“Capture”: As Explained By David A. Kessler

CAPTURE “is the process by which our attention is hijacked and our brains commandeered by forces outside our control.” David A. Kessler, Capture

Furthermore, “capture” is something we all deal with and is responsible for depression, anxiety, obsessions, mania, psychosis, and other mental and emotional problems, according to David A. Kessler. His new book subtitled Unraveling the Mystery of Mental Suffering explains his point of view.

Calling it a “breakthrough book,” Dr. Abraham Verghese states, “It takes a particular gift to cut across neuroscience, psychiatry, philosophy, and psychology and to ask the fundamental question: Why do we allow our best selves to torpedoed by thoughts and actions that sink us? His answer is profound, life-changing, and life-saving.”

Kate McCune (Kate’s Harper News) further elucidates: “Here’s how it works in a benign example that most of us will be familiar with: You are settling down to work in a coffee shop or on an airplane. Lots of noise around you but a single loud voice in conversation captures your attention. You notice it, you determine to ignore it and get back to work but you can’t. Your will simply can’t make your mind let drop its attention to that loud (and by now surely obnoxious) voice. That’s capture.”

“Since Freud, scientists have discovered that every stimulus triggers a particular response from a series of brain neurons,” states Kirkus Reviews, which adds the following regarding the history and neuroscience of capture: “Each repetition of that stimulus strengthens the response: ‘neurons that fire together, wire together.’ That’s how we learn or remember, but it also influences emotions. The sight of someone we love or a work of art triggers intense feelings, but what happens when feelings about a drug, a stranger’s glare, or one’s defects become irresistible?”

The three basic elements of capture, says the author, are “narrowing of attention, perceived lack of control, and change in affect, or emotional state,” states Publishers Weekly. “He catalogs the kinds of activities that capture people’s attention—including love, trauma, gambling, and art—and demonstrates that in individual cases these phenomena, or sometimes specific events, can lead from positive mental health to mental illness.”

Much of the book is biographical about individuals who didn’t fare so well (Kirkus Reviews): “…(I)ndividuals driven to lives of torment (Dostoyevsky), that often ended in suicide (Ernest Hemingway, Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf, David Foster Wallace), addiction (John Belushi, Tennessee Williams), assassination (John Lennon, Robert Kennedy), or mass murder.”

Sheila M. Trask, Bookpage: “While he provides the basic neuroscience and survey of psychological thought we would expect for a book on this subject, Kessler himself seems more captured by the personal stories he’s gathered, from figures including Dostoyevsky and David Foster Wallace.” However:

He also explores, more briefly, the pure joy of ‘capture,’ in sections devoted to shifts of focus that have led to activism, social justice movements, incredible musical compositions and religious rebellions. Stories like that of Bill Wilson, the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, offer hope that even from the depths of addiction, one can experience a shift of perception that changes everything and leads to a meaningful and fulfilling life.

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