Maquina Lectora

Notes of a curious mind

Category: Psychology

Embrace the Uncertainty

A couple of weeks ago while browsing on NetGalley I came across The Possibility Principle:  How Quantum Physics Can Improve the Way You Think, Live, and Love by Mel Schwartz.

I became intrigued by this title. Is there a relevance between quantum mechanics and psychotherapy? And how quantum mechanics can help us reach our full potential? I felt there was something interesting there. I asked for it and I spend the next two days reading it.  It totally surprised me.

After a panic attack the psychotherapist Mel Schwartz sits in his desk and starts reading a popular science book about quantum physics. Not only he immersed himself in understanding the science behind the quantum physics, but he started thinking how it might affect us on personal level.

The current worldview is based on classical Newtonian mechanics.  It is a deterministic world model which presupposes the prediction of late state if all the parameters describing a previous state in the system are known.  But it becomes very difficult to fit complicated phenomena, such as the human behaviour in this simplistic cause and effect model. ‘Through this filter’ says Mel Schwartz, ‘we experience a vast array of struggle and malaise, anxiety, depression, failed relationships, incoherent communication and the gloom of existential despair.’

Read More

Creatures of a Day by Irvin D. Yalom

It is a joy to read Irvin D. Yalom’s books. He is a gifted storyteller and his books are deeply insightful and honest. In the  Creatures of a Day he describes ten stories, lessons in psychotherapy. The patients in these stories were grappling with existential issues, such as how to have a meaningful life and have to deal with anxiety about aging, death, or loss of a loved one

Psychotherapy is a dialog between two people or a group of people. It is a profession that exists behind closed doors, but Yalom allows us the chance to eavesdrop, discovering truths about ourselves at the same time. By combatting our own demons, he encourages us be truthful to ourselves, to resolve to change, to grow.

It is a deeply knowledgeable, wonderful and humane book.

The Invisible Orientation: An Introduction to Asexuality by Julie Sondra Decker

There are literally no non-fiction books for general audience on the subject of asexuality, it’s kinda a newer thing as far as books and such go.  Asexuality isn’t well known and it’s often confused with similar or less similar concepts, such as abstinence.  Asexuality is not celibacy – the refusal to act on attraction. It is not synonymous with a pathological state, it is not sickness, it is not a decision to become abstinent.

Asexual is “someone who does not experience sexual attraction.” It does not mean that this person cannot have sex, it means that he or she is not interested in sex or doesn’t enjoy sex. “Asexuality is a sexual orientation because it describes a person’s pattern of attraction (to no one).”

The Invisible Orientation is not a book only for the people who identify as asexuals, but also for laypersons who do not realise how often their criticisms, arguments and inappropriate comments hurt the asexual community, as well as professionals looking to help their asexual clients. It is an Asexuality 101 book, a starting point of understanding the concept and definition of asexuality.

Julie Sondra Decker, has published a variety of articles on the subject of asexuality. The book has a few personal bits, a few pages in the introduction of how she came to identify as asexual, but the rest of the book is general. The author discusses asexuality from a sexual orientation point of view and gives voice to asexual people of colour, asexual people of various gender identities, asexual people of many different romantic orientations.

It is a great book, the writing is clear, friendly and precise, it is easy to read and search for specific information.  I loved the quotes highlighted in gray boxes throughout the book.

The Death of Money by Joel Kurtzman

We are experiencing the most severe financial crisis since the 1929 stock market crash in the United States. How did we get here? What are the causes of the current global economic crisis?

In the Death of Money Joel Kurtzman, an economist and business editor at The New York Times vividly explains how money which in the traditional sense died three decades ago, has been replaced by what he calls “megabyte economy”.

According to Kurtzman, this new megabyte economy which set the end of decades of market stability began on 15th August 1971. Then President Nixon, abolished the Bretton Woods system and the gold standard. What followed was a period of a new economic disorder that began with soaring oil, gold, and real estate prices and continued with an unprecedented consumption binge by government agencies and the citizenry alike. A stable economic system was replaced with an unbelievable nanosecond volatility. The banking system become weaker, the savings and loan industry collapsed, the prices of the most commodities soared, pulling other prices with them, while the remnants of the U.S.A financial system seems to collapse and crumble under a mountain of debt.

In this megabyte economy, where world’s markets are linked, the electronic money is nothing more than the “1’s” and “0’s” of the computer’s code. Nobel-Prize winning equations are programmed into computers at mutual fund companies, while mathematicians and physicists are replacing the stock pickers of the past. The death of money has created a strange new world which most people have little knowledge of. It is a world that is far more chaotic and beyond the ability of the most forecasters to predict. The speculative markets now dwarf the “real” markets. Any speculation means abrupt change which is heavily influenced not just by the events but by the way people view them.

Kurtzman also explain why the stock market crash on October 1987 – “The Black Monday” – was not an anomaly and why we should expect more such crashes. In contrast to Adam’s Smith argument that rational self-interest in a free-market economy leads to economic well-being, Kurtzman says that “complex, sophisticated and evolving financial structures of the capitalist system lead to the development of conditions conducive to incoherence – to runaway inflation or deep depression”.

He also warns that the electronic economy will intensify the trend toward localism, provincialism, nationalism and racism among people whose lives and identities are disrupted by the end of the Nation State. Fundamentalism will increase as people’s lives are made to seem insignificant by the creation of a single massive global economy where enterprises are loyal to no one, bigger that everyone and under no nation’s control.

Kurtzman argues that efficient new mechanisms must be put into place to bring the economy under control and regain the balance between the “money economy” and the “real economy”. The Death if Money is a very good analysis of the speed and the dangers of the electronic global economy. “The countries that will be in the best position to prosper are those that allow local populations to flourish and to express their ethnic diversity without losing control over common good.”

Kurtzman argues that the old remedies no longer work in this new global economy. The most successful countries would be these, which will recognise that the invisible hand of the market should always have a measure of help from the very visible hands of government”.

The Schopenhauer Cure by Irvin Yalom

“Would you wiling to repeat the precise life you have lived again and again throughout eternity?”

Being confronted with cancer and his own death the psychotherapist Julius Hertzferd, try to re-examine his life and work. For reasons that he cannot clearly understands he seeks out Philip Slate, a sex-addict and old patient, which he failed to help. Philip, now a doctor of philosophy, claims to have been cured with the help of the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer. He says that he wants to be a philosophical therapist, and asks Julius to tutor him. Philip’s misanthropic stance poses a challenge to Julius and he invites him to join his therapy group for six months in exchange for his tutoring in counselling.

The group’s therapy sessions illustrate the interpersonal dynamics and the problems in human relations. Sexuality, betrayal, fear of aging, forgiveness, self-delusion and morality, powerful emotions and feelings, separate and connect the members of the group, shape their characters and their relations.

Through Philip, philosophy and especially Schopenhauer’s ideas are developing throughout the book. His life and philosophy are intertwined in a brilliant way with the group’s interpersonal relations, the unrevealing of their secrets and deepest emotions.

Irvin Yalom very cleverly, allows his characters to be developed in a gradual way; the process of exposure is slow, sometimes very painful and heavily emotional. Reading the book, I caught myself being attached to some of the characters, especially to untouchable Philip. His persistence to preciseness and speech intelligibility, his cleverness and self-possession in contrast to his lack of empathy and interpersonal skills – I wouldn’t say misanthropism – form an enticing and seemingly strong personality. Only, when his secret is revealed, the flaws in his philosophical armour exposed him to his real self, a man full of rage, shocking lonely, a man that no one has ever loved him.

In a truthful and powerful manner, Yalom, who has had a long involvement with therapy groups, show that emotional accessibility is the key to build bonds and organise attachment behaviour with others. It’s a great reading.

@ Maquina Lectora, 2017 & All rights reserved