is not to have responsibilities. He argues against duty because it is not intrinsically interesting. This world view sees humans as outer directed by controlling measures or outer directed by friendly persuasion. Where is the self-direction?


Human Motivation by David McClelland

Years ago, around the time The Atlantic last had a great article, a fascinating and disturbing article about the theory of psychology espoused by McClelland appeared in The Atlantic Monthly. McClelland attributes three important motives to humans: Power, efficiency, and affiliation. All three can be altered. He argued that humans should increase their efficiency motive while reducing or channeling their power motive. The power motive is preoccupied with keeping or increasing status, instead of changing the world.

Unfortunately, I have been unable to find a copy of this book.


Multiple Intelligences

I don’t care whether one, seven, eight, 54, or forty trillion intelligences exist. This book is about as beneficial as a book exploring how many types of two wheel vehicles exist.


Building Classroom Discipline  —C.M. Charles

Now in its sixth edition, this work keeps getting better. Charles provides a general overview of most of the discipline contenders. It contains a ton of ideas to entertain, use, or reject.


Symbols by Allen Pease

331p (H) 1993

This is the best of a bad lot of body language books, material that might be for manipulative purposes, but it can also be useful for good ends. Image does often matter more than it should. Your style and personality do speak so loudly the morally deaf do not hear your character. Symbols is potentially beneficial for fixing bad, oblivious habits. The limb pointing and touching I rarely noticed sometimes means something. Do not, however, use body language interpretation to become a neurotic what-do-they-really-mean fool.


According to the so-called experts, influence is 55 percent non-verbal, 38 percent vocal quality, and seven percent words. On mean? On median? On individuals named Shasta? On people who don’t care about reasoning? At conventions? I have no idea. Much of body language is too complicated for me to follow. My limited brain has reduced body language down to one rule: Keep my hands off my face and body. Most of the ways humans touch themselves in public do not send good signals.


Symbols employs the concept of the illustration—a book about body language that has bodies--a novel and inspired idea. I enjoyed the retro 1980s drawings.


What else I learned:

·        Rejection should be fun. It means you do not have to spend time where it probably will not be worth a damn.

·        There is almost never a good reason to act intimidated.

Worth skimming.


book reviews by J.T. Fournier, last updated July 24, 2009


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