The Myth of Sanity Book Summary - The Myth of Sanity Book explained in key points
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The Myth of Sanity summary

Martha Stout

Divided Consciousness and the Promise of Awareness

4.4 (76 ratings)
22 mins

Brief summary

The Myth of Sanity by Martha Stout explores the idea that many people who seem normal may actually have underlying mental issues. With insightful case studies and personal accounts, the book sheds light on the importance of recognizing and addressing mental health challenges.

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    The Myth of Sanity
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    Dissociation functions as a survival mechanism, but it can be a double-edged sword.

    Picture this. It’s a calm, clear evening, and you’re in your car heading home after finishing a tough workout at the gym. You’re about to drive through a green light at a busy intersection when you see it: someone has run the red light and is going to slam directly into the right side of your car.

    You understand what’s going to happen before it actually does, and suddenly, it feels like you’re no longer the person at the steering wheel. In fact, it seems as if you aren’t inside your own body at all – like you’re watching the accident happen rather than participating in it.

    The term for what you’re experiencing in this situation is dissociation, and it’s a common and normal reaction to traumatic and highly stressful situations. When we dissociate, our brains allow us to “disconnect” emotionally from a situation so that we can act calmly and coolly rather than panic.

    The key message here is: Dissociation functions as a survival mechanism, but it can be a double-edged sword.

    Dissociation is undeniably useful during traumatic events. However, it tends to have lasting impacts that are anything but useful after the events are over. In a situation where you’ve dissociated, your brain has potentially drawn a connection between something traumatic and something that might seem completely benign to everyone else. And that means you could be tossed into a state of dissociation at completely unexpected moments.

    To illustrate this, consider an imaginary woman named Beverly, who’s reading a newspaper while waiting for a train to arrive. She’s so engrossed in the paper that the arriving train’s loud signal causes Beverly to jump in her seat. Suddenly, her heart is pounding, she feels the desire to run, and she even notices an unexplained scent of chlorine.

    She doesn’t know it, but Beverly’s brain has emotionally thrust her into a moment in her childhood, when she watched her younger sister jump out into the street and be hit by an oncoming vehicle after walking home from the town swimming pool.

    As a result of Beverly’s dissociative reaction, she might feel inexplicably tired, paranoid, or afraid for the rest of the day. But that’s just a minor dissociative reaction. People who experience more extreme traumas will also experience much more extreme dissociative reactions, as we’ll learn in the next blink.

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    What is The Myth of Sanity about?

    The Myth of Sanity (2001) dispels the idea that only “crazy” people experience dissociative states – periods of time in which we might forget where we are, lose track of time, or even have out-of-body experiences. Though we might not all have endured the overt instances of abuse that often lead to dissociative disorders, we are nevertheless shaped by traumas both big and small throughout our lives. By understanding why dissociation happens and how we can overcome it, we can all begin to live more fully in the present.

    The Myth of Sanity Review

    The Myth of Sanity (2001) by Martha Stout is a thought-provoking exploration of the concept of sanity and the various masks people wear in society. Here's why this book is worth your time:

    • It delves into the complexity of human behavior and the masks we wear, shedding light on the hidden struggles many individuals face.
    • With its compelling case studies and insightful analysis, the book challenges conventional notions of sanity and invites readers to question their own perceptions.
    • The book's engaging storytelling and thoughtful observations make it an intriguing read that will keep you captivated right until the end.

    Best quote from The Myth of Sanity

    For no conspicuous reason, we depart from ourselves… and these unrecognized absences play havoc with our lives and our loves.

    —Martha Stout
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    Who should read The Myth of Sanity?

    • Fans of psychology and the inner workings of the human mind
    • People who have dissociative disorders or know someone who has one
    • Trauma survivors

    About the Author

    Martha Stout is a clinical psychologist and former faculty member of the Harvard Medical School, Wellesley College, The New School for Social Research, and the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology. Her 2005 book The Sociopath Next Door won Best Book in Psychology in the Books for a Better Life Awards. Stout currently practices privately in Boston, Massachusetts.

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    The Myth of Sanity FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Myth of Sanity?

    The main message of The Myth of Sanity is the understanding and exploration of the concept of dissociation and its impact on our lives.

    How long does it take to read The Myth of Sanity?

    The reading time for The Myth of Sanity varies depending on the reader's speed. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The Myth of Sanity a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Myth of Sanity is a fascinating book that provides valuable insights into dissociation. It's definitely worth reading for anyone interested in the human mind and psychological well-being.

    Who is the author of The Myth of Sanity?

    The author of The Myth of Sanity is Martha Stout.

    What to read after The Myth of Sanity?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Myth of Sanity, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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