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153 of 155 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent overview of dissociation
It took me a long time to find a book like this. Dr. Martha Stout provides deeply-moving insights into the vulnerabilities of people affected by trauma. She describes the relativity of trauma and its effects through three common situations. Child abuse has been a common reason given for dissociation - but Stout shows there are many other reasons. (for example, a small...
Published on June 14, 2002 by Michelle Pettit

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18 of 25 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars "This engaging book never delivers"
Dr. Martha Stout starts off this book's Preface by explaining she was a junior in college when her Grandmother choosing congestive heart failure as a method of suicide had a big impact on her life. Her Grandmother, lying in a hospital bed and being attended for minor problems, informed her nurse she planned to "go to God" before morning and then quietly went this way...
Published on August 28, 2012 by TucsonShopper


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153 of 155 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent overview of dissociation, June 14, 2002
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This review is from: The Myth of Sanity: Divided Consciousness and the Promise of Awareness (Paperback)
It took me a long time to find a book like this. Dr. Martha Stout provides deeply-moving insights into the vulnerabilities of people affected by trauma. She describes the relativity of trauma and its effects through three common situations. Child abuse has been a common reason given for dissociation - but Stout shows there are many other reasons. (for example, a small boy "disconnects" from his fear when he isn't picked up at the bus stop. For a five-year-old in an unfamiliar place that is a traumatic situation) Using interesting and realistic case stories, she develops a compassionate picture of the gradations of symptoms on the dissociative continuum -- everything from temporarily zoning out while driving and disconnecting from yourself while watching a movie to the extreme dissociation of a man with multiple personalities. I read it all in one sitting (up until 6a.m.) and felt enthusiastic -- wanting to purchase one for all my family members and friends. A major point Stout makes is we all experience dissociation in varying degrees. Dissociation doesn't necessarily involve having "multiple personalities" Well-written, intelligent, accessible. Reveals the large and small traumas that cause us to separate ourselves from our experience of living.
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76 of 78 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A cogent, enlightening read, December 8, 2003
This review is from: The Myth of Sanity: Divided Consciousness and the Promise of Awareness (Paperback)
Martha Stout has written a cogent, eminently readable book on the wide range of dissociative reactions we have to different stimuli, providing meaningful insight into the behavior of ourselves and those around us. We are all a little bit crazy, she declares. This book was something of an eye opener for me, as I had never considered dissociation as a common condition in society. Dissociation is actually a natural survival mechanism that has helped man survive for thousands of years on this planet; in cases of extreme, disturbing stimuli, the human mind may be unable to handle what it is witnessing, so it compartmentalizes the trauma into self-contained groupings within it. The person may withdraw his/her own awareness from the situation at hand, and he/she may well have no conscious memory of it after the fact. The effects of significant trauma cannot be self-contained in such a way forever, though, and so eventually the individual begins having nightmares or flashbacks, begins to space out or lose himself/herself at different times, exhibits dramatic mood swings, etc. In the most serious cases, the person may well harm himself or someone else, transform into a completely new person, lose control of his own conscious self, or exhibit what used to be called multiple personalities. It has been my understanding for some time that the number of actual multiple personality cases is extremely small, but Stout points to a small but significant number of cases of dissociative identity disorder (DID), an unknown number of which go undiagnosed.
Pointing to vivid examples from her own case files as well as anecdotal accounts of nonprofessional acquaintances, Stout identifies the points along the dissociative spectrum. The most familiar and benign examples of detachment from self include daydreaming and losing oneself in a good book or movie. At the opposite end of the spectrum is full-fledged DID. In between lie such states as temporary phasing out, habitual dissociative reactions (phasing out whenever a remark or emotion suddenly triggers a trauma from early life), dissociation from feeling (feeling nothing during an event that should be emotional), intrusion of dissociated ego states (feeling strong, usually negative, emotions for no clearly discernible reason), demifugue (feeling adrift from both reality as well as your body), and fugue (losing significant periods of time wherein you unconsciously go about your daily life). In extreme cases, an individual may develop separate personalities of which he/she may or may not be consciously aware, as these separate personalities may or may not have identifiable names.
The source of all these dissociative states, Start argues, is childhood trauma. She is quick to point out that trauma does not necessarily result from a condition of personal harm, although it naturally does include physical abuse, incest, emotional abuse, and similar reprehensible acts. A child has a limited understanding of the world, so he/she may be traumatized in ways his/her parents never even discern; becoming lost, for example, even for a short period of time, can have a lasting, deleterious effect on a child. Years later, some word or sound or smell might trigger this buried trauma, thereby triggering a dissociative reaction in the individual; such root causes of dissociative behavior can be very hard to ferret out. The very process of remembering can be pure torture, but whatever dissociative behavior is negatively impacting the individual's life must be uncovered in order for that person to find healing and live as normal a life as possible. One cannot protect oneself (which is basically what dissociation consists of) and live life to the fullest at the same time. In the end, one's ability to withstand and/or recover from the dissociative effects of early traumas comes down to a conscious choice of personal responsibility.
I'm no psychologist, but Stout communicates her ideas in a way that makes very good sense to me; she even manages to sum up quite distinctly the difference between her techniques and those of psychoanalysis. Her case studies of dissociative identity disorder are of course fascinating, but the biggest thing I will take away from The Myth of Sanity is the insight I have gained into normal, everyday life.
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72 of 78 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Myth of Sanity reveals the myteries of the mind., February 9, 2001
By 
Carol M. Kauffman, Ph.D. (Lincoln, MA United States) - See all my reviews
Are we all a little crazy? Dr. Martha Stout has written a compelling and controversial book about the true nature of human consciousness and identity. It is as beautifully written, as it is informative. Are we all slightly multiple? Do you experience yourself as "switching" from one you to another? Does that description fit someone you know? Dr. Stout examines the phenomenon of "Dissociation" -- the psychological defense that allows individuals to survive intense trauma. But it isn't just the Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly Multiple Personality Disorder) who utilize it. We all do.
In the Myth of Sanity, Dr. Stout shares provocative and horrifying stories of the true "survivors" of our time. Step by step she walks you through the nuts and bolts of the intangible processes the brain uses to keep terror at bay and allow the human being to function despite adverse circumstances. Did you know that trauma affects the brain? Have you wondered about how memories could possibly be "repressed"? How can people possibly want to cut themselves, and not seem to feel it when they do? Why is it sweet caring people can seem to molt into rageful tormentors? Would you like to be a fly on the wall during psychotherapy sessions with trauma survivors or those diagnosed with Multiple Personality Disorder? The Myth of Sanity will not just teach you about the psyche of people at the extreme edge of human experience. It will teach you about yourself.
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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars very helpful for people who wish to understand dissociation, March 3, 2002
This book explains dissocation as what it really is, a coping mechanism which often leads into chaos and difficulties that then qualify it as a disorder. Martha Stout exposes the myth that DID is extremely rare for what it really is, a myth based on ignorance and misconception that popular media with books and movies such as Sybil and the Troops of Trudi Chase describe the lives of the majority of people with Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder). Such books and films with their portraits of obvious displays of extreme changes in personality lead people to believe that you can spot anyone with DID from ten miles away and they will most likely look like raving lunatics or hysterical women. Martha Stout describes the way real people who have DID often are affected in ways that are not quite so noticeable to others and how many people with dissociative disorders are often misunderstood, misdiagnosed, or never diagnosed at all.
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35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extremely informative and helpful book, June 30, 2001
I must thank the author for an extremely informative and helpful book, my first foray into the field of "dissociation." Having read the book, I now realize that I, my parents, and many other people I know are mildly dissociative and that these sudden switches in personality and temperament (but not identity) have a name and a cause. This helped me become more compassionate with myself and others and gave me an impetus to seek treatment again even though many years of therapy have failed to bring full healing.
This book helped me understand many things about myself -- why a part of me might love a particular lover and the other would simultaneously want to run away, why my mood could be instantly switched from euphoric to depressive by an insensitive remark or a troubling thought, or why a part of me could set out to pursue a particular task, only to be sabotaged by another part. It also helped me understand my parents - both my mother (who could switch from loving to outrageously insensitive) and my father (who is a wonderful physician and loved by many of his patients but was a terror to me when I was growing up.)
Learning more about the progress of others, particularly those who seem to have experienced much greater trauma than mine, gave me added strength to seek help for myself and experiment with new therapies (EMDR and EFT) not mentioned in the book. While Martha Stout seems to have principally used hypnosis for her most difficult patients and did not even mention these other therapies, I found EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) to be particularly helpful in healing my childhood traumas. So while I may not have used the author's methods -- her findings and message have proved to be very important on my healing journey.
Understanding your own dissociative tendencies is a must for full self-acceptance and integration. I am grateful for Martha Stout's book and will happily take ALL of my "inner children" to the next session with my EMDR therapist.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary, June 5, 2004
By 
Brasskey "wviii" (Columbia, TN United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Myth of Sanity: Divided Consciousness and the Promise of Awareness (Paperback)
This unassuming little book is extraordinary in it's conceptual clarity, sensitivity, and insightfulness. Phenomenology as the study of human experience from within that experience expands meaning and human understanding in ways that conceptual analysis and empirical research, as important as they may are, cannot. Dr. Stout has "captured" the dissociative experience from within and imparts an understanding that goes beyond a simple narrative description. The Myth of Sanity can be read on several levels of meaning. Professionals who work with severely maltreated children and adolescents will find much of value in this work. It is truly exceptional. William Vaughan, Ph.D.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dr. Eileen Epstein, February 5, 2004
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This review is from: The Myth of Sanity: Divided Consciousness and the Promise of Awareness (Paperback)
This book is excellent. I recommend it for all clinicians, as well as for everyone in psychotherapy, and anyone interested in learning about what "makes us tick". It is not a pop-psychology book, but it is written clearly for the lay person. The premise is that we all dissociate to a greater or lesser degree. Dr. Stout does not pathologize normalcy, but normalizes those behaviors that we commonly observe in ourselves and others - and enhances our understanding and compassion of the way our mind functions in order to survive psychically. I have recommended this book to most of my own patients who often find themselves and their significant others cut-off from their emotions and the emotions of others,
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stirring up thoughts, March 5, 2007
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This review is from: The Myth of Sanity: Divided Consciousness and the Promise of Awareness (Paperback)
How many times have you asked yourself why did I act that way, who is this other person acting through me, or why do I repeat the same mental program and actions to similar situations and/or emotions and feelings especially when I realize it hurts others?

I've done this many times and this book has helped me to see a part of the reason why. Everyone goes through some kind of trauma in their childhood, some more severe than others, which affects who we are as adults and how we react the way we do to given situations. We learn to dissociate as a survival mechanism from the pain and stress brought on by trauma that we aren't equipped to deal with as children. As adults we may not remember or understand this dissociation, but we can see a pattern in our behavior and how this behavior affects friends, family and everyone else we interact with, which we can take the responsibility to try to understand and change. I think these two paragraphs near the end of the book tell something important about possible change and the alternative:

"The true remedies are making a safe place, finding out, remembering, not hiding from the memories, and not blaming. Also, at first, simply learning to recognize dissociative behavior in oneself and in others, at least some of the time, may be counted as a part of the cure. By definition, increased self-observation exercises the observing ego, the part of the self that will be able to view dissociation as a currently unnecessary limit upon one's freedom.

These are difficult prescriptions, and as I say, the presence of another person, a therapist or a mentor, is helpful, may even be required. But the alternative is for us to continue in something reminiscent of a tedious science fiction plot in which the otherwise admirable characters are trapped in a hermetic time loop, and repeat over and over again the same galaxy-shattering mistakes, never ascertaining that they have done it all a fathomless number of times before. In this sort of plot, the only way out is somehow to percieve and sever the time loop, of which the only detectable symptom is a wispy sense of deja vu."

A must read book if you want to start to understand yourself, who you are, and why you are who you are.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Martha Stout has figured it out--, January 25, 2003
By A Customer
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Dissociation is typically the chosen avenue a child takes as a result of early sexual abuse. There is really no conscious choice, either remove yourself from the abusive situation or die. (this is how a child perceives abuse)
This term 'dissociation' takes the place of the old term 'multiple personalities' when a person does 'go out on an unscheduled coffee break,' so to speak.
As an adult survivor of sexual abuse, I recently learned that I dissociate a lot more than the 'norm- whatever that is-- many times I cannot remember what I did earlier in the day or a few days before.
When a survivor works on the very issues which cause her to dissociate, she will dissociate more until she can reprocess her memories with the help of a licensed clinician in sexual abuse trauma.
Dissociation can be disturbing, yet it is a very natural reaction when one has been sexually abused- especially at a young age.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read!, June 22, 2007
This review is from: The Myth of Sanity: Divided Consciousness and the Promise of Awareness (Paperback)
If you think that a book on disassociation and the psychology of trauma survivors has nothing to do with you, think again. Through a series of interesting composite case studies, Dr. Stout shows that disassociation has many shades and colors, and it is present in virtually all people to different extents. The traumas that led to it are not necessarily childhood abuse. They could be as benign as getting lost for the first time or witnessing parent fights at a young age. The resulting disassociation dulls our lives and makes us go through everyday in some kind of a hazy fog cloud. Getting to know about it and being aware of the disassociative states in oneself is the first step that anyone who wishes to reclaim his true life can take.
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The Myth of Sanity: Divided Consciousness and the Promise of Awareness
The Myth of Sanity: Divided Consciousness and the Promise of Awareness by Martha Stout (Paperback - February 22, 2002)
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