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The Paranoia Switch: How Terror Rewires Our Brains and Reshapes Our Behavior--and How We Can Reclaim Our Courage 1st Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0374229993
ISBN-10: 0374229996
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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)

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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: 9.3 x 6.3 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #354,663 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
From: [...]
Author & Book Views On A Healthy Life!

Book Review: The Paranoia Swithch (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007) by Martha Stout, Ph.D.

Do you remember 9/11? Odds are you do. You probably recall exactly what you were doing and where you were when the news of the Twin Towers reached your ears. At the time, I was filling in for my child's elementary school teacher who was home sick. By background, I am a teacher; my concern of course was for the children. After having a quick conference in the hallway, and because details of the attacks were sketchy at 10 AM for those of us without access to current news, the fourth grade instructors decided not to explain what was happening to the pupils, and rather carry on as usual. The kids caught on though. They knew something was up as child after child was called down to the office for "early dismissal." By 1 PM the majority of the student body had been excused, and even I was told that I wasn't needed any longer. Where did we all go? Home--to our television sets.

Psychotherapist Martha Stout, Ph.D., author of The Paranoia Switch, writes that 9/11 officially traumatized nearly all of us. "9/11 grabbed us by the throat like nothing else. It changed us emotionally, behaviorally, spiritually. It caused people of conscience to fear for the future of the whole human world." After researching the issue, Dr. Stout found a Pew Research Center survey which stated that six out of ten men and eight out of ten women felt depressed. The New England Journal of Medicine summarized that within three to five days after the terror plot occurred, "44% of ordinary Americans reported at least one clinical symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
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