Saturday, June 7, 2008

Psychology Today: Bookshelf

From Psychology Today:

by Paul Chance

One of the oldest ideas in cognitive psychology is that people use a set ofexpectations, called a schema, to interpret their experiences. We have, for example, a schema for restaurants: When we dine out, we expect to be seated at a table and offered a menu. Some psychotherapists now apply the schema concept to destructive patterns of behavior. According to psychotherapist Tara Bennett-Goleman, M. A., author of Emotional Alchemy: How the Mind Can Heal the Heart (Harmony, $24), most of these schemas involve fear--of abandonment, betrayal, rejection, and so on. Unrealistic expectations distort our perceptions of ourselves and our environments so that we deal with illusion rather than reality, leading to unhappiness. One of Bennett-Goleman's clients, for example, had such unrealistically high standards that she saw only her failures and consistently overlooked any successes she had. Bennett-Goleman discusses how such inappropriate schemas work against people, and how adopting a more realistic schema is helpful. She also argues that destructive schemas can be brought "into the light" through mindfulness, cognitive therapy and Buddhist teachings. While her unique brand of New Age therapy is as yet unproven, she provides entertaining anecdotes from her personal and clinical experience to illustrate her point.

If your fears are more like spider phobias or generalized anxiety, you might want to try more traditional, well-documented psychological remedies. In Facing Fears: The Sourcebook for Phobias, Fears, and Anxieties (Checkmark, $16.95), psychologists Ada Kahn, Ph.D., and Ronald Doctor, Ph.D., offer general information on fears and their treatment as well as an alphabetically arranged compendium that tells you everything you want to know about specific phobias, and then some.

By all accounts, schizophrenia is a horror worse than anything Steven King's imagination could conjure up. Now, writer Greg Bottoms has provided a biographical novel about his brother, Michael, a paranoid schizophrenic, that may be as close as most of us will ever get to knowing what it is to be truly mad. Angelhead: My Brother's Descent into Madness (Crown, $22) is a story nearly as terrifying as the disease it describes.

Research shows that slow-witted people generally have more children than those with better brains. If this is true, why isn't the world's IQ falling like the fellow who tipped a vending machine toward himself to get a free treat? Wendy Northcutt, author of The Darwin Awards: Evolution in Action (Dutton, $16.95) implies that it's because stupid people remove their genes from the pool sooner. Northcutt, an Internet consultant, gives the awards to those who show a remarkable talent for shortening their lives in creative ways. There is, for instance, the couple who made love in their garaged car and left the motor running to stay warm--sure proof that evolution is still at work.

In A Quiet Worm (Yale, $18.50), David Myers, Ph.D., a psychology professor at Michigan's Hope College, wittily discusses the trials of a person sinking into deafness. He tells us, for example, of the hearing impaired woman who writes to an advice columnist: She thinks her boyfriend proposed marriage, but she's not sure she heard him correctly. What should she do? Myers uses humor deftly, much of it self-directed. Still, he recognizes that hearing loss is a serious problem, and helps his reader appreciate how the inability to hear becomes the inability to connect.

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