The Myth of Sanity: Divided Consciousness and the Promise of Awareness

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9780142000557: The Myth of Sanity: Divided Consciousness and the Promise of Awareness

Why does a gifted psychiatrist suddenly begin to torment his own beloved wife? How can a ninety-pound woman carry a massive air conditioner to the second floor of her home, install it in a window unassisted, and then not remember how it got there? Why would a brilliant feminist law student ask her fiancé to treat her like a helpless little girl? How can an ordinary, violence-fearing businessman once have been a gun-packing vigilante prowling the crime districts for a fight?

A startling new study in human consciousness, The Myth of Sanity is a landmark book about forgotten trauma, dissociated mental states, and multiple personality in everyday life. In its groundbreaking analysis of childhood trauma and dissociation and their far-reaching implications in adult life, it reveals that moderate dissociation is a normal mental reaction to pain and that even the most extreme dissociative reaction-multiple personality-is more common than we think. Through astonishing stories of people whose lives have been shattered by trauma and then remade, The Myth of Sanity shows us how to recognize these altered mental states in friends and family, even in ourselves.

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No one likes being called crazy. But Dr. Martha Stout, a psychological trauma specialist, invites all to question their own level of mental acumen in The Myth of Sanity. Her logic makes sense: all humans experience fear, especially during youth; individuals' response systems determine how their brains catalogue traumatic experiences and trigger "dissociative" coping strategies. Those who experience horrific situations like abuse, catastrophe, or grueling medical procedures fare the worst over time; their dissociative behaviors can manifest themselves as situational fatigue, "lost" hours or days, or split personalities.

Drawing from 20 years of treating such patients, Stout presents several composite characters to illustrate all levels of dissociative behavior: from the very serious DID (dissociative identity disorder, or "switching" among distinct personalities) to the nearly universal "brief phasing out" (losing a thought or getting "caught up" in something). As each patient undergoes psychoanalysis, Stout highlights clues for identifying trauma sufferers and lends advice to their loved ones. Tending away from scientific data or supportive research findings--while tending toward a fiction-lover's prose--The Myth of Sanity focuses on personal stories and Stout's zealous admiration for responsible therapy patients who wake to a sanity unclouded by past fears. --Liane Thomas

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TALES OF MULTIPLE PERSONALITY IN EVERYDAY LIFE

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