Archive for ‘Psychology’

July 14th, 2012

Shorts on Saturday

by Gwen



Since getting a Kindle, I have gotten in the habit of reading short stories, novellas, and a fair amount of books for kids to sort of cleanse my palate in between larger books. Most of them are pretty good, but I can’t see writing a full post review of a short story.

So, here is the idea. I will do mini reviews on Saturday of the Shorts. Will I keep it up? History says no, but have to start somewhere.



For Kids-

Gnit-Wit Gnipper and the Perilous Plague by T.J. Lantz

The little Gnome, Gnipper Tallhat, just can’t seem to catch a break. Every experiment she tries ends up in a disaster and all she really just wants to show people how smart she can be.

Cute story. Great moral. Short read at 42 pages.






For Non-Fiction and Erik Larson Lovers-Psychopath

Psychopath by Katherine Ramsland

Was H. H. Holmes a psychopath? At the time of his dirty deeds, science was still looking for malformations in the brain to find the root of psychopathology. Holmes foiled the plot to let his brain be examined after his execution. Luckily, we don’t need to look at the brain to answer that question anymore.

69 pages. Interesting for armchair Psychologists. Nice way to kill time while waiting for the Devil in the White City to be released.


(If you have a Kindle or Kindle app and would like to borrow either of these, shoot me an note or comment. They are both lendable)




Keeping it short and sweet today while trying this out.








February 23rd, 2012

A First-Rate Madness by Nassir Ghaemi

by Gwen


Uncovering the Links Between Leadership and Mental Illness

Ghaemi has a very controversial idea/premise here….

“This book argues that in at least one vitally important circumstance insanity produces good results and sanity is a problem. In times of crisis, we are better off being led by mentally ill leaders than by mentally normal ones.”

Now, I am sure that many people would read that or the blub on the book and think that Ghaemi is mad himself. I have chronic depression (often called dysthymic disorder) and I read this and thought, “Wait, there are people that can do great things while suffering from this? And sometimes, might even be better equipped than people without it?”

Note: I am not at this time announcing my candidacy for President and don’t pretend to think that I am going to change the world because of my condition. The idea that it can be overcome to the point of being a leader is inspiring though.

Ghaemi mentions four elements or characteristics of mania and depression that come in handy in a crisis; Empathy, Realism, Creativity, and Resilience. Then, he breaks down the book, by highlighting leaders that most likely had a mental illness and used one of those elements to their advantage.

For instance, he looks at General Sherman when talking about Creativity. While I am that they are some that would argue about whether or not Sherman actually was bipolar, there is no doubt that he had major mood swings throughout his life. What no one will quibble about is that Sherman created an entire new form of warfare with his march to the sea. He could see that the war was getting nowhere fast and that there had to be a way to end the bloodshed. His solution was to take the war to the people in order to break down the morale of the entire South.

“Creativity may have to do less with solving problems than with finding the right problems to solve.”

Getting back to the book as a whole. There are a few stumbles……

  • Ghaemi tends to overuse phrases, like “We shall soon see…” and while constantly redefining terms so that you don’t have to flip back to remind yourself of what he meant is nice, he does it ad nauseam.
  • Also, I am still completely flummoxed as to why Ted Turner is in the book at all. While he does probably suffer from a mental illness, I don’t think he belongs on a list of leaders that include, Sherman, Lincoln, Churchill, Ghandi, MLK, or even Hitler.
  • The last problem I had was with his bias coming out during the sections on George W. Bush and Tony Blair. Call me crazy, but if you want the idea of writing a psychological history to take off, you shouldn’t be letting your political bias ooze out quite so much.

I found the book absolutely freaking compelling. So much so that while I borrowed the ebook from the library, I just ordered the hardcover so that I would have an easy copy to refer to in the future. I couldn’t stop reading passages to my family members as I was reading it.

Are there going to be leaps that Ghaemi asks you to take that you don’t want to or don’t agree with?  Yes, even I wasn’t drinking the Kool-Aid for everything and you shouldn’t either. Walking away though, you might find yourself with a deeper understanding of what it means to be mentally ill and that the stigma that society places on us are just that, a stigma, not based in any actually fact. There are plenty more eye-openers to take-away as well.

March 11th, 2011

Gated Grief by Leila Levinson

by Gwen

Gated Grief

The Daughter of a GI Concentration Camp Liberator Discovers a Legacy of Trauma

I wish that Levinson could have written this sooner, but I am grateful that I read it now.

After the death of her father, Dr. Reuben Levinson, Leila and her brother found some horrific pictures in their fathers medical office. They were shots from the concentration camp that her father, as Captain Levinson at the time, liberated in the aftermath of WWII.

The pictures haunted her and led her on a quest to try to understand what it meant to be a liberator. Pictures don’t do justice to what her father and other GIs faced. She needed to understand how those pictures changed the men that left hopeful and ready to fight for the freedom of all people. What she found brought her closer to her father, closer to understanding the man that told her never to cry and to just move forward, closer to answers to the questions she always wanted to ask; needed to ask, but never did.

Levinson interviewed many liberators, attended reunions, looked back at past written histories, and finally visited the camp where her father attended victims before having a nervous breakdown in 1945. She wasn’t just searching for how being a liberator changed her father and how it effected other liberators, but what effect that change had on her childhood.

It has been estimated that a minimum of 300,000 GIs witnessed the camps in one way or another. For the most part, none of these (mostly) men were warned or prepared for what they were going to see, they were just told to go there. What they saw, what they smelled, what they felt, is still something that many can’t talk about. Levinson noticed that many of the people she interviewed switched into third person when they were describing it. They were still trying to distance themselves from it decades later.

A phrase that Levinson used stuck with me while I was reading and still runs through my mind at odd moments.

“The liberators became prisoners of the camps they liberated.”

On coming home, the liberators didn’t talk about what they saw, they seldom shared with their families. A part of them had fractured off, never to be seen again. The trauma of what they saw effected them and their children that might not have even been born yet. Most took the attitude of the time that you just have to forget and move forward. The thing is, they couldn’t forget and while they were moving forward, it was as a vastly different human being than the brightly smiling soldier that they had been when they left for the war.

This book touched me in a personal way as well and that is why I wish that it had been written sooner. My grandfather fought in the Pacific and never talked about it. While I was always curious and wanted to ask him about his service, it was sort of an unspoken rule that I shouldn’t. When he passed away, we found pictures tucked away in an ammo box that, while not of concentration camps, were frankly, I am embarrassed to say what they depicted in detail. Why had he saved these pictures of mutilated Japanese soldiers? Why had he never talked about his experiences other than the USO dance where he met my grandmother and the time he spent on the base in New Jersey? It was as if there was this whole other person that fought in the war that we never knew.

I wish that I had had the courage to ask him before his passing. It might have explained a lot about the person that I thought I knew, but obviously, didn’t.

“The liberators became prisoners of the camps they liberated.”

Gated Grief is a study of trauma. Trauma that still affects many of us as the children and grandchildren of the veterans of WWII. The book is deep, but not depressing. It left me strangely hopeful. It means that we have finally acknowledged that veterans, of all wars, are left with scars that we can’t always see and that we need to acknowledge those wounds just as we address the obvious ones.

We have come a long way from the attitude of just putting the horrors of war behind us and moving forward. In the 40’s we weren’t prepared to deal with the psychiatric casualties of war.Then, lobotomies were the norm and around 50,000 veterans underwent the procedure. I can only hope that we are better armed now, but I am still not so sure. Levinson was able to shine a light on her upbringing, but also shined a light on an important subject for all of us.

Gated Grief by Leila Levinson
Hardcover: 266 pages
Publisher: Cable Publishing; 1 edition (January 31, 2011)
ISBN-10: 1934980544
ISBN-13: 978-1934980545

This book was given to my by PR by the Book, but was already on my radar because of my interest in the effects of trauma. The thoughts are my own. I have read a few books on the subject, which I am now realizing that I never reviewed here. (bad Gwen) You can read my short review of Denial: A Memoir of Terror by Jessica Stern at the Sacramento Book Review site.