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My Name is Chellis and I'm in Recovery from Western Civilization Paperback – May 24, 1994

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Editorial Reviews Review

"You and I are not people who live in communion with the earth," Chellis Glendinning begins. "We exist instead dislocated from our roots by the psychological, philosophical, and technological constructions of our civilization, and this alienation leads to our suffering: massive suffering for each and every one of us, and mass suffering throughout our society."

Whether you believe the full ramifications of Glendinning's connections between addictive behavior and the ecological crisis depends entirely on whether you accept the premise that one can be "addicted" to civilization. But her call for a return to a nature-based culture, one in which people live "as if [we] were responsible for building the culture that the rocks and trees and birds of this place expected of human beings," is a compelling proposal, elaborated from the heart.

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This brilliant, offbeat, and ultimately provocative book is nothing short of revolutionary. Its title, of course, is off-putting; indeed, the concept of recovering from Western civilization sounds rather arrogant. But Glendinning hits the nail on the head, making the connection between the recovery movement and the environmental movement so well that their concurrent emergence makes sense. She digs into the aspects of Western civilization we desperately need to recover from--our technological addictions, fast pace, daily and lifelong traumas, dissociation from the natural world and ourselves--and ably shows why the way of life they constitute is so unhealthy. She uses examples from nature-based cultures to show how to reconnect with the world, and by probing into her own as well as our collective psyche, she courageously takes the leap toward emotional, spiritual, and physical health that she invites the rest of us to follow. Mary Ellen Sullivan

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Shambhala; 1st edition (May 24, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 087773996X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0877739968
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #120,158 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

47 of 52 people found the following review helpful By J.W.K on July 25, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Do you ever feel as though something is profoundly wrong with the world today? Ever feel tired, thwarted, disconnected or overworked? Ever feel as though you don't belong? These are some of the vague notions that often plague many of the so-called normal who are succeeding in life. Perhaps you are one of them. Or perhaps you have come closer to the pathology and directly experienced the violence, exploitation and abuse of life in the modern world. In response to the crises we all know by now, Glendinning's thesis - hailed as both obvious and brilliant - is that, behind the sparkles and glitter, we all suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome, induced from life inside Western Civilization.
A doctor of psychology, with years of work in the field under her belt - as well as personal taste of abuse our civilization deals out - Glendinning's diagnosis for our collective madness is illuminating and profound, constituting nothing less than a critique of Western Civilization, progress, normality and rationality. After providing example after example of the folly, abuse and suffering we continually inflict upon ourselves, our loved ones and the earth who created and sustains us, her thesis quickly passes from specious to plausible, from doubtful to obvious. Perhaps more enthralling than the pathology is the cure, though.
Not only a message of suffering and pain, Glendinning offers us hope, beauty and joy. Aside from critique, Glendinning provides concrete examples of cultures that - in contrast to our culture - offer full political and social participation, genuine democracy, equality of the sexes, leisure, good food and nutrition, stability, ecological sustainability, and most importantly a sense of a connection and belonging. In a word, she reconnects us with the traditions, cultures and communities abundant with all the things we have lost in the Faustian bargain for that evanescent more we call progress. Should not be overlooked.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Charity ( on April 30, 1999
Format: Paperback
I was assigned in my Intro. to Religious Studies class to find a book on which to do a final project. A friend suggested I read "My Name is Chellis and I'm in Recovery from Western Civilization". I did, and I have been profoundly effected. This book is full of brilliant theories of correlation between the ecological crisis (which it really is) and human mental health problems that are so abundant. Glendinning has put great effort into researching her material, and has also filled this work with astounding personal passion. For me, she has changed my entire perspective of life. Before reading this book, I suggest that you have a completely open mind. Glendinning covers issues that will indeed disrupt an average sense of reality. In the words of another of my favorite artists, Bjork, "It takes courage to enjoy it," ("Big Time Sensuality").
Also excellent books by Glendinning: When Technology Wounds, and Waking Up in the Nuclear Age.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Kristie Lane on July 5, 2006
Format: Paperback
This is THE most important book I have ever read. After reading this book I realized why I have never been able to complete the healing process I began 10 years ago and it is because I didn't understand what the real problem was. This book has helped me to connect my life and my own personal pain and childhood emotional abuse to a much larger picture of a dysfunctional culture out of sync with nature with the traumatic effects being passed down from one generation to the next. This book is already helping me to become whole again and I know that it can help many other people. This is a book for people who are suffering and struggling to understand why and wondering what to do. This is a book that draws a complete picture of the horror that many of us are feeling as we are abused, as we watch our earth being polluted and degraded, as we read about child prostitutes and species extinctions. If you are ready to heal and become whole again then you are ready for this book.
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37 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Craig Chalquist, PhD, author of TERRAPSYCHOLOGY and DEEP CALIFORNIA on March 9, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Why are we Westerners so sick as a culture? Because we're no longer rooted in the natural world.
With convincing passion and lucidity, the author raises the middle syllable of her last name against the backwardness of therapizing, medicating, motivating, chanting, meditating, praying, and healing without taking the real problem into account. People of nature, enviously demonized as childlike or primitive, suffer like the rest of us--but why do they do without neuroses and eating disorders, mass murder and organized intolerance?
Because it's our cultural separation from the seas and stars that makes us mad, and WE are the culture. In the brief, brief splinter of history since the rise of cities--a fragment in the million or so years of hunter-gatherer existence--we have taken the most radical social step imaginable and severed our contact with the dangers and lushnesses of the world. In its place we have concepts and categories, empiricism and case histories--and so much wrong-headed bewilderment that for most of us, a thing isn't real unless a laboratory measures it or a scientist finds a way to blow it up.
Dr. Glendinning does not make the reactive, pendulum-swing suggestion that we abandon our cultural or technological developments. Instead, she challenges the postmodern reader to find a satisfying personal rootedness in what's left of the Earth's wilderness.
See for yourself....
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