If you read this blog regularly you may know that my wife and I are leading small group for newly married couples. We finished the curriculum early, so we decided to have the group take the Flag Page test. My wife, Tami, and I first heard about the test in a Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage Conference about two years ago. It is yet another personality test, but I think it is both very easy to take and useful to discuss in a small group setting like ours.
Archives For Psychology
Takeaway: Fiction is one example of ways that our minds fill in details and help us understand how we may act in different situations. This is a fairly advanced literary theory book and I gave up and did not finish.
I picked this up because it was on sale for $0.99 (still only $1.99) and the title intriged me. I did not finish this for a couple reasons, but the basic idea is interesting. The Theory of The Mind is a psychology theory about the ability of people to fill in missing pieces in social interactions. People on the Autism spectrum and those with Schizophrenia have difficulty with this skill for different reasons. So there is a section on Autism (which I found very interesting) and another on Schizophrenia before moving on to the final two sections that are more focused on how others process fiction according to the Theory of the Mind.
While I found some of the concepts interesting, I was frustrated by the structure of the book. Not that it was a bad book, but it used a number of classic books as reference points and repeatedly discussed fairly well known sections of those books. In general, I was able to follow along, but I have not read a single one of the books that were referenced. It is not that the books were unknown, they are fairly well known books like Mrs Dalloway, Lolita, Beowulf, Don Quixote, Emma, Pride and Prejudice and Clarrissa. I think of myself as being fairly well read, but I guess I am not well enough read.
After a while, I got the basic point and just lost interest. If you are interested in Literary Theory, Autism, or psychological looks at fiction, you probably will find this book interesting.
Takeaway: Narcissism is a serious and real issue in the modern world. May be even more important spiritually.
First admission, I got bored with this book. I started it in January and read about the first third in a day. But then I started something else as I often do and I just had a hard time reading more than a little bit at a time.
The first section, which talked about the definition, myths and some of the benefits of Narcissism was very interesting. I sped through that and spent a lot of time talking about it to anyone that would listen.
The next section talks about why there is an epidemic. The chapter on parenting I thought was incredible. I was convinced that there really is a big problem with the way that the US thinks about parenting. Then the book started talking about the rise of celebrity culture, digital natives and web culture and school and I was less impressed. It is not that I do not think that Narcissism is not a big deal and it is not that I do not think that celebrity, the web and ‘everyone wins’ is not a problem.
Takeaway: Maturing is not a straight line and it does not automatically come with growing old.
Today is my birthday so I thought it appropriate to read and review a book that is primarily about how to age better. I must admit I was a bit put off of this book when I first started. Rohr is a Catholic priest and it took a while for me to sink into his vocabulary and understand how he was using his words.
After I picked it up again a week or so later. I started to see a spirituality that was formed by story in a way somewhat akin to Donald Miller. The 30 page intro is rough going no matter how you look at it. But once you get to the early chapters where Rohr uses the story of Odyssius to explain his point I was hooked.
Takeaway: Social and personal effects of pornography really are more devastating than I thought.
The promise of Wired for Intimacy is that it can speak to the problems of pornography both from a Christian/theological/moral perspective and a neurological/psychological perspective. Some people are drawn more to one type of argument or the other. But I think it is important that there is an attempt at both sides. Without the theological, there is just a pragmatic science. Without the science, it is one person’s theological system against another.
The first half of the book progresses from definition of pornography, to the social issues that occur because of pornography, to the neurological effects on the male brain from exposure to pornography. This is the heart of the book. The main issue identified neurologically is the potential for creating sexual triggers that are based more on pornography than a sexual partner. And the earlier a person is introduced to pornography the more likely that sexual response will become dependent on pornography and create sexual dysfunction when sexual response is desired with a human partner.
Takeaway: A book everyone should read to remind us that suffering is not a reality show or an abstract discussion.
I have never read any of Elie Wiesel‘s books. I have known of him and basically known that he was a Nobel Peace Prize winner and writer, but not a lot more. I ran across his first book Night, when looking for audiobooks on Overdrive. (Overdrive is a library system that allows you to check out ebooks or audiobooks over the internet just like your regular library books.)
I ran across it months ago and kept putting it off. I knew it was about the holocaust and I just did not want to read a depressing story. Finally, I decided to just go ahead and start it. I was transfixed. I listened in less than 24 hour period.
Night is written in the voice of a 15/16 year old and so often thought of as a young adult book. But it has been masterfully written (and equally masterfully narrated.) I have thought frequently about why I was never asked to read this as a high school or college student. I would strongly recommend that it be part of a high school or college curriculum.
As I listened to Night, I kept reflecting on two books. One, Hunger Games, where a teen girl is sent to fight to the death as entertainment. There were horrible parts about that book. But it was a story, Night was about the real story of thousands of boys and girls sent to their deaths in concentration camps. That is not to complain about Hunger Games, it was a good book with powerful things to say about how we approach entertainment, free will, love and other themes. But seen in contract to the real horror of Night, it seems almost too tame.
In general I am not a fan of Christian sex books. Most books either hold people to a impossibly high (and usually non-biblical) standard (a man should be able to train himself to never look at a woman or all dating is wrong, etc.) or promise a ‘mind-blowing’ sex if you just follow the book’s directions. While this book occasionally veers into the ‘mind blowing sex’ territory, I think it is good at trying to understand the biblical standards and then leave everything else open. (By the way, I picked this up free from Amazon on kindle. When I first bought it that it was the James Dobson book “What Wives Wish Their Husbands Knew about Women” and almost did not get it. It is not that book. It was published in 2007 and is very current in language and references.)
Honestly, there is not much new info here. While authors are all psychologists that specialize in couple’s therapy, the advice is fairly run of the mill (woo your wife all day, she is more turned on by cleaning the house than roses, etc). There is a short section on biology but most of the book is on relationships. The advice does not really need to be new (and probably is more helpful because it is not new). Sometimes we just need a reminder.
I just finished a fiction book that veered into the romance genre. I kept thinking throughout that book, that people in love often do stupid things. (Mark Gungor says the reason people should not have sex before marriage is that sex makes people stupid and God made us that way. Inside of marriage it is good for people to be stupid about the other person. Outside of marriage, it is not good to be stupid about the other person.)
Here is how I think this book is helpful. 1) It is ok to be a man. Men think about sex differently than women. Being a man does not make you an animal or wrong. 2) Men need to spend time with other men. They have a good little section on why, and it includes the fact that there are actual bio-chemical changes (primarily testosterone) when men spend time with other men. 3) This book has realistic and biblical suggestions about what is appropriate in the bedroom. It actually encourages people to experiment more (but this is where it might veer into the ‘mind blowing sex’ problem.) 4) They attempt to be biblical in their use of Song of Solomon and why it is not primarily (or even secondarily) a metaphor about Christ and the Church. 5) The book encourages people to seek a language to talk about sex that is not either clinical or pornographic. People will always use euphemisms, and some euphemisms are better than others. The authors spend about 5 or 10 pages showing how graphic scripture can be and that it is ok to use graphic euphemisms about sex. I appreciate that the book is straight forward, direct and a bit funny. 6) It is also very good on forgiveness within marriage. It says you should not confess first to your wife if you are having an affair or addicted to porn. Instead you need to find another man, confess to him, deal with the problem and then figure out when and if to confess. It also has a good section on guilt about sex prior to marriage. 7) It is good that the book focuses on what the Husband’s role is. With sex (and pretty much any other relationship issue), it is easy to focus on what the other person could do in the situation. This book focuses on what the guy should do. It does not claim that the guy is 100 percent responsible, just that he can do things to help make their sex life better.
On the negative side, there was not much of a female voice here. All of the authors are male. They reference their wives and quote them, but I think a fourth, female author would have been good. I also think the intro was pretty bad. It was the worst about the ‘mind blowing sex’ problem. Just because people are Christians, did not have sex before marriage and work hard on their marriage does not mean that they will have ‘mind blowing’ sex.
Overall, it was a good read. I think it is important to remind myself to pay attention and focus on my marriage. I am pretty internal in my processing, so I need to read books like this to remind myself how I can be doing better (even if there isn’t much info that is new.)
By the way, the Puritans were not actually puritanical about sex. They were fairly open and were pretty healthy in their views of sex. It was the Victorians of the mid to late 19th century that really had the views about sex that we associate with the Puritans. Small point, but it is worth noting.
This book is not lend-able. 176 pages in print.
This is a wide ranging and enormously interesting book on memory, retention and and self justification. The basic idea is that our brains are designed to minimize Cognitive Dissonance. Our brains will re-write memory and selectively remember details or give us other means to repress or eliminate Cognitive Dissonance.
Early in the book there are a number of examples of government, journalism and scientists that believe that they did nothing wrong while external evidence suggest otherwise. One of the most egregious, is the first study that showed a link between autism and vaccines. The lead author of the study was being paid on the side by class action lawyers (over $800,000) as an expert witness and researcher into the connection between autism and vaccines. The link was not disclosed and the research study continues to be influential even after it has been widely disproven by additional studies.
Another interesting example are the gifts given to doctors by drug companies. Drug companies know that small gifts are very effective in creating obligation to the drug companies, but large gifts, especially early in the relationship will make the doctors feel like they are being bribed. One of the important insights from this section is that often people do small things that are not wrong, but once they are a situation, end up doing many things that they would not have considered if they started with that action. For instance, Watergate did not start as a break in, but by the time all the players were in the game, it was easy to justify something that most of them would have never participated in had the idea of a break-in and cover-up been originally on the table.
There is an extended section on child abuse and recovered memories. You may remember the string of abuse cases in the 1980s, especially in day care settings, where children started remembering ritualistic and sexual abuse. These cases helped start the wide spread fear of child abuse (especially stranger abuse) in the United States. The authors use these cases to show the weakness of memory and the dangers of psychology and social work that is not backed up by strong clinical evaluation and research. Virtually all of the cases in the 1980s were later disproved but there are still some people in jail with only recovered memory statements as evidence. These recovered memory episodes were contrasted with studies of Holocaust victims that were able to recall in vivid detail their abuse 40 and 50 years after it occurred. One of the unintended consequences of these recovered memory episodes is a huge distortion in the perception of how prevalent sexual abuse of children is. The US Department of Human Services reports that 1.3 to 1.7 (boys and girls) per 1000 children are sexually abused each year and that over their childhood it is likely about 10 percent of children are sexually abused. While this is far too many children being abused, many people believe that 1 in 3 or even more children are actually abused. This difference between documented and assumed cases leads to many protective behaviors that are really not warranted by the actual danger. (Similar to fears of terrorism and the TSA.)
The authors use the cases of social workers and psychologists continuing to push their cases of abuse in the face of mounting evidence as an example of Cognitive Dissonance. We do what it takes to eliminate Cognitive Dissonance. So a social worker removes a child from a family solely on the basis that the mother had been abused as a child. The social worker has experience with multi-generational cases of abuse, but has not submitted her practice to broader research which would show that more than 70 percent of children abused by parents do not repeat abuse to their children. Subsequent to the 1980s cases, many studies have looked at how to properly interview children without inserting memories or giving leading questions. (Using the transcripts of the actual interviews with one of the day care abuse cases a study showed 70 percent of children ages 4-6 would implicate an adult man that visited a day care for just 10 minutes one time a week before the interview of abuse and torture within 10 minutes of first being interviewed.) Several states now have research based guidelines for gathering evidence from children. But not all states have adopted these guidelines and people continue to be jailed as a result of questionable interview techniques and little or no additional evidence.
There are more chapters with great examples of self justification, Self Justification in Marriage, another on disagreement and feuds, one on law enforcement, one on prejudice. But the last chapter is about what to do with all of this information.
There are a wide range of thoughts that I have about this book. One is that it inspires me to really try to admit to my mistakes and take responsibility. But also I see all kinds of implications for the Christian life. Not discussed, but I think it is interesting, is how Catholics might be different in regard to self justification. Confession is part of the regular Catholic liturgy, but not a part of most Protestants’ regular activities. Based on the research that has been done, it would seem that anyone that participates in regular confession, should be better at not self justifying. There are also some real implications for evangelism. Much traditional evangelism has been based around making people feel remorse for their sins. That makes sense if their is a cultural understanding of everyone being sinful creatures. But I think that culture has moved away from the traditional understanding of sin. I am not sure what that means, but I think it does mean we need a better theology and practice around evangelism and the concept of sin in light of research like what is presented in this book.
This review is already too long, but I very interested in reading more around this subject. If you have any book suggestions let me know.
I saw an article on Wednesday about a Doctor that profiled his mistake in the New England Journal of medicine in order to help doctors understand mistakes and how to properly take responsibility for them. It is a great real world example of the suggestions at the end of the book. Boston Globe article.
Takeaway: Derailed is a decent business book on Character. I support the idea of Nelson Free (buy a hardback, get the ebook and audiobook free) but in this case the audiobook isn’t that great.
I am a fan of Thomas Nelson publishers and its CEO, Michael Hyatt. I am a frequent reader of his blog and because I read his blog regularly, I have been the recipient of several of his book giveaways.
One of the features I most like about Thomas Nelson is their innovation around publishing. I know of no other publisher that has done more to make reading convenient to the reader than Thomas Nelson. I have talked before about their Nelson Free program, but I am going to mention it again. I had Derailed, for almost a year on my to read pile before I realized it was a Nelson Free book. Nelson Free is a program that gives away an ebook and an audiobook if you purchase the hardback. This allows the reader to read in the method they most prefer. I prefer reading on ebook or listening on audiobook. But I like to give away hardbacks to friends and family that I think would like the book. Once I realized Derailed was Nelson Free, I downloaded the audiobook and I will give away the hardback later this week.
Derailed is a good concept. Profile five highly publicized CEO failures and talk about the reasons for the “Failure of Leadership” and how the reader can avoid those crises. I like business books and pay some attention to the business world so I was aware of the story of 3 of the 5 CEOs before reading the book. This book gave more detail about some, but did not mention some details I thought import in at least one profile. That always raises a few red flags about how much more was not being talked about. Are these really crises of leadership or is the author picking and choosing in order to prove the point of his book? Many of the failed leaders followed long time leaders and might have failed even if they were very good leaders, simply because they were not the previous long time leaders.
In the end, it really does not matter if Irwin picked and choose facts. Irwin suggests that most, if not all leadership problems come from a lack of one or more of four traits: Authenticity, Self-Management, Humility and Courage. The profiles, while interesting are not really the meat of the book. If you only have a little time, read the first chapter, and then skip the profiles. The decription of the charcter issues really is what is important.
In general I like authors to read their own work. I think that many times, only they can really capture what is really great about the book. In this case, Tim Irwin is a lousy reader. I kept being distracted by the loss of flow. I think I may have liked the book much more if I had read it instead of listened to it.
Drive is fascinating, although a little repetitive. We are told over and over again, that the science of motivation is far from the business of actually motivating people. That much of what is done in the business and non-profit world to motivate people, cash bonuses, flex time, etc. either does not work to motivate in the ways we think or actually hurts motivation.
I am interested in it this week because I am at a training for staff of the after school program in Chicago that I consult with. And I have been intentionally thinking about how I could use some of Pink’s insights to change motivation with the after school program. Frankly, I have mostly come up short. The basic idea according to Pink is to give workers autonomy to get their work done in the way they want to do it and to focus on what they, as the worker, think is important.
In the non-profit world, the financial incentives are already fairly small. There are not a lot of bonuses. But I do think that some of the verbal motivations, organizing around mission and releasing people, allowing people to work their own hours but hold them accountable for results, not the input (hours worked) can be done in a non-profit. I purchased two copies, one for the after school program and one for my Mother-in-Law (a principal). Both education and non-profits are specifically mentioned with several examples. But mostly in negative examples. For instance, Pink is highly critical of the pay for performance model of education that is catching steam. He says that people that are motivated by money actually perform worse in the long term than those that are motivated by more intrinsic motivations (like mission, social cohesion, religious motivations, etc.) While he does not spend a lot of time making positive suggestions about how to re-organize schools for better motivation, he does show why he thinks that pay for performance will actually harm motivation.
This is another fairly short book. And it could be shorter. But there is a useful section on intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. As you could guess, Pink is advocating for intrinsic motivation. But he is not simply suggesting that you are either intrinsically or extrinsically motivated. But rather, that you can develop more intrinsic motivation intentionally. So there is a chapter that has some diagnostics to see how intrinsically motivated you are, and how to increase your intrinsic motivation.
There is also a useful section at the back on the current field of business writing. If you have not read a lot on business organization, this section will give you great ideas on where to go next.
I do not think that Drive is great writing, although it is not by any means the worst business psychology book I have read. But I do think that what Pink is talking about helps to explain the weaknesses of the purely rational, capitalistic financial system. If we were purely rational and financially motivated, we would not have people devote their lives to non-profit or government causes except when they could not do anything else.