Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Capture: Unraveling the Mystery of Mental Suffering

It is rare that I read a book where I am dog-earing and placing so many post-its in order to return to some great idea or quote. Capture: Unraveling the Mystery of Mental Suffering is one of those books. David Kessler takes a new, cross-disciplinary approach to understanding and connecting biological, behavioral, cognitive, phenomenological, and sociocultural perspectives to explain how all/nearly all mental illnesses are related. In taking this approach, I suspect that he will capture the psychological community in the same way as Gardner changed our thinking with multiple intelligences and Gladwell had us viewing the world with thin-slicing. I am drawn to writers who are able to clearly articulate what I have thought or intuited, but have been unable to state simply and clearly. Below are some samples.

Simply put: a stimulus--a place, a thought, a memory, a person--takes hold of our attention and shifts our perception. Once our attention becomes increasingly focused on this stimulus, the way we think and feel, and often what we do, may not be consciously what we want. I have terms this mechanism "capture." Capture underlies many forms of human behavior, thought its effects may be detrimental or beneficial. By viewing behavior through this lens, I hope to help explain the power that capture has over us when it drives us to destructive impulses.

Another excerpt
When we are drawn to a particular stimulus, we act in response to a feelking or need aroused by it. Every time we respond, we strengthen our neural circuitry that prompts us to repaet these actions. As we continue to react in the same ways to the same stimulus over time--thereby sensitizing the learning, memory, and motivational circuitry of our brains--we create emotional and behavioral patterns. Our thoughts, feelings, and actions begin to arise automatically. What started as a pleasure becomes a need; what was once a bad mood becomes self-indictment; what was once an annoyance becomes a persecution. This process of neural sensitization occurs, and grows stronger, over the course of a lifetime, I becomes increasingly difficult for us to resist its pull. . .While capture is often the source of great pain and suffering, it can also grip us in positive ways. The joy of hearing a beloved song, a visit to the quiet interior of a church, the pursuit of a worthy cause in which we believe--all these, too, can be sources of capture.
The genesis of capture is profoundly individual. Our life histories and narratives result from the singular totality of our actions and experiences. What caputres me affects who I am--and who I am affects what can capture me.
In this last selection, I see hints of Bandura and reciprocal determinism with more than a little Rogers' ideas on phenomenology.  You can see more of this in his examination of David Foster Wallace with this quote from Steve Bunney.
For somone like Wallace, in its simplist form, it is about a disconnect between the person you want to be and the person you perceive yourself to be. . .There is a feeling of losing control; this is one of the biggest issues in psychiatry. If you don't have control, then that's when you get into trouble--whether yoy have anxiety or depression or whatever--because that can be a threat to your entire existence. I canot fully imagine the anguish that makes an otherwise healthy person want to end his life, But I do know that suicidal people feel there is no other way to escape from negative thoughts and feelings. One of the paradoxes of suicide is that it becomes that last and only way that a person can exhibit control. 

Kessler goes on to examine the experiences of William James, his work on attention, and James' personal history. He also explores Freud and drives, cognitive behavioral therapy, Aristotle, and neural circuitry. Citing both anecdotes as explicators and research for support, Kessler makes a compelling argument for the concept of capture as well. Kessler views numerous historical events and figures using the lens of capture to understand. Whether the idea catches on, the book is a great read for the simple reason of examining human behavior. Ultimately, he recommends awareness of psychology/causes of behavior and ways to change our attention to facilitate growth. I found the book to be a very enjoyable read.

Full Disclosure: I did receive a copy of the book at no cost for the review process. The book was already on my "to read" list for this summer. Receiving the book simply quickened the pace.

About Capture
Hardcover: 416 pages •
Publisher: Harper Wave (April 12, 2016)

Why do we think, feel, and act in ways we wish we did not? For decades, Dr. David A. Kessler has studied this question with regard to tobacco, food, and drugs. Over the course of these investigations, he identified one underlying mechanism common to a broad range of human suffering. This phenomenon—capture—is the process by which our attention is hijacked and our brains commandeered by forces outside our control. In Capture, Dr. Kessler considers some of the most profound questions we face as human beings: What are the origins of mental afflictions, from everyday unhappiness to addiction and depression—and how are they connected? Where does healing and transcendence fit into this realm of emotional experience? Analyzing an array of insights from psychology, medicine, neuroscience, literature, philosophy, and theology, Dr. Kessler deconstructs centuries of thinking, examining the central role of capture in mental illness and questioning traditional labels that have obscured our understanding of it. With a new basis for understanding the phenomenon of capture, he explores the concept through the emotionally resonant stories of both well-known and unknown people caught in its throes. The closer we can come to fully comprehending the nature of capture, Dr. Kessler argues, the better equipped we are to eventually alleviate its deleterious effects and successfully change our thinking and behaviors. Ultimately, Capture offers insight into how we form thoughts and emotions, manage trauma, and heal. For the first time, we can begin to understand the underpinnings not only of mental illness but also of our everyday worries and anxieties. Capture is an intimate and critical exploration of the most enduring human mystery of all: the mind.


“Kessler proposes an original theory of the mind. His cogent argument is that a great deal of the apparently inexplicable behavior of human beings is the result of impulses, drives, and obsessions that may share fundamental neural and psychodynamic mechanisms. This carefully researched book is both startling and engaging, and is written with brio.”—Andrew Solomon, National Book Award-winning author of The Noonday Demon “In this richly documented, beautifully written, and original work, David Kessler has given us an idea that explains one of the most strange and most powerful processes in the human brain.”—E. O. Wilson, University Professor Emeritus, Harvard University “Capture is a breakthrough book. In a world of increasingly specialized knowledge, it takes a particular gift and some stubbornness to cut across the fields of neuroscience, psychiatry, philosophy, and psychology, and to ask the fundamental question: Why is it that we allow our best selves to be captured and torpedoed by thoughts and actions that sink us? Kessler’s exploration of the question makes for a compelling read. His ultimate answer is profound and one that could be life changing and life saving. I know I will be handing this book out for just that reason.”—Abraham Verghese, MD, author of Cutting for Stone

David A. Kessler, MD served as commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration under presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton. He is the author of A Question of Intent and The End of Overeating, a New York Times bestseller. He is a pediatrician and has been the dean of the medical schools at Yale and the University of California, San Francisco. Dr. Kessler is a graduate of Amherst College, the University of Chicago Law School, and Harvard Medical School.

posted by Chuck Schallhorn

1 comment:

trish said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed the book! Thank you for sharing your thoughts as part of the tour!