Essays Library


F E A T U R E D    A R T I C L E

Our Superheroes, Ourselves

December 21st, 2013
What does Lex Luthor have to do with gossip? According to two of the psychologists in Our Superheroes, Ourselves, our penchant to dish about people and our delight in hating supervillains are very much connected. Both exercise an instinct to identify so-called good from bad, moral from immoral. And both bring us pleasure. Pleasure is, in ...

Confessions of a Worrywart

BOOK REVIEW.
While reading Susan Orlins’s poignant memoir, I was reminded continuously of the catchphrase from the late ’60s and early ’70s feminist movement: “The personal is political.” The specifics of Orlins’s life story are hers alone, but as many of her experiences, thoughts, and feelings are universal to all women, her book was a pleasure to read. Dubbed Confessions ...

Defending Happiness, and Other Acts of Bravery

BOOK REVIEW.
There are a lot of books about how to become happier. Amy Shea’s Defending Happiness, and Other Acts of Bravery takes the goal further. It’s not enough to find your bliss, she tells us: You have to defend it. Better yet, she conveys that point not through hackneyed self-help language, but a collection of amusing ...

Lost at Sea: The Jon Ronson Mysteries

BOOK REVIEW.
“I’m a midwife to the dying – for those who want to hasten their death,” says George Exoo, a Unitarian preacher who claims to have assisted 102 people in killing themselves. He often carries a large inflatable alligator to fool the cops if he’s stopped. This way they’ll mistake him for a children’s entertainer. It’ll ...

The Oxford Handbook of Sexual Conflict in Humans

BOOK REVIEW.
Is the battle of the sexes between men and women real or a social convention? It turns out that men and women compete not only for gender equality in the workplace, but also via the very structure of their bodies and the chemical composition of their bodily fluids. The 21 essays in The Oxford Handbook ...

Six Degrees Of Social Influence: Science, Application, and the Psychology of Robert Cialdini

BOOK REVIEW.
Regardless of whether you’re interested in social psychology, you’ve most likely come across the work of Robert Cialdini. Cialdini has been called ‘the great guru of social influence’ and his book Influence: The Power of Persuasion has sold over 2 million copies. It has been translated into 26 languages, reaching the New York Times Business ...

Ideology, Psychology, and Law

BOOK REVIEW.
Ideology, Psychology, and Law is a wonderful collection of essays edited by Jon Hanson, the Alfred Smart Professor of Law and Director of The Project on Law and Mind Sciences at Harvard Law School. This is the first book edited by Hanson, whose work has appeared in six other books and many periodicals. Hanson also ...

Life Gets Better: The Unexpected Pleasures of Growing Older

BOOK REVIEW.
In the film Gigi, Maurice Chevalier sings about the advantages of aging in the song titled "I’m glad I’m not young anymore."  Wendy Lustbader would agree with him.  As she puts it in this book, “Life gets better as we get older, on all levels except the physical.”  Based on this optimistic viewpoint, the author ...

Navigating College with Borderline Personality Disorder

Navigating College with Borderline Personality DisorderI was recently diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) after spending two weeks in a mental hospital following two failed suicide attempts. While anything with the phrase “disorder” naturally sounds terrifying at first, it was more than a little bit ...

The Writing Cure: Poetry As a Tool for Self-Expression

Annie Dillard, a Pulitzer Prize-winning American author, says “the purpose of a book is to serve as an axe for the frozen sea within us.” Language (and literature in particular) is a mirror of our world. It captures and reflects some of the deepest human emotions. Language ...

When We Lose an Animal Loved One

In Loving Memory of Tycho, 1999-2010. Do not underestimate how deeply the loss of our animal loved ones can affect us. Our loved one is a part of our identity. We are everything to him. We are a part of each other — even when we are apart, we are connected. Our loved one is interwoven with ...

Why Intelligent People Do Foolish Things

Why Intelligent People Do Foolish ThingsSociety is replete with examples of intelligent people doing foolish things. This seems puzzling considering that intelligent people (as indicated by intelligence tests and their proxies -- SAT scores, etc.) are generally thought of as rational, smart people. So it may come as ...

What We Eat: Morality and the Dinner Table

What We Eat: Morality and the Dinner TableWe humans enjoy dividing things into categories. Doing so helps us form cognitive shortcuts and organize large sets of information. Our categories apply to nearly everything imaginable, including descriptions of ourselves (race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, marital status) and things we ...

My Trip to the ER: Attention Must Be Paid

My Trip to the ER: Attention Must Be PaidI'm a psych patient. My primary diagnosis is bipolar II, but there’s a little anxiety, PTSD and other stuff mixed in. I’ve been dealing with it for decades. Sometimes I’m really stable and sometimes less so. The last several ...

Eliminate Outdated Attitudes on Mental Health

Spring is a time for new beginnings. This year, let’s celebrate the season with a new approach to America’s mental health -- one that will save Americans much shame and suffering even as it offers fresh, exciting ways to advance U.S. medical treatment. Scientists are learning amazing things about the brain, mood disorders and ...

A High School Project on Depression

I tutor a number of students from my local high school, which offers a remarkable English course called Psychology and Literature. What an idea! Although I’d never heard of such a course at any other school, Psych and Lit is extremely popular here, and I’ve been very impressed with the concept and the content. My favorite ...

Depression and Teenage Identity Building

Depression and Teenage Identity BuildingOne day of high school, I distinctly remember realizing that I had more friends who were taking some form of psychiatric medication than friends who were not. The vast majority of them were on antidepressants. As more and more teenagers are prescribed ...

Depression and the Fishbowl

Depression and the FishbowlI like fish. Fish live in a world all their own, but one that can teach us something about our human problems, including depression (have you ever seen a depressed fish?). We can learn something from these aquatic creatures! From paying attention to the fishbowl, ...

Depression vs. Anger: Discovering the Lesser of Two Evils

Depression vs. Anger A few years ago, I received some news that sent me spiraling into depression. Not the kind of clinical or major depression that’s best treated under the care of a doctor, but a situational depression -- or, a type of “adjustment disorder,” as it’s sometimes ...

A Chance to Live

Inside every human being is a drive. Sometimes the drive is clear cut: he or she wants to be a doctor, a lawyer, a wife, a mother, a husband, a father, or something else entirely. Sometimes the drive is muddy, murky and hard to understand. Sometimes that drive, the very thing that is supposed to ...

New Year’s Resolutions: Exercise and Nutrition Tips

“This year, I’m going to start exercising.” “This year, I'm going to lose all my extra weight.” “This year, I'm going to take better care of myself.” For many people, exercise and nutrition are common “new year’s resolution” topics. As a personal trainer, this is something I see every January. Full of good intentions, people ...

New Year’s Resolution: World Peace 5 Seconds At A Time

It's almost the new year, a time to stop and reflect and make promises to ourselves to improve on something. I've been mulling it over for days. Big items like hitting the gym more often and losing that 10 (ok, 25) pounds seem doomed to failure. What, I've been asking myself, is a realistic ...

Unhealthy Self-Talk: Yelling at Myself

I felt like the magazine was yelling at me. As I read the borrowed copy of “Runner’s World,” article after article made me feel like I was not running enough. I identify myself as a runner, but page after page of the magazine made me doubt this identity. Race pace, tempos, fartleks, ...