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Life Unlocked: 7 Revolutionary Lessons to Overcome Fear Hardcover – August 17, 2010

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Editorial Reviews


“Dr. Pillay does a wonderful job of translating neuroscience into layman’s terms, vividly explaining how the human mind works. Life Unlocked provides a tremendous opportunity for introspection and can help anyone understand their fears and how to overcome them.” —Steve Ward, coauthor of
Crash Course in Love and star of VH1’s Tough Love
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Dr. Srini Pillay is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and is the former Director of the Outpatient Anxiety Disorders Program at Harvard's McLean Hospital.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Rodale Books; 1st Edition, 1st Printing edition (August 17, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1605298522
  • ISBN-13: 978-1605298528
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #780,498 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I am currently an Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School who believes in an integration of mind, body and spirit. I believe that self-help can span all these domains and still be rooted in brain science. My books will reflect this and my goal is to bring the methods related to brain biology into your own sphere of thinking.

My credentials are only part of what I want to bring to the table: I was the top medical student, top award winner during my residency at Harvard and one of the top three award winners during my residency in the US. I have been funded by Harvard, nationally (NARSAD) and by the NIH (NIDA) for my brain imaging work. However, the root of my interests in improving the quality of human life lies in the fact that I understand human pain personally and because of my profession as a therapist and coach. And I believe that playing "hard" is as important as working "hard."

I expect that this latter attitude will come across in my writing and speaking and that life is too short to be steeped in intellectualism, All self-help needs to include "fun" and while I believe in the depth of knowledge of brain science, I also strive to share this attitude of "fun" in what I have learned and want to share with my readers.

You can read more about me at

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

51 of 51 people found the following review helpful By the way I see it on November 19, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Dr. Pillay's book is certainly among the two or three finest self-help books I have ever read, if not the very best. In fact, to label it a self-help book is somewhat inaccurate because it certainly transcends the genre and far exceeds run of the mill, substance-less (or even wacked-out) self-help publications. Yet at the same time, it can help you to help yourself, so in my estimation it is "self-help" at its very best.

It is filled with insights about the brain, its unconscious tendencies toward fear, and how to overcome excessive fears and traumas that may unwittingly be sabotaging your best intentions and efforts to live a successful personal and professional life. LIFE UNLOCKED is extremely well written, and the author uses an abundance of wonderful metaphors to help those of us who don't know much or anything about the brain gain a better understanding of the cogent points he makes.

The only suggestion I have for improvement, and I hope the publishers will give serious consideration to this, is to include a glossary for the paperback edition. Doing so would be especially helpful for readers who have not read any literature about the brain as well as for readers like myself who have had some exposure to brain terminology but not enough to readily recall that PFC refers to prefrontal cortex, ACC means anterior cingulate cortex, LTP stand for long-term potentiation, GAD refers to generalized anxiety disorder, and so on. It would be helpful to have other terms as well that Pillay uses included in the glossary for quick review or reference.

But please know that this book is written very clearly with practical, doable applications, so don't let any of the terms mentioned above dissuade you from purchasing this book.
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75 of 86 people found the following review helpful By Carl Strasen on November 7, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Why is mining neuroscience so common for self-help manuals these days?
On the one hand I thought the analysis of "blindsight" in this book was really interesting,
and I did learn about how the amygdala reacts more swiftly to fear than we
can ever be aware of it having been activated, but what wasn't clear to me
was why or how we change.

So, on the one hand, many thanks to Dr. Pillay's analysis of just how low level
and quick our ability to sense fear is, on the other I didn't come away with
a good understanding of why if consciousness is "just" electricity, how activities like
meditation would re-wire our heads, or more importantly the consciousness we
experience. In some sense its the old paradox of eating your cake and wanting it
too, neuroscience wants to prove that consciousness is determined, but that would
make "self-help" impossible. After all, there is no point in kicking a broken Coke
machine, you have to fix it, and the Coke machine won't be fixing itself anytime

Dr. Pillay's patients seem very elite, it was hard for me to identify with someone
making $400,000 not being as satisfied as they could be with their job, and overcoming
this root fear by following their bliss and making even more money. He doesn't have
any examples of real fear in the US: namely losing your job and health insurance. I
would have been really impressed if his "MAP-CHANGE: meditation, attentional intervention,
and psychological tools derived from the science of fear." would help the average
person like me with their fear of dying penniless alone in pain in some gritty hospital corridor,
but I guess folks at Harvard Medical School don't worry much about silly fears like that.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Barbara S. Reeves on May 4, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I sincerely believe that the most secure prisons are those we construct for ourselves, and fear is the chief material we use to build those walls. That's why I decided to read "Life Unlocked" by Srinivasan Pillay. He uses the latest brain imaging studies in neuroscience, psychoanalytic thinking, and a touch of Buddhist philosophy to help us identify conscious and unconscious fears and how to overcome them.

Pillay states that our decision making involves a combination of thinking and feeling. We usually get the thinking part right, but it's the feeling side that gets us in trouble, causing us to make less than perfect choices in our lives. And it's fear that usually gets in the way. He says you can challenge fear by enhancing other positive emotional states, thereby changing your life significantly . Two strong emotions cannot exist at the same volume at the same time in your brain. And hope is the best antidote to fear. Hope focuses on the possibility of achieving. Fear and doubt focuses on the impossibility. To put it simply, pessimism achieves nothing, optimism conquers everything, and we have a choice in the matter.

Pillay offers many solutions in the form of an approach he calls MAP-CHANGE: meditation, attentional interventions, and psychological tools derived from the science of fear. Meditation offers three therapeutic gains: insight into repetitive, self-defeating patterns of behavior; desensitization of painful thoughts; and conditioning of the central nervous system. Attentional interventions can train the circuits in your brain to focus on something more important than fear by simply not focusing on negative thoughts.
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