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The Paranoia Switch: How Terror Rewires Our Brains and Reshapes Our Behavior--and How We Can Reclaim Our Courage [Hardcover]

Martha Stout
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)

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Book Description

September 4, 2007 0374229996 978-0374229993 1
On September 11, 2001, the "Fear Switch" in our brains got flicked. How do we turn it off and reclaim our lives?
Five years after September 11, we’re still scared. And why not? Terrorists could strike at any moment. Our country is at war. The polar caps are melting. Hurricanes loom. We struggle to control our fear so that we can go about our daily lives. Our national consciousness has been torqued by trauma, in the process transforming our behavior, our expectations, our legal system.
In The Myth of Sanity, Martha Stout, who until recently taught at the Harvard Medical School, analyzed how we cope with personal trauma. In her national bestseller The Sociopath Next Door, she showed how to avoid suffering psychological damage at the hands of others. Now, in The Paranoia Switch, she offers a groundbreaking clinical, neuropsychological, and practical examination of what terror and fear politics have done to our minds, and to the very biology of our brains.
In this timely and essential book, Stout assures us that we can interrupt the cycle of trauma and look forward to a future free of fear only by understanding our own paranoia—and what flips the paranoia switch.

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The Paranoia Switch: How Terror Rewires Our Brains and Reshapes Our Behavior--and How We Can Reclaim Our Courage + The Myth of Sanity: Divided Consciousness and the Promise of Awareness + The Sociopath Next Door
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Two sections are illuminating in this slight discussion of how 9/11, and political manipulation of that event, has made Americans paranoid. In one, psychologist Stout (The Myth of Sanity) provides neurological and psychodynamic perspectives on trauma. In the other, she looks at paranoid moments in American history (though, curiously, without any mention of Richard Hofstadter's seminal book on that subject) and at the limbic wars being waged by fear-mongering political leaders. Stout also helpfully includes 10 ways to recognize such manipulators of our anxiety: for example,Fear brokers are secretive, and are certain that other people, too, are keeping dangerous secrets. But Stout devotes far more space to collective trauma than to the personal kind, in which she has professional expertise, assuming a unified national consciousness; she speaks in overly broad terms about what we feel, about our paranoia and about what you believe (You were red or you were blue). Finally, her suggestions for how we can reclaim our courage—which boil down to [s]triving to be calmer, more aware, and more rational—are too vague to be helpful. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Praise for The Sociopath Next Door
The Sociopath Next Door is a chillingly accurate portrayal of evil–the decent person’s guide to indecency. Martha Stout draws upon sound scientific data and clinical experience and her writing is graceful and compelling.”
—Jonathan Kellerman, author of Therapy, When the Bough Breaks, and Monster.

“Stout’s portraits make a striking impact and readers with unpleasant neighbors or colleagues may find themselves paying close attention to her sociopathic-behavior checklist and suggested coping strategies. Deeply thought-provoking and unexpectedly lyrical.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1 edition (September 4, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374229996
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374229993
  • Product Dimensions: 0.9 x 6.3 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,131,427 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Martha Stout, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in private practice, served on the faculty in psychology in the department of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School for twenty-five years. She is also the author of "The Myth of Sanity" and "The Paranoia Switch." She lives on Cape Ann in Massachusetts.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
37 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Limbic Warfare and the Rise of American Fascism October 29, 2007
Martha Stout's newest book, The Paranoia Switch, is a welcome addition to the new and growing science of ponerology: the study of the root causes and genesis of evil, on both the social and interpersonal levels.

A recurring theme of Stout's book is the similarity in essence (but not scope) of a battered spouse and a country, battered by terror and paranoia, under the sway of a psychologically deviant leader. Stout not only lists the character traits to watch out for in leaders, but also the steps through which a society cycles between stages of limbic warfare.

Traumatic events, like terrorism, overload our limbic system. The heightened response of our amygdala, which registers the emotional significance of the event, leads to a decreased response in the hippocampus, which usually prioritizes information and allows the higher brain centers to create coherent memories.

So, traumatic events do not get integrated by the higher brain centers, but instead leave us with nonintegrated fragments of memory: isolated images and sensations. These memories can then be "triggered" by similar images. In this way, ruthless and conscienceless leaders can keep us in a state of vulnerable paranoia.

They stage or co-opt national catastrophes in order to "save" their public, in much the same way that an abuser will beat his wife, only to "save" her from everyone else around her. The logic is twisted, but the phenomenon of "battered wife syndrome" works remarkably well for human predators.

In a time of crisis, populations turn to authoritarian leaders, to their own detriment. Only a knowledge of terrorism's root purposes and causes can protect us from its effects. When fearmongers like the American government leaders (Republican and Democrat) exploit terror, the "terrorists" win. And often, the terrorists are the very people who exploit terror.
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
By D.H.
Every American should read THE PARANOIA SWITCH as soon as possible. It will change the way you think about yourself and the country you live in. The writing is extremely beautiful, as you would expect from a book by Martha Stout, and the pages fly by because they're fascinating and because of the stories, but that's not really why everyone should read it. You should read it because if we all did, we might really be able to get our country back. And also our "selves."
The book begins with descriptions of just how terrified and full of grief everyone was right after September 11, 2001. You think you know this already, but when you see the actual descriptions and numbers, it's mind-blowing. After this, there's a test you can give yourself in the privacy of your own home to see how anxious you yourself are right now.
Then there's a chapter on how terrorism really works, told from a psychologist's point of view. This is a brand new way for most of us to think about terrorism.
Most of the rest of the book is about the unethical "fear politics" that have gone on in the United States since the terrorist attack in 2001. Dr. Stout describes in layman's language how terror affects the brain itself, how psychological trauma places a "paranoia switch" in our brains which sits there invisibly until something or SOMEONE pushes it. Then she discusses the sort of politician (the "fear broker") who would stoop low enough to use our fears to increase his own power. She discusses several situations from American history where this has happened, the KKK for example, and Joseph McCarthy and the U.S. Senate hearings. It's eye opening to see all the similarities between those chapters in our history and what's happening right now and to relate all that to the study of the brain.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars High Praises November 3, 2007
A month ago, I have obtained this new book by Martha Stout, Ph.D, while browsing a local bookstore and this book has just been released this month. It was an interesting timing because this book has addressed how the traumatized event of 9/11 affected the American minds and how these minds were 'locked' on fear. By using her psychological and neuro-psychological research on fear and terror, Martha Stout wrote a very insightful book. Her work brings the reader to understand the nature of fear and terror, and how it was done to one's mind. There are nine chapters in this book, but it is composed of four parts: a personal struggle with fear, the phenomenon of terrorism, protection against future fear, and a new hope. Throughout The Paranoia Switch, there is an understanding about how politician leaders used people's fear by looking what are terrorism, limbic wars, and fear brokers.

We often hear this word, "terrorism," daily in our lives. We hear it on the radio, watch it on the news, read it in the newspapers, and we would feel the fear when this word is mentioned everywhere we go. In her book, Stout defined terrorism as "violence committed with the primary goal of manipulating the minds of the surviving population" (p. 27). So, why has terrorism becomes massive on global scale? It is because our fears are what fuels terrorism and our leaders are using our fears for their own selfish reasons. It is important for one to know, from reading this book, that terrorism does not always work unless it affects our minds.

Stout pointed out that the United States was a 'habituated' country until that morning of September 11, 2001. It was not 'used' to being exposed to acts of terrorism as other countries have had done, and it has experienced a profound shock.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars steven pinker to steven stinkers
Opinions is like essholes: every. esshole. got one--and now those opinions can be used to wipe one's ass because, apparently, everyone can write a book on serious, professional... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Andrew J. Mcghee
4.0 out of 5 stars Spooky
WE forget about howmuch brain chestry is affected by behavior and surroundings, Read this and then go read up on epigenetics or Neuro Sequencing (Perry) there is plentyy mateiral... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Joseph Bongiovanni
4.0 out of 5 stars Not only about 911
I didn't react to 911 the way the author did to that event, which appears to be the main inspiration for the book, but that didn't matter. Read more
Published 6 months ago by wiltay
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Informative
Dr. Stout is thorough in her research / provides relevant examples/experiences for support. A must read for people interested in the field as well as the general population. Dr. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Totalism Researcher
4.0 out of 5 stars Americans need to read this
... but she needs to do more work on the 9/11 thing. Maybe she could look into the Boston Marathon bombings. Google for articles on "limbic warfare".
Published 14 months ago by Edwin E. Jewett
5.0 out of 5 stars Never disappointed with Stout's books
I've always been impressed with Stout's ability to explain something deeply psychological in layman's terms. Read more
Published 16 months ago by K. L. UTTERBACK
5.0 out of 5 stars Another powerful read from Dr. Margaret Stout.
Exceptional insights from Dr. Margaret Stout about the effects of the War on Terror on humans. A must read for any one trying to understand the traumatic effects of mass events.
Published 18 months ago by William Shanley
1.0 out of 5 stars Not much to it
The author was so great with "The Sociopath Next Door" - what happened? With this one she could have Tweeted the basics.
Published on March 5, 2012 by Eric Winter
1.0 out of 5 stars Misses the mark and presents improper conclusions
Review of The Paranoia Switch by Martha Stout

The tag line is "How terror rewires our brains and reshapes our behavrio and how we can
reclaim our courage and I had... Read more
Published on November 27, 2009 by Scott G.
4.0 out of 5 stars Switched on
I think the real pleasure in reading this writer comes from hearing what you already know articulated so clearly. Read more
Published on October 25, 2008 by Wisewrite
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