Insightful psychological lessons of special interest to readers on therapeutic journeys of their own.



A Toronto-based clinical psychologist weighs the travails of mental illness on both sufferer and healer.

In addition to patient stories, Gildiner also recounts instances of her own Type A behavior, which leads to the tendency “to mow others down while driving toward our own ambitions.” In one case, she took a patient, to use her apt metaphor, above the depths of the unconscious so quickly that the result was akin to “psychological bends.” The power of the therapist can breed complacency, she notes, and, combined with years of experience, the feeling that one has seen it all. In Gildiner’s case, she certainly had not, and her book is full of self-discovery. One of the most affecting sections of her five-part case study concerns a Cree man who had weathered the death of a child, physical and sexual abuse, and depression. He also suffered from what she calls the “multigenerational trauma” of similar losses, a trauma resistant to treatment by psychotherapy, which “wasn’t designed to deal with cultural annihilation.” Another patient suffers not from multiple personality, as the common trope has it, but instead from dissociative identity, which “means that a fragmentation of the main personality has occurred.” Given that fragmentation refers to bits and pieces of missing psychological skills, it’s a wonder all of us don’t merit the diagnosis. In another instance, a woman was told daily by her grudging mother that she was a monster, “spoiled, grumpy, lazy, and fat,” when in fact she was none of those things. The brainwashing is just that practiced by narcissists at all levels—a valuable lesson for all readers, given how exposed we are to narcissists these days. Overcoming fear is no easy thing, writes the author, and her five patients as well as her own therapy lead her to the pointed conclusion that “all self-examination is brave."

Insightful psychological lessons of special interest to readers on therapeutic journeys of their own.

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-27148-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.


A teacher and scholar of Buddhism offers a formally varied account of the available rewards of solitude.

“As Mother Ayahuasca takes me in her arms, I realize that last night I vomited up my attachment to Buddhism. In passing out, I died. In coming to, I was, so to speak, reborn. I no longer have to fight these battles, I repeat to myself. I am no longer a combatant in the dharma wars. It feels as if the course of my life has shifted onto another vector, like a train shunted off its familiar track onto a new trajectory.” Readers of Batchelor’s previous books (Secular Buddhism: Imagining the Dharma in an Uncertain World, 2017, etc.) will recognize in this passage the culmination of his decadeslong shift away from the religious commitments of Buddhism toward an ecumenical and homegrown philosophy of life. Writing in a variety of modes—memoir, history, collage, essay, biography, and meditation instruction—the author doesn’t argue for his approach to solitude as much as offer it for contemplation. Essentially, Batchelor implies that if you read what Buddha said here and what Montaigne said there, and if you consider something the author has noticed, and if you reflect on your own experience, you have the possibility to improve the quality of your life. For introspective readers, it’s easy to hear in this approach a direct response to Pascal’s claim that “all of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Batchelor wants to relieve us of this inability by offering his example of how to do just that. “Solitude is an art. Mental training is needed to refine and stabilize it,” he writes. “When you practice solitude, you dedicate yourself to the care of the soul.” Whatever a soul is, the author goes a long way toward soothing it.

A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-25093-0

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.


A follow-on to the author’s garbled but popular 48 Laws of Power, promising that readers will learn how to win friends and influence people, to say nothing of outfoxing all those “toxic types” out in the world.

Greene (Mastery, 2012, etc.) begins with a big sell, averring that his book “is designed to immerse you in all aspects of human behavior and illuminate its root causes.” To gauge by this fat compendium, human behavior is mostly rotten, a presumption that fits with the author’s neo-Machiavellian program of self-validation and eventual strategic supremacy. The author works to formula: First, state a “law,” such as “confront your dark side” or “know your limits,” the latter of which seems pale compared to the Delphic oracle’s “nothing in excess.” Next, elaborate on that law with what might seem to be as plain as day: “Losing contact with reality, we make irrational decisions. That is why our success often does not last.” One imagines there might be other reasons for the evanescence of glory, but there you go. Finally, spin out a long tutelary yarn, seemingly the longer the better, to shore up the truism—in this case, the cometary rise and fall of one-time Disney CEO Michael Eisner, with the warning, “his fate could easily be yours, albeit most likely on a smaller scale,” which ranks right up there with the fortuneteller’s “I sense that someone you know has died" in orders of probability. It’s enough to inspire a new law: Beware of those who spend too much time telling you what you already know, even when it’s dressed up in fresh-sounding terms. “Continually mix the visceral with the analytic” is the language of a consultant’s report, more important-sounding than “go with your gut but use your head, too.”

The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-42814-5

Page Count: 580

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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