Social psychologist Shazia Omar begins The Mind Week on FiveBooks and talks about her own novel documenting drug addiction in Bangladesh. Love and a sense of purpose can save an addict, she insists. She chooses five books on the highs and lows of drug addiction. http://fivebooks.com/interviews/shazia-omar
‘I believe that the overriding characteristic of addiction is negativity. To overcome it, you have to overcome a negative frame of mind,’ she says. ‘A lot of people become afraid of listening to their heart and doing the wrong thing. When that happens you start living a mundane life and falling short of your potential. As you gain courage and believe in yourself you get energy from those around you. A lot of rehabs get it wrong because they are very punitive, which is why the recovery rate is so low.’
As part of The Mind Week on FiveBooks, Psychoanalyst Dr David Bell chooses seminal texts on psychoanalysis. He says we are appalled that young Muslims are attacked on the street, but we have helped to create a culture in which that is inevitable. Only awareness of the darker side to our nature can help us structure a society that allows for it.
Freud, he says, writes about the civilising influence of Christianity but points out that, after St Paul demanded that we love each other as brothers, extreme intolerance of groups outside Christianity built up. If all you can feel for your brother is love, and not hatred and rivalry as well, then the cost of joining the group is repressing your violence which will then be directed at others outside the group. If we don’t allow for the darker side to our natures then it is easy to fan flames of hatred because they are flames we all already have.
Then on Wednesday New York Times columnist David Brooks joins us to talk neuroscience, saying that government policy is all based on the erroneous idea that people make rational decisions based on clear responses to incentives. They don’t.
He asks why 30 per cent of high school students in the United States drop out, why we got Iraq so wrong? A whole series of policy failures, he says, grew out of getting human nature wrong. http://fivebooks.com/interviews/david-brooks
‘When we see something as trivial as an ice-cream cone or as important as a potential spouse, our emotions say we either want that or we don’t, it’s going to lead to pleasure or to pain. And we follow that emotional signal. We believe that people make decisions based on rational and clear responses to incentives. But in case after case they don’t make decisions that way.’
As part of The Mind Week on FiveBooks, psychotherapist Judith Edwards chooses the best five books on child psychotherapy. She explains that little children’s worlds are battlegrounds of love and hate: the wish to love and preserve being undermined by the wish to possess and destroy from the beginning, and from the first bodily experiences of satisfaction or frustration. http://fivebooks.com/interviews/judith-edwards
Winnicott’s Playing and Reality is, she says, an illuminating collection of his major thinking, important because of the way he shows how the ‘transitional space’ which develops as the baby separates from the primary caretaker will later become ‘the location for cultural experience’. This is the space where creativity flowers in adult life, and he makes a convincing and heartfelt case for this adult play to be respected in all its aspects ‘for we are poor indeed if we are only sane’.
Finally we have Samantha Harvey on Mental Illness
Harvey asks what conditions are necessary for maintaining sanity and what happens when you take those conditions away. Here she discusses the conditions that keep us sane and what happens if they are taken away from us – for example, what happens if we’re constantly mistreated and left without food and drink. ‘The human brain functions within a fairly small bandwidth and when it goes outside of that anything can happen,’ she says.