Book Reviews

Margaret Atwood – Life before man

Look, I’m smiling at you, I’m smiling in you, I’m smiling through you. How can I be dead if I breathe in every quiver of your hand?

– Abram Tertz (Andrei Sinyavsky), The Icicle

Oh wow, what a book this has been. I read it in short bursts and I must say it’s one of the best stories from Margaret Atwood (Besides the Blind Assassin and The Edible Woman) dealing with the dissolution of a marriage post infidelity from one of the partners. It reminded me in spots of Hausfrau but while the heroine from Jill Essbaum committed suicide in the end for not being able to break through the boredom of the daily married couple, Margaret’s wife decides to live on, for the children.

Imprisoned by walls of their own construction, here are three people, each in midlife, in midcrisis, forced to make choices–after the rules have changed. Elizabeth, with her controlled sensuality, her suppressed rage, is married to the wrong man. She has just lost her latest lover to suicide. Nate, her gentle, indecisive husband, is planning to leave her for Lesje, a perennial innocent who prefers dinosaurs to men. Hanging over them all is the ghost of Elizabeth’s dead lover…and the dizzying threat of three lives careening inevitably toward the same climax.

Nate and Elizabeth are an unhappily married couple, with both husband and wife involved in extramarital affairs. Lesje, pronounced ‘Lashia,’ is Nate’s lover of Ukrainian ancestry and works along with his wife in the museum of natural history as a paleontologistfascinated by dinosaurs, giving the book its title. Elizabeth, said to have been inspired by Shirley Gibson, ex-wife of Atwood’s partner Graeme Gibson,[1] also takes a lover, Chris, who recently committed suicide. All three of the novel’s main characters influence the narration, with each chapter presenting events from a particular character’s perspective.

We have a very interesting love triangle going on. Elizabeth is married to Nate. Elizabeth has had a string of lovers, but she always told Nate about them just before she was ready to let them go. Until Chris came along and Chris killed himself because he could not be with her. Elizabeth plunges into nothingness and is unwilling to keep living normally, just passes the days in a stupor. Nate falls in love with one of Elizabeth’s coworkers, exotic Lesje and has an affair with her, dumping his previous par-amour Martha.

Elizabeth, notices the increased interest in Lesje, and comes out to fight for her marriage again. She breaks Lesje and her boyfriend William up, thinking that they will make up and leave her husband alone, but Lesje decides to move out and move in with Nate. Let the divorce proceedings begin.


I loved the book as it delved into each of the people’s backgrounds, motivations and ideas and you can see and understand why each person moved the way they did over the chessboard that is life. But in the end, the Queen takes all.

Growing Up

How past experiences affect your life

Without the interaction of other people an individual can’t develop a personality.
2big-past-lifeSociologist Herbert Mead developed a theory known as social behaviorism, which helped explained why past social experiences help form an individuals’ personality.
Mead did not believe that personality was developed by drives or biologically, but more on terms socially.  He stated that the self only developed when people interact with one another. Without the interaction of other people an individual can’t develop a personality.
An example of this is if a child is left in total isolation for a long period of time then they don’t mature both physically or mentally. Next, social experience is crucial, and this includes the exchange of symbols. Only people attach meanings to words and symbols. If you tell a dog to sit and it obeys then you may give it a snack. However, this doesn’t mean it knows why to sit down, but it does so to get food.
You can tell a dog to sit for numerous of reasons such as wanting to impress your friends, or to calm it down because it is running all over the place. Also, Mead noted that understanding individual intentions is critical.  This will help us to analyze how an individual will respond even before we act.
For example, when we’re driving we all anticipate what others may do because of experience. If an individual behinds you is speeding up rather quickly, then you can assume that they are about to switch lanes, or you can assume that they are in a rush and need to get somewhere quickly. Mead refers to this as taking another individual’s role.
Another important theory that is related to social behaviorism is the looking-glass self. This is basically like mirroring what we think others think of us.  If we think others view you as being “good looking,” then you will see yourself as being good looking, or if you think people think that you are fat then you will have that image of yourself. People take the roles of other people during development. Infants have very little knowledge so they tend to mimic others.
Children often have creative minds and take on roles of other significant others or people such as parents that have a special importance in their   social development.
For example, children will play house in which someone will take the role of a mother while another take that of a father. As they age children will learn to take various roles and adjust to their surroundings. As we continue to age we will continue to see changes in our social life. There are a lot of critics of Mead’s theories and some claim that he focus too much on the society in developing an individual’s behavior. Another sociologist Erik H. Erikson stated that unlike Freud who believed that personality was pretty much set in stone in the first couple of years of an individual’s life, that personality changes in stages and occurs all the way up to death. His theory is not all that accurate as well, because people experience changes in different orders and time.
Through all of the disagreements, sociologists generally agree on this main idea, and that is that the family has the greatest impact on an individual’s socialization abilities.
When an individual is an infant they have no control and usually rely on their parents and family members to help nurture them. Through family they learn several of communication techniques such as trust, culture, and beliefs.  Don’t get me wrong, not all learning comes solely from family; they can come from the environment as well because in a lot of cultures they use the environment to help raise a child. I guess the saying is true in which it takes a “village to raise a child.”
It may not be surprising to you that different social classes tend to raise their children differently. An interesting survey that happened in the United States compared what a lower class family would want in a child compared to that of an upper class family.  A lower class family would usually favor obedience and conformity while an upper class family would tend to favor creativity and good judgment (NORS, 2003).
Have you ever wondered why?
Well the reason is lower class workers tend to have jobs that they must be very obedient in and are highly supervised. Subconsciously they are gearing their children towards that route and will even use physical punishment to achieve it. In upper class workers they tend to have jobs that inspire individuality and creativity which is very similar to the traits they would like to have in their children. School also has a large effect on an individual’s personalities. If you think about it you spend a huge chunk of time each day at school.
playing_2163956bIt’s also interesting to note that children tend to play with people as the same race and gender, and that boys are more physical and aggressive while girls are more well behaved. Boys also tend to find abstract activities more interesting like video games and girls tend to be more artistic. The same thing follows when they get to college because boys tend to major in physical sciences, and computing while girls usually major in humanities and arts. In school is where children discover peer groups or individual that has similar interest as themselves.
People tend o indemnify more with their peer groups and can have conversations about things they understand like clothes, music, and style.  Peer groups are a way for individuals to escape adult supervision, and people are usually more out spoken in peer groups.
During the adolescent years people tend to identify more with their peer groups because they identify themselves as an adult and that is also a time in which parents are concerned about who their children hang around because they know that who they hang around influence their behavior deeply.
During these years the mass media heavily affects individuals as well.  Studies have showed that television have made people more passive and lessened their creativity.  In the United States, we spend he most time watching television and own the most T.V sets per household.
Should we go out and interact a bit more?


Social Phobias

Did you ever feel afraid to go out? Even to the mall? You might be suffering from a Social Phobia
By Jenny Bishop September 3, 2013
outsiderimage250Everyone is afraid of something. Everyone experiences nervousness, anxiety and even in superior feelings around certain people. Some people possess these feelings so deeply that their fear is considered irrational.
Even they realize that it is irrational and that they have a phobia. Millions of people suffer from phobias every day of their lives. The third largest psychological disorder in the United States is what psychologists have labelled a social phobia.
A social phobia is the fear of social situations and the interactions with other people that can automatically bring on feelings of self-consciousness, judgement, evaluation, and scrutiny. They cannot overcome a social phobia without the patient first grasping exactly what triggers their fears, and then learning how to receive proper help.
A social anxiety disorder or social phobia is the constant fear of being criticized or evaluated by other people. People with a social phobia are nervous, anxious, and afraid about many social situations. Simply attending a business meeting or going to a company party can be highly nerve wracking and intimidating. Although people with social anxiety want very much to be social with everyone else, their anxiety about not doing well in public is strong and hinders their best efforts. They freeze up when they meet new people, especially authority figures. They are particularly afraid that other people will notice that they are anxious, so this fear enables the anxiety to grow and turn into a vicious cycle.
woman-shopping-grocery-storeOne example, a woman hates to stand in the grocery store because she is afraid that everyone is watching her. She knows that it is not really true, but she cannot shake the feeling. While she is shopping, she is conscious of the fact that people might be staring at her from the big mirrors on the inside front of the ceiling.
Now, she has to talk to the person who is checking out the groceries. She tries to smile, but her voice comes out weakly. She is sure she is making a fool of herself. Her self-consciousness and anxiety rise to extremes. Many symptoms go hand in hand with this terrible phobia. The feelings that accompany a social phobia include anxiety, intense fear, negative thinking cycles, racing heart, blushing and trembling. In public places, such as work, meetings, or shopping, people with a social phobia feel that everyone is staring at them (even though, rationally, they know this is not true.)The socially anxious person can never relax when other people are around. It always seems as others are evaluating them, judging them, or being critical of them, so in turn, resisting social situations is much easier for the sufferer. Some specific symptoms are those people, for example, who cannot write in public because they fear people are watching and their hand will shake. Others are too overly introverted, and they find it too difficult to hold down a job.
Who's afraid of Public Speaking <a href=
Some cannot eat in public or “freeze” when they step into a public situation. The suffered tries to avoid introductions to new people, being the focal point, or being observed while doing something, because it triggers their uncomfortable nature. Once the patient understands the sickness, they can make measures to help maintain these horrible feelings and overcome the sickness. When the phobias interfere with a person’s life, treatment can help. Because few socially-anxious people have heard of their own problem, and have never seen it discussed on any of the television talk shows, they think they are the only ones who have these terrible symptoms. Therefore, they keep quiet about them. It would be too horrific if everyone realized how much anxiety they experienced in daily life. Unfortunately, without some kind of education, knowledge and treatment, social anxiety continues to wreck havoc throughout their lives.
Adding to the dilemma, when a person with a social phobia gets up the nerve to seek help, the chances that they can find it are very slim. In fact, Psychiatrists have misdiagnosed people with a social phobia almost 98% of the time. People with a diagnosable DSM-IV social phobia have been mislabeled “schizophrenic,” “manic-depressive,” “clinically depressed,” “panic disordered,” and “personally disordered,” among many other misdiagnoses. Successful treatment usually involves a kind of cognitive-behavioral therapy called desensitization or exposure therapy, where psychologists gradually expose patients to what frightens them until the fear begins to fade. This treatment provides methods, techniques, and strategies that all combine to lessen anxiety and make the world a much more enjoyable place.
Therapy may involve learning to view social events differently, and exercises on relaxation and breathing also to help reduce anxiety symptoms.
Three-fourths of the patients benefit significantly from this type of treatment. A social phobia responds to a relatively short-term therapy, like twelve to twenty meetings, depending on the severity of the condition. Socially-anxious people do not need years and years of therapy.
Consequently, psychiatrists who teach people to “analyze” and “ruminate” over their problem’s usually make their social anxiety’s worse. Currently, no proven drug treatment for specific phobias has yet been found, but sometimes Psychiatrists may prescribe certain medications to help reduce anxiety symptoms before someone faces a phobic situation. Scientists have proven some medications effective when used with cognitve-behavioral therapy, about 80% effective.
MIS-MAOI-cover-e1371051697336One medication includes antidepressants called MAO inhibitors. Drugs called beta-blockers have helped people with specific form of a social phobia called a performance phobia. Klonopin is another kind of drug, and it helps calm the patient down enough to undergo treatment. Without treatment, a social phobia is a torturous emotional problem; with treatment, its bark is worse than its bite. Once the patient realizes that they have a phobia, treatment can substantially reduce their problems. Treatment may be found from any specialist who understands this problem and knows how to treat it. Getting over social anxiety is not an easy task, yet many thousands have already done it.

“Life is just one gut-wrenching anxiety problem after another,” says Ph.D. Thomas Richards.

However, the patient can quench this in a short period of time-but a cognitive-behavioral therapist who understands and specializes 8in the treatment of social anxiety.


Games People Play – The psychology of human relationships

Sensory Deprivation has been the cause of decline in a human’s functions. When in company, this deprivation can degenerate into games of acceptance. Read more!

THE theory of social intercourse, which has been outlined at some length in Transnational Analysis may be summarized as follows.
Spitz has found that infants deprived of handling over a long period will tend at length to sink into an irreversible decline and are prone to succumb eventually to inter current disease. In effect, this means that what he calls emotional deprivation can have a fatal outcome. These observations give rise to the idea of stimulus-hunger, and indicate that the most favoured forms of stimuli are those provided by physical intimacy, a conclusion not hard to accept on the basis of everyday experience.
An allied phenomenon is seen in grown-ups subjected to sensory deprivation. Experimentally, such deprivation may call forth a transient psychosis, or at least give rise to temporary mental disturbances. In the past, social and sensory deprivation is noted to have had similar effects in individuals condemned to long periods of solitary imprisonment. Indeed, solitary confinement is one of the punishments most dreaded even by prisoners hardened to physical brutality, and is now a notorious procedure for inducing political compliance. (Conversely, the best of the known weapons against compliance is social organization.)
On that biological side, it is probable that emotional and sensory deprivation tends to bring about or encourage organic changes. If the reticular activating system of the brain stem is not sufficiently stimulated, degenerative changes in the nerve cells may follow, at least indirectly. This may be a secondary effect due to poor nutrition, but the poor nutrition itself may be a product of apathy, as in infants suffering from marasmus. Hence a biological chain may he postulated leading from emotional and sensory deprivation through apathy to degenerative changes and death. In this sense, stimulus-hunger has the same relationship to survival of the human organism as food-hunger.
Indeed, not only biologically but also psychologically and socially, stimulus-hunger in many ways parallels the hunger for food. Such terms as malnutrition, satiation, gourmet, gourmand, faddist, ascetic, culinary arts, and good cook are easily transferred from the field of nutrition to the field of sensation. Overstuffing has its parallel in over stimulation. In both spheres, under ordinary conditions where ample supplies are available and a diversified menu is possible, choices will be heavily influenced by an individual’s idiosyncrasies. It is possible that some or many of these idiosyncrasies are constitutionally determined, but this is irrelevant to the problems at issue here.Guenther_blog1
The social psychiatrist’s concern in the matter is with what happens after the infant is separated from his mother. in the normal course of growth. What has been said so far may be summarized by the “colloquialism”:7 “If you are not stroked, your spinal cord will shrivel up.” Hence, after the period of close intimacy with the mother is over, the individual for the rest of his life is confronted with a dilemma upon whose horns his destiny and survival are continually being tossed. One born is the social, psychological and biological forces which stand in the way of continued physical intimacy in the infant style; the other is his perpetual striving for its attainment. Under most conditions he will compromise. He learns to do with more subtle, even symbolic, forms of handling, until the merest nod of recognition may serve the purpose to some extent, although his original craving for physical contact may remain unabated.
This process of compromise may be called by various terms, such as sublimation; but whatever it is called, the result is a partial transformation of the infantile stimulus-hunger into something which may be termed recognition-hunger. As the complexities of compromise increase, each person becomes more and more individual in his quest for recognition, and it is these differentia which lend variety to social intercourse and which determine the individual’s destiny. A movie actor may require hundreds of strokes each week from anonymous and undifferentiated admirers to keep his spinal cord from shrivelling, while a scientist may keep physically and mentally healthy on one stroke a year from a respected master.
“Stroking” may be used as a general term for intimate physical contact; in practice it may take various forms. Some people literally stroke an infant; others hug or pat it, while some people pinch it playfully or flip it with a fingertip. These all have their analogues in conversation, so that it seems one might predict how an individual would handle a baby by listening to him talk. By an extension of meaning, “stroking” may be employed colloquially to denote any act implying recognition of another’s presence. Hence a stroke may be used as the fundamental unit of social action. An exchange of strokes constitutes a transaction, which is the unit of social intercourse.
As far as the theory of games is concerned, the principle which emerges here is that any social intercourse whatever has a biological advantage over no intercourse at all. This has been experimentally demonstrated in the case of rats through some remarkable experiments by S. Levine 8 in which not only physical, mental and emotional development but also the biochemistry of the brain and even resistance to leukaemia were favourably affected by handling. The significant feature of these experiments was that gentle handling and painful electric shocks were equally effective in promoting the health of the animals.