Sep 27

New Books of Interest in Brief: September 2017

New books of interest, in brief, from this month:

I. Marriage has never been harder — or happier, argues new book. Heidi Stevens, Chicago Tribune

Eli J. Finkel writes about “how marriages moved from pragmatic institutions to partnerships based on love and sentimentality” in The All-or-Nothing Marriage: How the Best Marriages Work.

II. Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation? Jean M. Twenge, The Atlantic

Jean M. Twenge has authored one of the longest-titled books of recent note: iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy–and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood–and What That Means for the Rest of Us. Take this and the above-cited article’s subtitle—More comfortable online than out partying, post-Millennials are safer, physically, than adolescents have ever been. But they’re on the brink of a mental-health crisis—and you’ll already know the gist of her message.

III. The Most Important Emotional Intelligence Quote You’ll Hear Today. Damon Brown, Inc.

Brené Brown‘s newest book, Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone, tells readers one way Oprah Winfrey has made an impact on her. “Her advice is tacked to the wall in my study: ‘Do not think you can be brave with your life and your work and never disappoint anyone. It doesn’t work that way’.”

Not taken from the above article, a statement by Brown in Braving the Wilderness that’s also bound to become highly quotable: “True belonging doesn’t require us to change who we are. It requires us to be who we are.”

IV. This Stanford Professor Has a Theory on Why 2017 Is Filled With Jerks. Jessica Pressler, New York Magazine

Robert Sutton was behind the popular 2007 book The No Asshole Rule and now gives us The Asshole Survival GuideHow to Deal with People Who Treat You Like Dirt. According to Sutton, the problem of ‘disrespectful, demeaning, and downright mean-spirited behavior’ is ‘worse than ever’.”

V. THE EXPERT WHO HELPED WRITE THE MENTAL DISORDERS MANUAL EXPLAINS WHY TRUMP DOESN’T HAVE ONE: Trump’s narcissism has served him well. Angela Chen, The Verge

Allen Frances‘s Twilight of American Sanity: A Psychiatrist Analyzes the Age of Trump presents his ongoing position that Trump doesn’t necessarily have a mental disorder. As he recently stated in an interview with Chen:

Trump causes enormous distress to others, but his behavior doesn’t bother himself. In fact, he gets rewarded for them, he’s not necessarily out of sync with larger society. He’s always terrific at feathering his own nest and he’s been rewarded for his world-class narcissism rather than being punished for it. Having the symptoms themselves does not constitute a mental disorder. In order to qualify as a mental disorder, the individual would have to have distress related to them.

Maybe it’s society itself that has the disorder, states Frances. From Twilight of American Sanity:

What does it say about us, that we elected someone so manifestly unfit and unprepared to determine mankind’s future? Trump is a symptom of a world in distress, not its sole cause. Blaming him for all our troubles misses the deeper, underlying societal sickness that made possible his unlikely ascent. Calling Trump crazy allows us to avoid confronting the craziness in our society—if we want to get sane, we must first gain insight about ourselves. Simply put: Trump isn’t crazy, but our society is.

Marcia Angell, MD: “In this wide-ranging and enlightening book, Allen Frances, one of America’s most distinguished psychiatrists, shows how most of the current problems facing the United States — from denial of climate change to grotesque inequality—arise from mass delusions similar to the delusions of psychiatric patients. Twilight of American Sanity leaves no topic untouched. Readers might disagree with some of his conclusions, but they will always find them provocative and well argued.”

Aug 18

Bullying, Hate, Etc.: Up to Date Mental Health News

Bullying and hate have been frequent topics in the news these days. Also Trumpism, white supremacists, etc. See a thread?

I. He Ruins Everything: Trump Is Having a Negative Effect on the Workplace. Kali Holloway, Salon

Nearly 46 percent of Americans believe that ‘the brutish 2016 election campaigns negatively impacted the workplace,’ according to the Workplace Bullying Institute. In an abstract subtitled ‘Trump Toxicity,’ the organization notes that as a candidate, Trump ‘modeled bullying and [gave] license for others to forego norms of interpersonal civility and kindness.’ The trickledown effect is leading to increasingly inhospitable workplaces and an increase in inappropriate behavior.

II. How to Survive a Jerk at Work. Robert Sutton, Wall Street Journal

Author of the upcoming The Asshole Survival Guide: How to Deal With People Who Treat You Like Dirt, Dr. Sutton offers the following tips. Refer to the article for elaboration on each point.

  • Keep your distance.
  • Slow down. “…(R)espond as slowly and infrequently to the jerk as possible, and when you do respond, stay as calm and composed as you can…”
  • Early-warning systems. “In many workplaces, people spread warnings when powerful jerks are in vile moods (and it is best to avoid them) or are ‘incoming’.”
  • Look at it another way. “…entails ‘reframing’ the jerk’s behavior in a more positive and less threatening light.”
  • From enemy to friend. “As psychologist Robert Cialdini documents in his classic book ‘Influence,’ flattery, smiles and other signs of appreciation (even if not entirely sincere) can win over strangers, critics and enemies.”

III. Democrats in Congress Explore Creating An Expert Panel On Trump’s Mental Health. Sharon Begley, Scientific American

A closed meeting is scheduled for September in which mental health professionals will offer opinions to interested legislators, some of whom have also “co-sponsored a bill to establish ‘a commission on presidential capacity’,” which relates to the 25th Amendment.

IV. The Psychology of Hate Groups: What Drives Someone to Join One? Elizabeth Chuck, NBC News

A significant factor is “implicit permission” enabled by such activities as “watching a hate group rally or reading members’ comments online,” reports this article. Since Trump’s candidacy, moreover, we’ve had a rise in hate group formation and activity. Read more for details.

V. How White Supremacists Use Victimhood to Recruit. Olga Khazan, The Atlantic

Sociologist Mitch Berbrier, reporting on his research in 2000, found the following about the beliefs of those who affiliate with white supremacist groups:

  • that whites are victims of discrimination
  • that their rights are being abrogated
  • that they are stigmatized if they express “pride”
  • that they are being psychologically affected through the loss of self-esteem
  • that the end product of all of this is the elimination of “the white race”

VI. The Dark MInds of the Alt-Right. Olga Khazan, The Atlantic

“A psychology paper put out just last week by Patrick Forscher of the University of Arkansas and Nour Kteily of Northwestern University.” states Khazan, “seeks to answer the question of just what, exactly, it is that the alt-right believes. What differentiates them from the average American?”

It’s not about the economic anxiety. But it is, apparently, about a belief in a particular hierarchy of social groups.

The alt-right participants were more likely to think men, whites, Republicans, and the alt-right themselves were discriminated against, while minorities and women were not. This is in line with past research showing that white supremacists have a victimhood mentality, in which they consider whites to be the real oppressed people of American society.

Another interesting finding breaks the alt-right itself into groups:

Some were ‘populists,’ who were concerned about government corruption and were less extremist. The more extreme and racist among them, meanwhile, were the ‘supremacists.’ The authors speculate that people who start out as populists might become radicalized into the supremacist camp as they meet more alt-righters.