American Journal of Psychotherapy – When Our Minds Betray Us – Article Preview

Stranger Than Fiction: When Our Minds Betray

American Journal of Psychotherapy

By Amada, Gerald
Academic journal article from 
American Journal of Psychotherapy, Vol. 53, No. 1

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MARC D. FELDMAN AND JACQUELINE M. FELDMAN: Stranger Than Fiction: When Our Minds Betray Us. American Psychiatric Press, Inc., Washington, D.C., 1998, 270 pp., $23.95, ISBN 0-88048-930-8.

It is a difficult and admirable achievement to write an interesting and useful book on a clinical subject that has already been thoroughly scoured and buffed by a great many authors of considerable renown. Nevertheless, the authors of this volume have managed to provide both lay and professional readerships with a highly accessible, compendious book that offers trenchant insights into the intricacies of the human mind when it has severely lost its moorings.

The authors, wife-and-husband psychiatrists at the University of Alabama, blend their psychiatric experiences and know-how into a thoughtful presentation of the latest research and facts regarding the major mental disorders. Included in this text, respectively, are discussions of phobias, somatoform disorders, dissociative disorders, the false-memory syndrome, delusions, hallucinations, and mass hysteria.

To illustrate the constellation of debilitating symptoms that are ordinarily associated with each disorder, the authors undertake a three-pronged approach: 1) an overview of the clinical research and data that serve to illuminate how and why the human mind strays from normalcy; 2) the use of relevant and interesting examples of life-hampering disorders that have afflicted the rich and famous (Barbra Streisand eschewed live-stage performances due to a fear of forgetting the lyrics of her songs, and Mickey Mantle originally took to drink in order to overcome an insurmountable social phobia); and 3) the interpolation of clinical vignettes from their own extensive psychiatric practices.

The authors describe their own psychotherapeutic paradigm largely as a combination of psychodynamic, cognitive, and supportive interventions augmented, selectively, by the use of psychotropic medications in cases of a more severe or intractable nature. There are several respects in which they provide valuable cautionary advice to their fellow clinicians that is well worth heeding. For example, contrary to popular belief, the authors point out that early memories retrieved through hypnosis are quite often inaccurate and unreliable-certainly when used as legal evidence in cases of litigation. The fact that patients under hypnosis uncover vivid memories with convincing verisimilitude does not, the authors remind us, automatically transform a “narrative” truth into a “historical” truth. …