Mental Mystery

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More Stories. Vancouver Sleep Clinic shares new song 'Fever' ahead of new album. Future Islands' Samuel T. Jan 29, Gemma Buckley rated it it was ok. Some really interesting stories, but overall the book lacked a central narrative to bind those stories together. Indeed, the theory of capture is only briefly explained and there is little sophistication to what is said. Jul 15, Chance Lee rated it really liked it Shelves: true-story. Capture: Unraveling the Mystery of Mental Suffering is a non-fiction book that does exactly what the cover says it will.


Researching depression, Kessler say many similarities between it and a variety of other things, like addiction, anxiety, obsession, mania, etc. This oversimplification does nothing to help us understand Capture: Unraveling the Mystery of Mental Suffering is a non-fiction book that does exactly what the cover says it will.

This oversimplification does nothing to help us understand the debilitating force of what we have come to call depression. Capture is basically a fixation, often unconscious, on one stimulus that changes a person's entire behavior. James's work revolved around figuring out how people lose control of their minds. To simplify it, he believed that depression -- and other mental illness -- takes hold when the mind takes control of the person, not the other way around. Most of this book I skipped.

About pages are made up of case studies as Kessler puts forth evidence to convince his audience. I've long believed that many mental "illnesses" are the result of mental weakness, to put a blunt term on it. The brain is an organ, like your stomach, your skin, or your muscles. Use it or lose it. Certain mental illness are more like Type 2 Diabetes. It is brought on by neglect.

That's my personal belief, so much of Capture was what I already felt I "knew. However, I did appreciate the wide variety of subjects he looked at. Regular people. Kessler often describes capture as obsession; the recognition of it as divine intervention; escaping from it, as almost approaching nirvana. Exploring oneself, and one's mind, can be a spiritual experience, and Kessler, while remaining secular, doesn't try to deny it.

He's a scientist, yes, but he's a scientist second. A human first. While talking about escaping the grip of capture, Kessler grapples with a difficult question: "Still, I have struggled with a basic question," he writes. The answer to his question might be "yes.

Any lasting solution requires a redirection of attention elsewhere. Sometimes I would work myself into a lather, thinking this was it. The plane will go down for X reason. Then I realized -- how self-centered am I?

That a greater power, should it exist, would kill hundreds of people just to get to me. It was ridiculous. I started thinking of other people, how we're all on the plane together, and the fear dissipated, almost instantly. Anyone looking for a solution to escaping capture won't find a step-by-step guide here.

As I said, the book does what the title and subtitle promise. But Kessler does posit this. These stories, then -- the stories of our lives -- do not always feel like the ones we intended to tell. How we tell them, and what we tell. The rest is up to each individual. I was really interested in the description of this book — Why do we think, feel and act in the ways we wished we did not.

I think my favorite part of the book was the exploration of each topic through the story of a person, I was really interested in the description of this book — Why do we think, feel and act in the ways we wished we did not. There was a great deal of information here about David Foster Wallace, for example. Given my curiosity about his life and his work, I found those sections to be very interesting.

I think that the author does a good job writing about the scientific concepts in a way that anyone can understand them. Yet, I was hoping for more than just a description of how we focus on things and how that focus can be obsessive and hurt us. It was case study after case study about how this happens. There is a great deal of theory here but it never goes beyond what I see as the obvious. All in all, I enjoyed this book for what it was but I was hoping it would be of greater scope than it was in reality. I wish there had been more than an introduction of the concept and a series of case studies.

I wish there was more in terms of how to break free from capture, techniques or strategies to help, etc. The pacing felt a bit sluggish at times but the case studies is where this book excelled for me. They were so readable and interesting. Apr 12, Laura rated it it was amazing Shelves: nonfiction. Once you begin to read this book be prepared for your mind to rev up and go in unexpected directions.

It is amazing how much can be researched and written about what could initially look like a narrow topic. Capture refers to a brain process, a stimulus response. Yet there are innunerable related responses that affect other brain processes. A capture can even trigger additional captures. Told by examining collected narratives of fact, fact based fiction and fiction regarding mental disease and th Once you begin to read this book be prepared for your mind to rev up and go in unexpected directions. Told by examining collected narratives of fact, fact based fiction and fiction regarding mental disease and theories of how and why humans think feel and behave, Capture explains how mental illness falls along a spectrum and disorders are not fully individual.

Throughout history, causes of mental illness have been blamed on everuthing from external sources to chemical imbalances to physiological imbalances and diagnoses. Likewise, "cures" or treatments have ranged from bleeding to shock to drugs to tapping, EMDR, meditation, sound healing and more.

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When the brain malfunctions it switches from planned, goal oriented thought to impulsive, them compulsive thoughts and how the process begins is with capture. Writer David Wallace is used as an example repeatedly throughout the book due to a lifetime of menal struggles culminating in suicide. Ernest Hemingway is similarly highlighted. Ralph Hoffman of Yale University identifies "capture" as an autocatalytic process which primes attention to hypervigilance.

Narrowing ones focus forces the mind to seek out the familiar, more of what it has previously experienced. People develop rituals to build a perceived sense of comtrol. It all begins with capture. Author David A Kessler, M. Oct 01, Lori Gibbany rated it liked it. Not sure how I feel about this one. Worth the read some good information just didnt inspire me. Aug 11, Tom rated it it was amazing Shelves: non-fiction , medical-behavioral-psychology. Underlying is the idea that all of these experiences have a common underpinning.

The DSM provides labels to symptoms, but does not suggest any underlying explanation, though psychiatry is currently itself captured by the notion that mental illness is due to imbalances in neurochemistry see for example, Shrinks: the untold story of psychiatry by Lieberman. And yet the biology is suggesting that these disorders are related.

And the drugs, wonderful as they may be, are not so precisely targeted as is often claimed. We see one drug working for a variety of problems-or not working. It seems to be often largely a matter of individual response. There is also the growing evidence of the huge placebo effect in psychoactive drugs, which is , or ought to be, humbling. Over time, those neural patterns become associated with anything that evokes that experience. The nervous system responds to both external and internal triggers, so even our thoughts and feelings can evoke or reinforce previously laid down circuits. Top down circuits play a role in decision making and most parts of the brain are involved in this processing.

Bottom up processing is involuntary and automatic and serve to reorient our attention. Conversely, if something remains in our working memory, there is a greater chance we will pay attention to it. Over time, unless a competing goal redirects our attention, our response eventually becomes so instinctive that our brains no longer mobilize to create a new or different reaction. This loss of control is a key feature of capture. They can become associated with other stimuli that may be relatively neutral, but subsequently the two or more become associated with one another.

There is also salience in powerful desires, goals, attitudes toward adversity or opportunity and major life events. The valence of salient stimulus refers to whether the emotional content is positive or negative. Capture, as described in this book, is the same as attractor behavior in the science of complex adaptive systems. These chapters illustrate the extremes to which capture can lead, but I often felt that the link to the elements of the concept of capture could have been made more explicit.

Nevertheless, these sections of the book are well written and very interesting. It is also is part of positive activity including artistic endeavors, scientific work, spiritual development etc. Where problems arise is when it becomes so strong that we become rigid in our responses and then trapped. Does this new way of looking at mental distress lend itself to therapeutic approaches? Kessler addresses the role of meditation and mindfulness in making ourselves aware of the tendencies toward capture in our lives. There is an interesting interview with a psychotherapist that Danielle Roeske who cautions that complete permanent freedom from capture is not realistic.

It is more acceptable as a way of thinking how we grow and develop as individuals.


Faith is what follows after the new experience has been had, while is the quality that comes before it. Kessler finishes the book by once again, referring to the stories we tell of our own lives; the salient features that we put together to construct a narrative. Capture helps us make sense of an otherwise chaotic world, and there is no freedom from it completely. There is, however, within our reach, a more modest form of autonomy. The challenge is to draw strength from something other than mere self-discipline-or condemnation.

Lasting change occurs when we let go of such isolating pressures and allow ourselves to feel support and connection instead of preoccupation with the self. Putting these at the end make reading the text easier while providing a wonderful resource for more reading. Aug 04, Stephanie rated it it was ok Shelves: , could-not-finish.

The secondary title on the book I got from the library states "Unraveling the Mystery of Mental Suffering. This book, I thought, was right up my alley. First, this book has over pages of "Notes. I found them very distracting and stopped reading them by the time I was on the 2nd chapter. It's seems the title was more appealing to me then the actual context. I felt the first part of the book, the author was trying to force the idea of capture down our throats.

I didn't like it. Kessler uses examples from famous authors and sometimes fictional characters to plead his case. Part one was okay for me, and I thought the most interesting. Part Two and Part Three were just completely lost on me. And with 50 pages left, I decided it wasn't worth me finishing. The reason being, the author starts to give mini-biographies of differing people.

He really doesn't put the pieces together and some of the people weren't even mentally ill, so I couldn't really figure out the point of including these stories. Also, he remarks several times that David Foster Wallace was treated sucessfully with medicines - I would like to say, I don't believe that.

Did the medicine stop him from committing sucicide? Yes, possibly. But it didn't take away the pain and the mental suffering - he still suffered with the medicine - he had to do other things to help himself - it's not just the medicine. This is also reflective in some other stories where the author states the medicine had the opposite effect on the patient - patients need better options that just drugs being thrown at them. As the author states, "By muting our investment in salient stimuli, these medications allow patients to regain some measure of control over their attention.

Unforunately, patients often find that these drugs mute all their responses, endering their emotional landscape flat and their days listless. This is exactly why people stop taking their medicines author doesn't make this connection There needs to be better care and alternatives!! This book didn't really help on uncovering what the causes realy were to then try to discuss what the answers are. Some of the discussion I could relate to and realize, exactly, that's what it's like The positives of this book included: Many references to other literature and authors to discover.

A must if you want to understand the conundrum of mental illness. In a very readable manner Kessler explains the complicated ways in which our minds can turn against us, namely through the concept of capture. He then shows how this basic concept has influenced, for better and worse, the lives of poets and theologians and lay people all over the world.

Apr 27, Corinne Edwards rated it liked it Shelves: , suicide , philosophy , psychology , non-fiction , science , arc , mental-illness , depression , murder. How are these illnesses related and can knowledge of that root somehow be used to stimulate change? As someone with my own issues who also interacts daily with those using medication to help stem the tide of the pain of mental illness, I was interested in this book because I hoped it would give me some insight into the minds of these people that I love. I think I approached it i 3.

I think I approached it in the wrong way - I was looking for Answers and the reality is that as advanced as science is, there are not really very many Answers to be found yet when it comes to the roots of Depression, Anxiety, Bi-Polar Disorder, etc. We know what medicines can sometimes make a big difference in terms of symptoms but the mind is so complex that something more than measurable chemicals is needed to help us understand what is going wrong in a mind that's struggling. What this book discusses is the idea of "capture," which was a bit hard for me to wrap my head around and I'm still trying to process it.

My super basic understanding is that when a stimulus a thought, something we see etc somehow gets our attention and our behavior changes because of it, that's "capture.

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The historical part got pretty deep for me, truthfully, in several sections I did have to do a little skimming. I found the stories of people whose mental illness impacted either themselves or, just as tragically, others around them and the deconstruction of their thinking very interesting. I also think that this book gave me some concrete thoughts about how my own mind works, I've already found myself looking back at some ideas I highlighted as I think over it all.

The idea is capture is powerful because I feel like it empowers those struggling with mental illness to try and exert some influence over their unhealthy thoughts. Yes, medication and therapy are essential for a lot of people, but even when medicated, I know, unhealthy thoughts can make life very challenging. I almost wish there was a "junior novelization" of this book, or a cliff notes - where I could ingest more easily the big ideas in a condensed form. Some of Capture was slow-going and some parts required a lot of brain power while other parts seemed not as relevant to the subject but in the end, I'm glad I read it.

The storytelling sections are very readable and it's important for me to give myself time to think about this topic and I have some new ideas in my head. And that matters. This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.

Capture: A Theory of the Mind by David A. Kessler

And disturbing. Here are my favorite clips: The more time and effort you put into trying to appear impressive or attractive to other people, the less impressive or attractive you feel inside. You feel like a fraud. And the more of a fraud you feel like, the harder you try to convey an impressive or likable image of yourself, so that other people won't find out what a hollow, fraudulent, person you really are.

It's about a disconnect from the person you want to be and the person Deep. It's about a disconnect from 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 can get into trouble, whether you have anxiety or depression or whatever, because that can be a threat to your very existence.

One of the paradoxes of suicide is that it becomes the last and only way that a person can exert control. Neurons that fire together, wire together. When we are repeatedly exposed to a stimulus that triggers a particular neuron to fire, it's response becomes more vigorous.

That stimulus may be a drug, or a particular song, or a co-workers taunting glare. At the biological level, capture is the result of neural patterns that are created in response to various experiences. A first experience can result in the creation of a unique neural network that is associated with certain feelings and actions, and in turn, these neuronal networks can elicit emotions and physical responses. Neurons can change their tuning based on experience. As information coming into a neuron changes, so does its response.

The adult brain can change. A good deal of new learning is implicit, meaning, it is so subtle as to be imperceptible to the conscious mind. If you feel a surge of self doubt every time you are about to speak publicly, it's very likely that your anxiety is based on a previous response to a similar experience. Subsequent related experiences, or thoughts and feelings that evoke those experiences, allowed this learned response to gain more traction along the way.

This is how we come to develop patterns of behavior and emotional response without ever being of their taking hold. The central tenant of addiction, which is: a firm, undeniable, unalterable conviction of need.

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This "I need it" feeling is cued by some stimulus. Our attention is diverted. It's not always the substance itself that captures us, rather the feelings the substance produces narrow our field of attention until it is occupied entirely by the object of our craving. Whenever we encounter a salient stimulus, our neural response conditions us to respond in the same way, over and over again. While cocaine like many substances is inarguably and empirically a powerful stimulant for many, for the addict, it gets connected to a broader and deeper network or neural connections.

These associations get inextricably intertwined with the users understanding of who he is. His very sense of self cannot be separated from the feelings triggered by the drug. Eating disorders are the result of selective and undue attention to food related stimuli. Anorexics are captured by the promise of control. Many only see two poles, total control over eating, or total loss of control. Control over eating becomes a sign of achievement and safety. Take away that control and they feel unstable, often wildly so. Another distinguishing feature of depression is the tendency to overgeneralize autobiographical memory.

That is, to highlight and revisit negative experiences from the past and see them as representative of an inevitable pattern. The brains drive to discover salience, likely holds as much as much sway as the drive for pleasure or reward. Salience is sought through experience, either via our senses or internally generated states, such as beliefs, images, or memories. Mental illness ensues when the brain gets stuck on these high salience experiences to the exclusion of everyday mental processes. What began as self-consciousness grew, over the course of his life, into acute self-awareness.

Which eventually transformed into self-hatred. This led to a desire for release, redemption, attentions, which he found, albeit temporarily, in his writing, in drugs and alcohol, and in his relationships.

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But which only led to further self-indictment. God is of value for the best or the worst, but he is not an allegory, a god is not something signifying another thing. Aphrodite is beauty, love, desire, sex. She is that. The god is recognized by the emotion, but the emotion is the god also. The swings in self judgement that plague creative work are familiar to many artists and writers. You could sit at a table, start working, which is essentially thinking, and in a matter of sometimes just an hour you can come to the conclusion that you're a worthless human being with absolutely no accurate read on reality, or yourself, and that you should just end it all.

The only thing to do is to just try to keep working beyond that. You find ways to create meaning and order in your life, and having this physical routine gives you all of those benefits plus mental mojo. It's a survival technique. Orthogonal rotation in consciousness: Where everything is the same internally and externally, you are recruiting another dimension of your humanity.

You are looking through a new lens. You can make choices that you never thought were available to you. Thoughts are little secretions of the mind that come and go very quickly. And they only have power over us if we actually believe that they are true. How do you loosen the hold of thoughts that are preoccupied with the self, which is busy generating a story about your failures and how you're a fraud?

The key is not to argue the facts, trying to think your way out of depressive rumination only deepens the ruts of the neural pathways where wheels have been spinning too long. Instead, you allow those thoughts, but stand back from them, and recognize that toxic pattern of self-deprecation is really just a thought habit. It has no more actuality that anything else. Thoughts are thoughts, not facts. When we bury things inside, it's not like they go away. They just haunt us in different ways. The nature of addiction is that it's always there. If there's not a continuous reinforcement of a new way of being and understanding, there will be a gradual pull to go back to the foundational tried and true escape through drugs and alcohol.

The power of will is not enough to sustain change. The challenge is to draw strength from something other than mere self-discipline. Or condemnation. Lasting change occurs when we let go of such isolating pressures and allow ourselves to feel support and connection, instead of preoccupation with the self. This transformation of the self often occurs through sacrifice, service, love, belief in a cause, or membership in a community.

Apr 14, Julie rated it liked it Shelves: psychology. I wanted this book to be better than it was. The premise is that many diverse forms of psychological suffering are the result of capture, or fixation, which seems to be a natural tendency of the mind. I think this general idea is sound, and the author provides numerous examples such as depression, OCD, cutting, addiction, gambling, etc.

In fact, most of the book deals with case studies of various examples of capture. I found the quality and depth of these case studies to be uneven. My favorite c I wanted this book to be better than it was. My favorite case study was that of David Foster Wallace, although it was also quite heartbreaking. The later chapters deal with positive examples of capture. I found these to be less persuasive--I didn't get the same sense of fixation in these case studies.

The author also poses the question of whether the only way to free someone from a negative form of capture is to replace it with another type of capture. The question really isn't answered, but the very end of the book suggests that meditation and mindfulness may help people escape from negative capture. I wish this last section of the book had been expanded. Overall, I found it to be a fascinating, well-reasoned, and well-written book, but I still felt somewhat dissatisfied after finishing it.

Apr 22, Hester rated it liked it Shelves: psychology. This is an odd book, which puts the natural philosophy back into psychology and biology. Kessler's argument is that the world is so full of sensory and emotional stimulation, that we only process a tiny bit of it, chosen by our mind's filters. If we become obsessed with an idea or feeling, all of our input is filtered through that obsession, reinforcing it. This idea seems more philosophical than biological he refers to William James a lot , but then he finds the scientific counterpart to these This is an odd book, which puts the natural philosophy back into psychology and biology.

This idea seems more philosophical than biological he refers to William James a lot , but then he finds the scientific counterpart to these ideas in neurological studies. He illustrates his hypothesis with little biographical and literary sketches; many of them feel like stretches. I don't think it is the be-all and end-all of mental illness. But attention does play a major role in ocd, anxiety, and depression. A friend of mine was concerned for another friend of hers, and when I described Kessler's concept of "capture," she said that was exactly what was happening with the friend she was worrying about.

On the plus side: this book did what we want every book to do. I now look at the world a little differently. I feel like the book could have been better if they ideas had been allowed to bake a little longer. Nov 27, Audrey rated it liked it. In an effort to understand human suffering, Dr. Kessler examines the idea of "capture," the process by which our thoughts and attention are hijacked in a way that can feel out of control and cause us endless pain.

The book is wide-ranging in its examination of the idea of capture in relation to mental illness, violence, ideology, and spirituality. He makes the examination almost completely through mini case studies of individuals, some famous David Foster Wallace, Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf In an effort to understand human suffering, Dr. He makes the examination almost completely through mini case studies of individuals, some famous David Foster Wallace, Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf and others not.

This made the book an easy and fascinating read. Perhaps more impressive than the book itself is the more than pages of notes and references. The author did exhaustive research and it's all here for the reader to peruse and pursue further. I would have liked a bit more of the information from the notes to make its way into the text. It might have made the book a little tougher going, but there are some gems in the notes, I'm sure, and yet I wasn't motivated to read them separately. It's almost as if Kessler has written two books: a popular and a scholarly one.

This is a very interesting and well written book, that goes trough the life of famous or less famous people to describe the process of capture, that in the words of the author is "..