Tag Archives: Books

The examined life


My New Year has been punctuated by some wonderful reads.  My most recent literary exploration has taken me to  The Examined Life, written by the estimable Stephen Grosz.

Above from Amazon

It is as compelling as it is powerful. This books provides a truly wonderful insight into the human condition, which is all the more illuminated by Grosz’s accounts of the human experience through those he has a privilege to care for in analysis. And this care, this bond between analyst and patient, shines forth from each and every page.

As I finished the book and flopped back onto my comfy sofa, my mind whirring as it started to mentally walk through each of the cases Grosz shared, and as I pondered what it would be like to to be a psychoanalyst from Grosz’s description of the work, I picked up my pen and started to write.

This is what I wrote:

“It seems to me like psychoanalysis helps (in a similar way to CBT – Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) each patient to develop a form of self-awareness of their situation and, thus, empowers them to actualise some kind of catharsis (a means of processing or providing relief from strong or repressed emotions) through this knowledge.

From the many accounts Grosz gives, it looks like this catharsis is predominantly achieved through Grosz’s patients wanting to know they were not alone. They wanted someone to listen to them, and therefore demonstrate that they were worth being listened to. They are valuable and worthy of time and consideration.

For others, providing an explanation for their actions, providing them with words to account for their experience brings clarity from confusion, and again, enables them to clear the mental haze and see the road ahead, and the various routes open to them to embark upon.

This kind of piercing insight, analysis, is invaluable.

Much like slipping into a hot bath, it strips us of our shivering fears, isolation and anxieties and soothes our very beings as we are enveloped with with caring, careful clarity – a way of making sense of our dis-order, which too, is why interpreting dreams is such a powerful catharsis. However, whilst understanding the mechanisms behind each dream by placing the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle together brings relief, all this really grants us is what we already knew. For Grosz, it was the fear of losing his son. I admit, there is great beauty in ordering and understanding our dreams, but as Grosz himself allows by sharing the sad case of one AIDS patient who acted upon Grosz’s insights by going on holiday (where he died from dysentery, rather than receiving the medication he needed), Grosz’s attempts to help this patient understand his situation, could not change the situation itself. It leads me to think something more is needed…

As Grosz notes the incident of an eminent American psychoanalyst (Ap) questioning him as to why he bothered helping another AIDS patient (Anthony) who could “expect to live for two years and hope to live for four” (p.199), the Ap asks, “Why are you wasting your time on this patient? He’s going to die. Why not help someone who’s got a future?” (p.201)

It strikes me that if what Grosz writes elsewhere in the book is true, namely that

The future is not some place we are going to, but an idea in our mind now. It is something we’re creating, that in turn creates us. The future is a fantasy that shapes our present” (p.157)

then, Anthony’s future is his present.

Grosz describes how this penetrating question felt cruel to him. After all, what was clear to them both was that analysis had helped Anthony to overcome his anxiety and depression (p.203). The reason, I wonder, Grosz found this challenge cruel was because his engagements with Anthony were meaningful. Not only was there purpose to the analysis, but it was yielding personal results in Anthony, even if these personal results did not change the ultimate outcome of his imminent death.

As I read on, I could not help but smile with joy when Grosz informs his audience that Anthony, twenty two years later, is in good health. It feels like an overwhelming victory. Not only was there evident contemporaneous meaning to Grosz’s meetings with Anthony, but, there is now ongoing life, too.

As joyful as this is, it does not really make up for “death’s finality” (p.210), which will ultimately visit Anthony. Perhaps I have oversimplified things, but it leads me to think something more is needed…”

The Examined Life by Stephen Grosz really is one of those rare penetrating reads, which will not only help you to understand others, but quite dramatically, yourself. I thoroughly recommend it!

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CG Jung and the ‘Leap of Faith’ Into Individuation


The Red Book has been described as Jung’s creative response to the threat of madness, yet it has also been seen as a deliberate exercise in self-analysis. I believe it’s likely both. When creating The Red Book, Jung knew he was on the verge of madness, and he also knew his analytical skills and expertise as a psychiatrist were his best chance at alleviating suffering, if not creating the conditions for transformation.

In many regards, The Red Book reads like a healing journey — a phrase often used to describe the reclaiming of self after a history of abuse — which is a transformative period that happens for many people committed to overcoming early life trauma. On the way to an authentic self there is first the need to step away from the person one became to survive abuse. Those confronted with this journey often experience a period of ‘going crazy’ on their way to establishing an authentic sense of self.

As The Red Book shows, individuation is a blessed curse. It opens the way to becoming one’s authentic self, and yet also the risk of alienation from the ‘tribe’. Childhood trauma survivors often know this conundrum intimately. Transformation requires a significant reorienting away from the beliefs, feelings, fantasies, and body states that made possible living in traumatizing conditions. Invariably, there is a part of the self that has gone unacknowledged or rejected, and aches to be reclaimed.

In The Red Book Jung found a process for continually rediscovering authenticity. As he often remarked, individuation is an ongoing journey and not an endpoint reached. Jung also intimated the need for what I called in an earlier post leaps of faith: turning away from the larger world’s expectations and towards one’s inner world of wisdom with acceptance and curiosity.

This quote from The Red Book inspires the impulse to creatively go forth into all that you are:

“Woe betide those who live by way of examples! Life is not with them. If you live according to an example, you thus live the life of that example, but who should live your own life if not yourself? So live yourselves.

“The signposts have fallen, unblazed trails lie before us. Do not be greedy to gobble up the fruits of foreign fields. Do you not know that you yourselves are the fertile acre which bears everything that avails you?”

Jung knew such a ‘leap of faith’ is not easy. He also wrote:

“To live oneself means: to be one’s own task. Never say that it is a pleasure to live oneself. It will be no joy but a long suffering since you must become your own creator.”

But he gives helpful advice for the journey, particularly how to live if the world feels contrary to whom you are becoming. Then you must learn to be your own guide:

“To certain things of the world I must say: you should not be thus, but you should be different. Yet first I look carefully at their nature, otherwise I cannot change it. I proceed in the same way with certain thoughts. You change those things of the world that, not being useful in themselves, endanger your welfare. Proceed likewise with your thoughts. Nothing is complete, and much is in dispute. The way of life is transformation, not exclusion. Well-being is a better judge than the law.”

Reprinted in full with permission by the original author Laura K. Kerr, Ph.D, who moderates the blog, Trauma’s Labyrinth: Finding Ways Out Of Trauma. Laura K. Kerr is a mental health scholar, blogger and trauma-focused psychotherapist. [Her] focus is on healing, with special attention to trauma, modernity, and mental health systems of care.

Trauma Recovery Done Right: 8 Keys to Safe Trauma Recovery


Trauma Psych

TraumaRecoveryReview8 Keys to Safe Trauma Recovery: Take-Charge Strategies to Empower Your Healing.
Babette Rothschild. 2010. W.W. Norton, New York.  174 pages.

Living with persisting trauma memories is tough. Involuntarily triggered by events, or people, or places, or thoughts, or feelings . . . well, anything can be a trigger, actually . . . these intrusive, searing memories will turn one’s life inside out. Recovery from traumatic experience is tough as well, and achieving a sense of safety is essential to successful recovery. Rothschild’s brief, personable, and accessible book directly targets safe, successful recovery in a way that compels and convinces the reader. If trauma memories impact your life or that of someone you know or treat in a healthcare setting, you need this book. Because of the importance of this material, and because I want this to be a bit more than a mere review, I will be discussing this book in a two-part post…

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“The Red Book”: A Primer For Healing Madness In A Mad World


“Naturally I compensated my inner insecurity by an outward show of security, or — to put it better — the defect compensated itself without the intervention of my will. That is, I found myself being guilty and at the same time wishing to be innocent. Somewhere deep in the background I always knew that I was two persons. One was the son of my parents who went to school and was less intelligent, attentive, hard-working, decent, and clean than many other boys. The other was grown up — old, in fact — skeptical, mistrustful, remote from the world of men, but close to nature, the earth, the sun, the moon, the weather, all living creatures, and above all close to the night, to dreams, and to whatever “God” worked directly in him.” (p. 44, The Red Book by Carl Jung)

“On the contrary, it is played out in every individual. In my life No. 2 has been of prime importance, and I have always tried to make room for anything that wanted to come from within. He is a typical figure, but he is perceived only by the very few. Most people’s conscious understanding is not sufficient to realize that he is also what they are.” (p. 45, The Red Book by Carl Jung)

Laura K. Kerr, Ph.D. wrote an incredible blog post about The Red Book by Carl Jung, read the rest of the article. . . on her blog, Trauma’s Labyrinth.


Stress and Memory From a Neuroscience Perspective

Stress and Memory From a Neuroscience Perspective







“From a neuroscience perspective, amnesia in the absence of brain damage can be partially explained in biochemical terms. Stress causes a chemical reaction that affects regions of the brain responsible for memory. With repeated overwhelming stress, neurotransmitters and stress hormones are released in the brain in such excess quantity that they can adversely affect portions of the brain responsible for emotional memories as well as other kinds of memory.” p. 33, The Wandering Mind: Understanding Dissociation from Daydreaming to Disorders by John A Biever, M.D. and Maryann Karinch.

i'm not out to convince you or draw upon your mind*Image Credits (all work used with permission through CC license)–
“i’m not out to convince you or draw upon your mind” by Andrea Joseph
“Standing at the Gates of Hell” by Shane Gorski


Exploring the dyslexia mind


The wordpress universe is filled with good and informative blogs on different topics, and I have found some really excellent posts on different psychology-related topics. For me it is of out most importance to share varied quality posts, that might inform and help people. Today`s text is about something I have far too little knowledge about myself, but something that a lot of children AND adults will relate to: Dyslexia.

JULY 21, 2013 5:32 AM

 Inside The Mind of Dyslexia


“Eli. Please read the next passage,” the teacher commanded. Eli blushed. He stared blankly at his text book and didn’t reply, pretending that she didn’t ask him. “Eli. Start from where Jacob left off, please.” The teacher’s voice was firm. Looking down at his desk, he ignored her. Bringing a hand to cover his face, he hid from the other students. They were staring at him. Avoiding their glances, he began mumbling the words on the page. “Louder. I can’t hear you,” said the teacher. His face grew redder and he felt dizzy. He couldn’t read the words. They were fuzzy and confusing. Choking back his embarrassment, he said, “I can’t read it.” Shame eating at him. “Okay, we’ll skip Eli. Alex you read.”

Eli’s conclusion was that he must be stupid.  Eli suffered from a reading disability. Words just didn’t seem to connect with his brain. His mother would send him to all kinds of lessons, tutors and tests to help improve his reading, which helped, but never got to the core of his problem. He always wished that he could understand what was wrong with him but never knew the answer.


Recently I came across an in-depth book that conceptualizes the phenomenon of dyslexia from a psychological perspective in a way which might have enlightened Eli. It is called ‘The GIFT of Dyslexia’ (it’s written by Ronald D. Davis with Eldon M. Braun, 1994). I would like to begin with reviewing the first two chapters of the book ‘The Underlying Talent’ and ‘The Learning Disability’.

In the future I’m hoping to review Elaine N. Aron’s work on The Highly Sensitive Person (HSP, 1997), and examine whether there is a correlation between it and dyslexia.


Although creating a list of ‘eight core traits’ that underlie the perceptual-mind of someone with dyslexia may seem redundant and superficial, it can still be beneficial in structuring and categorizing the nature of this phenomenon. According to Davis, R. D., dyslexia is a ‘psychological perceptual phenomenon’ and therefore needs to be explored from the perceptual perspective of the mind’s psychological makeup. Although the innate tendency of the individual’s internal perceptual abilities is based on the neurological and genetic system, which is hereditary, we will place emphasis on the mind’s perceptual function in order to understand dyslexia’s structure better. From a psychological perspective ‘creating perceptions’ within one’s mind lies at the core of dyslexia.

The eight components of a dyslexic person are:

1. They create images within their mind, which gives a certain creativity and reality to their internal world.

2. They are highly aware of their environment.

3. They are more curious than the average person.

4. Their thought process is mainly image oriented as opposed to thinking verbally. 5. They are highly intuitive and insightful.

6. They think and perceive in a multi-dimensional manner, using all the senses.

7. They experience thought as reality.

8. They have vivid imaginations.

Cognition or thoughts can be divided into two categories

a) verbal cognitions

b) image cognitions.

Verbal cognitions are confined to a linear process bound by linear time and order whereas image cognitions are not limited in this way. Verbal cognitions are internal monologues of mental statements. Image cognitions quickly evolve and grow in non-organized processes similar to ideas, dreams, and art. (Neurologically, these two processes are usually divided between the right and left hemispheres of the brain.) Humans are predominately one style over the other. Dyslexics are, by nature, predominately image thinkers.

Words are symbols that can either represent a real-life image or an imaginary image, or they can represent an abstract concept. The two types of words are parallel with the two types of cognitions. The image cognition fits well with the image-word and the verbal cognition fits well with the abstract word. When a dyslexic child reads a word that represents a real life image, the word connects with his style of image cognition, however when the word doesn’t represent a real life image such as ‘and’ or ‘the’, the child’s mind goes blank. They are unable to visualize ‘the’, so confusion sets in. After numerous abstract words they become disoriented and begin pronounce images that are in their mind rather than reading the text that appears in front of them. The mind of the dyslexic works with images thus words without imagery are avoided and incompatible with its thinking style. When avoidance is unable confusion and eventually disorientation sets in.

Thank you for this post

Video about dyslexia:


Sex slaves


Right now I am reading the book sex slaves. And I must be brutally honest.
I am angry. Not just from the facts presented in the book (and the author has actually chosen to exclude the worst stories) but also because we still let it happen:”The truth of the matter is that there was not a time where we ever stopped being barbaric. We simply became better at deceiving ourselves and thereby also each other into believing that a form of civilized and moral society had been accomplished. Because obviously if you walk the streets of any western capital in the tourist areas at daytime you see a ‘perfect world’ of concrete and lights, but right beneath the surface, there are cockroaches and sex slaves”.


The book presents the facts about Asian sex trafficking in a very clear way.(Sex trafficking is when a vulnerable person is being moved from one place to another by an abuser either unwillingly or through being deceived and manipulated or made dependent upon the abuser). The soot has been cleaned away from dirty windows, and you look right in at atrocities that some part of the mind want to blank out.

I have even found that I was irritated on the book, because it mentions the same fact again and again, and I realize that this actually makes the book better. I. Am. Getting. Irritated. Because I must read several times that in Asia prostitution is bookarationalized by both men and women. That women are too poor to have another choice, that the ones who “sell” women and small girls, are often people they know (http://abcnews.go.com/US/story?id=3691604&page=1#.UYkysZXXPoA).

Another fact that repeats itself endlessly is that virgins are really appreciated. It is scary that this irritates me, and to never forget and even make more people more conscious of what`s going on, I want to give credit to this book and give a glimpse of its content.

One important question the book tries to discuss, is why men buy sex. The reasons are varied, but I want to focus some of the explanations:
“The sexual demands of mature women are seen as threatening to men who have not yet acquired sexual and emotional maturity. P. 145″ For men this is a proof of their masculinity and one of the most important markers of a man`s position within male hierarchies.
Sex workers are important in framing the sexual lives and identity of large numbers of men all over the region. In Calcutta it has been estimated that 60000-80000 men buy sex every day (p 135), and in countries like the Philippines and Thailand friends and family members may arrange excursions to brothels. In Cambodia, high-level business deals are sealed by having sex with virgins (p. 139). Still, this isn`t always enough. Thai and Filipina women report beatings and threats with knives and guns (p. 149), and one girl reported that she was burned with cigarettes on her nipples by two Japanese men (p. 150).The most disturbing chapter is the one that deals with ‘seasoning’, the acute physical imagesand psychological violence used to initiate women into prostitution.

Comments are made everywhere in Asia that strengthen the slavery (even if the public picture is one of moral code and chastity”. “The purchase of sex is universal among men” or “it involves all men at some points in their lives” (p. 133. Those comments are exaggerated).

And what do the women think about this? The have to accept it. For many there is no other alternative, either because of poverty (some even “sell their daughters”), or because they are dependent on the economic and social security provided by their unfaithful husbands.

Also politicians have shown attitudes of acceptance. The following excerpt is from a blog, describing a politician in Kuwait (Salwa al Mutairi).


“Men should be allowed sex slaves and female prisoners could do the job” she has also called for sex slavery to be legalized – and suggested that non-Muslim prisoners from war-torn countries would make suitable concubines. Further, she chainsargued buying a sex-slave would protect decent, devout and “virile” Kuwaiti men from adultery because buying an imported sex partner would be tantamount to marriage.
The political activist and TV host even suggested that it would be a better life for women in warring countries as the might die of starvation.
Mutairi claimed: “There was no shame in it and it is not haram (forbidden) under Islamic Sharia law.” …

In an attempt to consider the woman’s feelings in the arrangement, Mutari conceded that the enslaved women, however, should be at least 15.

Returning to the book, I must ensure you that the book has been worked with for a long time. The author has talked with many girls who has had real experiences and with many help-organizations. The stories and the scale of the abuse, is shocking, and she certainly wants us to see this. Some people don`t like that it makes Asia and men look really bad, and I must admit it paints a grim picture. But we have to keep in mind that this is not about the good sides of life, it`s sex-traffickingmeant to show the reality for over 20 million women and boys in Asia. She also repeats several times that not all girls are forced into this, and not all men buy sex. And most readers will know enough about the world, to realize that there will always be a lot of exceptions and grey areas.

I recommend this book for people who want to know more, since I myself was very surprised myself over the magnitude of the industry, and don`t like to think about how much I didn`t know.

That being said, my anger is still here (a bit better), but I take with me this knowledge and know I will never be silent if someone ask what I think. Maybe I will work with this, some day, or maybe some of you will. The best way to help people is by spreading knowledge, and I think that is the real danger for human trafficking.

That means one point for each and every of you who read this, and one minus point to the agents who go to sleep every night with the knowledge that their pockets will be even fuller the next day


Coming to terms with abuse


Coming to Terms With an Abusive Past

By Allie Gledhill

Acknowledging that you’ve had an abusive past isn’t so easy, but it’s the first step that you’ve got to take if you want to come to terms with your past and move forward in your life. Healing from abuse is possible – it is a difficult road but it is definitely worth taking.

Recognising abuse

(Please note some readers may find the following a little disturbing)

Many forms of abuse are obvious to people who observe the abuse with an outsiders point of view. A slap or a punch in the face from a violent partner seems like an unmistakable form of physical abuse. Or, to the reasonable-minded outsider, an adult engaging in sexual activity with a child or young teenager is judged to be an unquestionable misuse of adult power. But if you are the one at the receiving end of it, abuse isn’t always so obvious.

From the moment I was touched by one of my uncles in an inappropriate way, I had a feeling that what was happening to me was wrong. But I couldn’t put my finger on what, exactly, was so wrong and why I hated it so much when Uncle Nathan would come into my room at night and have sex with me. Didn’t I love my uncle? Hadn’t he put so much effort into being the father that I’d never had? And hadn’t I soaked up his attention, his approval and his emotional support? Even when my uncle’s activities with me became violent and I was left bruised and bleeding I didn’t fully understand that what was happening to me was wrong. For years my uncle had been telling me that our relationship was right, that he loved me and that our sexual relationship was my doing because I had been too attractive for him to resist. I trusted him and I believed him.

Wanting to speak out but not knowing how

As the abuse continued, I developed an increasingly burning desire to speak out about what was happening to me. Fear prevented me from speaking out and so the burden of not telling the truth weighed heavily on my heart. It prevented me from living an open, truthful life. I hated that I carried a dark secret and that I had to lie about how I got my fat lip and why I felt so compelled to drink myself into oblivion. At the same time, the idea of telling the truth seemed impossible.

Years later, after the abuse finally stopped, I felt I’d been keeping the secret for so long that I didn’t know how to start telling the truth about it. The idea of telling the truth seemed so massive and confronting that I couldn’t face it. So I brushed it under the carpet, convinced myself that I didn’t need to talk about it and that it wasn’t important that my friends and partner knew about my past. But still the desire to tell the truth would come creeping up and niggle at me, manifesting itself as shortness of breath and sometimes full-blown panic attacks. Eventually the panic attacks became so bad that I reluctantly dragged myself along to an abuse counselor.

Counselling and writing as therapy

Initially, I didn’t share the full truth with my counselor because I felt too ashamed. I skipped over parts of my story, avoided discussing certain events and would lie about my feelings and state that I felt fine about things when I clearly didn’t. I was at the beginning of my healing journey, the start of a long and difficult road that would present me with as many challenges as it would rewards. I didn’t know that the people that I would meet on my healing journey would become my friends for life, that I’d meet other abuse survivors who would provide me with an endless source of love and support. I never expected that old friends who knew me during my years of difficulty would reach out to me with messages of encouragement and acceptance that would touch my heart.

In my early stages of counseling, I was encouraged to write letters to my abuser and to anyone else that I felt I needed to forgive for their part in my abuse. I would sit down and write pages of letters, feeling my anger dissipate and my fears dissolve as I wrote. I never imagined that this exercise would eventually lead me to write my first book, An Angel in the Corner, and that I would experience the joy of meeting and working with other authors and writers.

When I was at the beginning of my healing journey I hadn’t yet come to terms with my abusive past. I didn’t think that I could ever be free from my past and that I would always have to lie about who I really was. I am so happy that my counselors have proved me wrong.

A note of encouragement

After you have been abused, you can never go back to the person you were before. But I believe that personal transformation is possible and that there are wonderful life gifts that can emerge from an abusive past. I don’t know what my life would have been like if I hadn’t been abused and I’m not interested in knowing. My past has made me who I am and I am finally comfortable with that. I have given myself the gift that my teenage self so desperately wanted – the joy of living an abuse free life.

   Allie Gledhill is the author of ‘An Angel in the Corner’


what is dissociation?


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