UNCOVERING THE UNCONSCIOUS

Psychoanalyst Horowitz (Psychiatry/UCSF, Stress Response Syndromes, 2011, etc.) provides a crash course in understanding the true nature of the self, from defining and redefining identity and building harmonious relationships to identifying destructive behavioral patterns and discarding bad habits.

With a slew of prestigious credentials (President of the San Francisco Center for Psychoanalysis; Director of the Program on Conscious and Unconscious Mental Processes of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation) and a number of awards recognizing his work on PTSD (Pioneer and Lifetime Achievement Awards from the International Society of Trauma and Stress Studies), Horowitz clearly knows his stuff—and it shows in his academic, jargon-heavy writing. But the heady psychobabble shouldn’t deter anyone; his latest endeavor is perfectly accessible (although those searching for breezy self-help tomes touting trendy quick fixes best look elsewhere). A flip through these pages first takes readers on a general tour of personal and interpersonal development with an emphasis on self-improvement through introspection, the text providing question prompts as guides (“What is the difference between what I need and what I desire?”) and case studies as examples of what, and what not, to do. Sections devoted to early childhood and adolescence—when most behaviors are first formed—are standouts. Horowitz delves into maladaptive response patterns (passive-aggression, perfectionism, self-sabotage) and explains how to adopt healthier coping skills, such as maintaining safe boundaries, tolerating tension within unfamiliar or uncomfortable situations, and testing new solutions to old problems. In the last and perhaps most useful third of the book, Horowitz unpacks how to control undesirable emotional states (denial and suppression, dissociation, idealization and projection) and effect positive change by using the past as a barometer for solving conflicts. The presentation of information might seem dense at times, though bulleted “Points to Remember” are included at the conclusion of each chapter, and Horowitz pays careful attention to looping new ideas back to concepts explained earlier in the book. While light therapy-seekers might not relate to every topic covered in the book (i.e. the bits covering masochism or erotogenic fantasies), there are plenty of other contemplative nuggets worth noodling over.

A stint on Horowitz’s proverbial couch promises hearty rewards at a fraction of the price.

Pub Date: May 17, 2012

ISBN: 978-1470013424

Page Count: 234

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2012

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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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A lucid (in the sky with diamonds) look at the hows, whys, and occasional demerits of altering one’s mind.

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THIS IS YOUR MIND ON PLANTS

Building on his lysergically drenched book How to Change Your Mind (2018), Pollan looks at three plant-based drugs and the mental effects they can produce.

The disastrous war on drugs began under Nixon to control two classes of perceived enemies: anti-war protestors and Black citizens. That cynical effort, writes the author, drives home the point that “societies condone the mind-changing drugs that help uphold society’s rule and ban the ones that are seen to undermine it.” One such drug is opium, for which Pollan daringly offers a recipe for home gardeners to make a tea laced with the stuff, producing “a radical and by no means unpleasant sense of passivity.” You can’t overthrow a government when so chilled out, and the real crisis is the manufacture of synthetic opioids, which the author roundly condemns. Pollan delivers a compelling backstory: This section dates to 1997, but he had to leave portions out of the original publication to keep the Drug Enforcement Administration from his door. Caffeine is legal, but it has stronger effects than opium, as the author learned when he tried to quit: “I came to see how integral caffeine is to the daily work of knitting ourselves back together after the fraying of consciousness during sleep.” Still, back in the day, the introduction of caffeine to the marketplace tempered the massive amounts of alcohol people were drinking even though a cup of coffee at noon will keep banging on your brain at midnight. As for the cactus species that “is busy transforming sunlight into mescaline right in my front yard”? Anyone can grow it, it seems, but not everyone will enjoy effects that, in one Pollan experiment, “felt like a kind of madness.” To his credit, the author also wrestles with issues of cultural appropriation, since in some places it’s now easier for a suburbanite to grow San Pedro cacti than for a Native American to use it ceremonially.

A lucid (in the sky with diamonds) look at the hows, whys, and occasional demerits of altering one’s mind.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-29690-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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