psychology

All posts tagged psychology

Manipulated Lives – H.A. Leuschel

Published September 8, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Five stories – Five Lives.
Have you ever felt confused or at a loss for words in front of a spouse, colleague or parent, to the extent that you have felt inadequate or, worse, a failure? Do you ever wonder why someone close to you seems to endure humiliation without resistance?
Manipulators are everywhere. At first these devious and calculating people can be hard to spot, because that is their way. They are often masters of disguise: witty, disarming, even charming in public – tricks to snare their prey – but then they revert to their true self of being controlling and angry in private. Their main aim: to dominate and use others to satisfy their needs, with a complete lack of compassion and empathy for their victim.
In this collection of short novellas, you meet people like you and me, intent on living happy lives, yet each of them, in one way or another, is caught up and damaged by a manipulative individual. First you meet a manipulator himself, trying to make sense of his irreversible incarceration. Next, there is Tess, whose past is haunted by a wrong decision, then young, successful and well balanced Sophie, who is drawn into the life of a little boy and his troubled father. Next, there is teenage Holly, who is intent on making a better life for herself and finally Lisa, who has to face a parent’s biggest regret. All stories highlight to what extent abusive manipulation can distort lives and threaten our very feeling of self-worth.

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to the author Helene Leuschel for providing me with a copy of her series of novellas, Manipulated Lives in exchange for an honest review. I have read some fantastic reviews of this collection around the blogosphere and was really excited to discover the stories for myself. I was slightly concerned that the subject matter would be too difficult for me to read about (having been a victim of emotional manipulation in the past) but in fact, it was quite a cathartic reading experience and I appreciated the way in which the author presented all the possible guises of a narcissistic/manipulative personality.

Manipulated Lives is a collection of five different novellas, all involving a character that has been manipulated in some manner. Covering both sexes, differing sexual preferences and across a broad age range this versatile collection of stories includes an old woman called Tess who almost lost her family because of the manipulation of her lover, a coming of age story about a teenage girl called Holly who is falling in love for the first time with entirely the wrong sort of boy, a woman called Lisa who realises (perhaps, too late?) the type of son that she has raised and the story of Sophie who begins a relationship with a man and his son only for things to become incredibly intense very quickly. My favourite story in the collection has to be The Narcissist where we get a fascinating insight into the personality of an expert manipulator as we learn more about his life and how he ended up in the hospital bed where he now finds himself, confused and completely alone.

Normally when you read a short story/novella collection, there are those stories that you don’t necessarily warm to that much but I can definitely say, hand on heart, this wasn’t the case with Helene’s collection. I may have liked some of the tales slightly more than others but there wasn’t one story in the bunch that I disliked, a rare thing indeed and proof of the author’s wonderful ability for story-telling. Some of the things she wrote, especially when she was describing the personality of a manipulative individual were so spot on I found myself nodding along, instantly transported back to the past when I had the misfortune to be involved with such a person but the good luck to find a way out of it. I loved the variety of characters and situations that were explored and found it so easy to read this collection in one sitting, instantly compelled to read “just one more story,” until the collection was complete. If you’re looking for a gripping read with a psychological edge that can be enjoyed bit by bit or all in one go, I highly recommend Helene Leuschel’s writing.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Advertisements

Reasons To Stay Alive – Matt Haig

Published September 3, 2016 by bibliobeth

23363874

What’s it all about?:

I want life. I want to read it and write it and feel it and live it. I want, for as much of the time as possible in this blink-of-an-eye existence we have, to feel all that can be felt. I hate depression. I am scared of it. Terrified, in fact. But at the same time, it has made me who I am. And if – for me – it is the price of feeling life, it’s a price always worth paying.

Reasons to Stay Alive is about making the most of your time on earth. In the western world the suicide rate is highest amongst men under the age of 35. Matt Haig could have added to that statistic when, aged 24, he found himself staring at a cliff-edge about to jump off. This is the story of why he didn’t, how he recovered and learned to live with anxiety and depression. It’s also an upbeat, joyous and very funny exploration of how to live better, love better, read better and feel more.

What did I think?:

I’ve been dreading writing this review for so long now! Not because I disliked this book in any way – in fact I feel the exact opposite and as you will see, have given it the full five stars but because I’m not sure how my review can do justice to such an important piece of writing that Matt Haig has given us. The author has been very open in the past about his struggles with depression and anxiety and this book feels like both a breath of fresh air and a blessed relief for many sufferers (like myself) and even for anyone who knows someone who suffers with depression and/or anxiety (so, that’s probably everyone – right?).

I think this book is especially important for men. I’m sure we’ve all heard the shocking statistics about the number of young men who contemplate or sadly carry out their suicidal thoughts as generally speaking, they find it a lot harder to open up to people and talk about what they’re going through. Matt Haig was in a similar position at the age of twenty-four – that nasty, black dog had got under his skin good and proper and he considered ending his life. This book is about his journey back from the worst times of his life to his current state of mind, where he has come out the other side. It’s brutally honest, touching, emotional and very real and he gives hope to those sufferers that in their blackest days, there is hope and life is worth living.

“You will one day experience joy that matches this pain. You will cry euphoric tears at the Beach Boys, you will stare down at a baby’s face as she lies asleep in your lap, you will make great friends, you will eat delicious foods you haven’t tried yet, you will be able to look at a view from a high place and not assess the likelihood of dying from falling. There are books you haven’t read yet that will enrich you, films you will watch while eating extra-large buckets of popcorn, and you will dance and laugh and have sex and go for runs by the river and have late-night conversations and laugh until it hurts. Life is waiting for you. You might be stuck here for a while, but the world isn’t going anywhere. Hang on in there if you can. Life is always worth it.”

I read this book like one of those nodding dogs you see in the back of cars, every single sentence seemed to resonate with how I was feeling or how I have felt when depression gets its sharp teeth into your mind, skewing how you think about yourself and rattling your whole world and way of being. Yes, it’s horrible. Yes, you feel like you’re never going to be happy again and the crippling emotion of it all takes over your life. The author knows exactly what it’s like and uses his experience and gentle humour to let you know that you are not alone – which is a huge comfort for those going through it and a fantastic insight for anyone who wants to help someone they love who is suffering. I read this hugely poignant book losing count of the number of quotes I wanted to remember forever and it’s certainly a book I’ll return to at those times when things are getting a bit much. If you know what it’s like to be depressed, read this book. If someone you love is depressed, read this book. If you don’t really like non-fiction – it’s not what you think, read this book. It’s relevant for everyone.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

imagesCAF9JG4S

The End Of Miracles – Monica Starkman

Published June 1, 2016 by bibliobeth

27037957

What’s it all about?:

Margo Kerber has endured difficult years battling infertility while trying to sustain her good marriage and satisfying career. When a seemingly miraculous pregnancy ends in a late miscarriage, Margo is devastated. For a time, the unshakable yet false belief that she is pregnant again provides relief from all-consuming grief. When her fantasy inevitably clashes with reality, Margo falls into a deep depression requiring admission to a psychiatric unit. Uncertain if the sometimes chaotic environment there is helping or making her worse, she seizes an opportunity to flee. Alone on the city streets, new fantasies propel her to commit a crime with devastating consequences for herself and others.
Written by a prominent psychiatrist, this stirring portrait of one woman’s psychological unravelling takes readers on a journey across the blurred boundaries between sanity and depression, madness and healing.”

What did I think?:

First of all, many thanks to the lovely people at She Writes Press for providing me with a digital copy of this fascinating debut novel in exchange for an honest review. I have to be perfectly honest and say that I didn’t find this an easy read at all – the subject matters of infertility, miscarriage and mental health touch into some of my worst fears but ultimately I found this story to be a very rewarding one and a highly emotional reading experience.

Our main character is Margo Kerber, an intelligent and compassionate woman who works as a hospital administrator and volunteers part-time with children in the hospital who are ill and just require some comfort and a bit of cheering up and at a home for young people with severe mental health difficulties. She is married to Steven, who is successful in his own right and their marriage is primarily a happy one although they both feel that having a child would make their family complete.

Unfortunately, after some time of “trying,” the couple are given the devastating news that it is unlikely that they will ever conceive which breaks both their hearts but especially Margo, who always felt she was born to be a mother. Then one day, a miracle occurs, Margo finds out she is pregnant but their happiness is short-lived when she loses the baby. I don’t want to give too much more away but this event and others that follow send our poor protagonist into a spiral of grief, severe depression and frightening psychosis that leads to her marriage teetering on a knife edge. Margo must now go through extensive therapy examining both her traumatic past and painful present and a little soul searching if she is to recover some of the person she once was and regain hope for her future.

So, as you can imagine from this little summary, this book is tough but if you can handle the triggers it may invoke, it is a hugely important and powerful read. The author has many years of experience behind her as a psychiatrist and it is clear how much of her personal knowledge and experience was put into the novel which I really appreciated as a reader. I was also pleasantly surprised by how beautifully written some of the prose was which for me is always a bonus in a novel and clearly demonstrates a creative and imaginative mind. Everything about it was so very believable, including the characters and plot and although it raised quite a few painful emotions as I read it, I’m so very glad I did.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0