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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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

OPEN BOOK

The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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

THE ART OF SOLITUDE

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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