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Supernormal: The Untold Story of Adversity and Resilience Audio CD – Audiobook, CD, Unabridged
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"This extraordinary book taught me more about resilience than anything else I've read. With the ear of a therapist and the voice of a novelist, Meg Jay delves deep into the human condition to illuminate how we find strength after suffering. It's impossible to read SUPERNORMAL without seeing yourself in it -- and without seeing yourself more clearly too."― Adam Grant, New York Times bestselling author of Give and Take, Originals, and Option B with Sheryl Sandberg
"Adversity is much more common than we think. But so is resilience, as Meg Jay reveals in this remarkable book. With a storyteller's grace and a clinician's insight, Jay explains how everyday superheroes triumph over traumas of every kind -- and how you can use their inspiration and lessons to transform your own life."― Daniel H. Pink, New York Times bestselling author of Drive
"On our long journey through life, sometimes we get knocked down by adversity. Meg Jay's brilliant analysis of how to rise up even stronger is essential reading for all of us on the path of everyday heroism."―Philip Zimbardo, PhD, president of The Heroic Imagination Project
"SUPERNORMAL is a compassionate, optimistic, yet realistic tale of resilience. We can bounce back from adversity. Even so, the bounce hurts. I recommend this book to anyone seeking guidance, or inspiration, for coping with everyday stress -- or a once-in-a-lifetime trauma."― Robert E. Emery, PhD, University of Virginia; Director of the Center for Children, Families, and the Law and author of Two Homes, One Childhood
"With SUPERNORMAL, Meg Jay takes us into the secret world of friends, neighbors, and colleagues, where many are fighting their own private battles. You will understand resilience quite differently after you read this book, and the world would be a more compassionate place if everyone did."―J. Stuart Ablon, Ph.D, director of Think:Kids
"...a fascinating look at how young people can triumph over profound adversity to lead fulfilling lives."―Shelf Awareness (Starred Review)
"SUPERNORMAL puts an end to the 'happily-ever-after' tales we tell ourselves about resilient children. But it does not stop there. Deeply researched and full of insight and wisdom, it is a book for anyone thinking about how we navigate the vicissitudes of life."― Steven Lagerfeld, public policy fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center
"In a world where quick fixes masquerade as the secret to health and happiness, SUPERNORMAL saves the day with an inspirational account of resilience that never shortchanges the pain, risk, or complexity of the challenges involved. Masterfully researched, eloquently written, and deeply felt, SUPERNORMAL satisfies at every level."― Daphne de Marneffe, PhD, author of Maternal Desire and The Rough Patch
"Meg Jay offers the supernormals among us -- those masses forged by adversity -- both self-awareness and community. They will see themselves, and one another, in her pages, exhaling with the relief of recognition."― Joshua Prager, author of The Echoing Green and 100 Years
"Compelling and hopeful. [Meg Jay] amply shows that though internal battles may not end, the joy that comes from living a balanced life is always possible. A well-researched, abundantly documented, readable work of social science."―Kirkus --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Meg Jay, PhD, is a clinical psychologist who specializes in adult development, and twentysomethings in particular. She is an assistant clinical professor at University of Virginia, and maintains a private practice in Charlottesville, Virginia. Dr. Jay earned a doctorate in clinical psychology, and in gender studies, from University of California, Berkeley.
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This book is for the most part about very regular people. The majority of them are not “super” and they are not entirely “normal.” What they have in common is they have all suffered a painful childhood and/or a toxic family environment due to various circumstances of the human condition including: 1) the loss of one or both parents; 2) a drunken and violent father; 3) an abusive (sexually or otherwise) and/or violent sibling; 3) a handicapped, violent, deranged brother; 4) painful bullying at school and at home, etc.
Within the book the author quotes Albert Camus “Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal”. And, that quote is an excellent summary or essence of what this book is about.
The individuals described within this book have suffered such psychological (and at times physical) pains during childhood, that just to achieve independent normal lives as adults appear to be a huge achievement. These are indeed a bunch of “against all odds…” type of stories. But, within this page do not expect to meet a winner of Wimbledon, a Nobel Prize winner, or a former President of the U.S. Instead, you meet what appear like fairly regular humans on the surface. They have reasonable careers and some have achieved a good family life. However, many seem still a bit lost on the household formation bit. They still have to work some kinks out within their own psychological profile. These same ones appear to need long term psychotherapy over several years.
Invariably, all of them carry huge lifelong psychological scares associated with having to overcome their dire beginnings and often burdened with keeping such hardship a secret towards most of society. One does not readily share child abuse or drunken father stories to the outside world. That’s where Albert Camus’ quotes come in and also most often nearly lifelong psychotherapy.
So far all of the above appears rather mundane. Was all of this worth a book? It is hard to explain why. But, the answer is a resounding yes. Each chapter is focused on one specific type of childhood sufferings focused on a single individual case. And, such chapters are so well written, so engaging. They are real page turners. As, I write this review strangely enough I find myself controlling tears. This is as I recall the daughter who overcomes a terrible childhood dominated by a clinically deranged violent brother to become a determined overachiever with a dual degree JD/MD; or the small kid who is violently bullied at school (almost lost an eye in one incident) who in anger decides to put a stop to it by taking on Judo and ultimately will become a self-actualized buffed nuclear engineer in the Navy; or the son of a deranged father who prohibited him to go to k-12 school and did not homeschool him who will eventually go to community college, a 4 year university, and ultimately get a law degree. These stories fill you with emotions of amazements and hopes. Yes, those three qualified among common mortals as near “Supernormals.” But, many others have much more average outcomes. Yet, their stories also will grasp your soul.
We all have a “story.” But, Meg Jay collected 16 particularly wrenching and interesting ones. And, most of them have at least a very bearable ending, and in some cases a genuinely happy one.
This book has also a cathartic and psychotherapeutic quality to it. Invariably, as you read those “cases” one is likely to directionally relate a little bit to one case or another or know a close relative or friend who went through something somewhat similar although hopefully to a far less painful degree.
At the end of chapters, Meg Jay often outlines the strategies that allowed the individual to supersede his dire beginnings. These strategies most often are within the resilience/persistence domain. In the very last chapter of the book, Meg Jay outlines several universal strategies on how to cope with pretty much anything. And, there are no short cuts. It all amounts to living as well as you can (good sleep, good nutrition, good habits, good lifestyle, lifelong learning, surround yourself with positive people, avoid the toxic ones, etc.).
If the subject somewhat interests you, you may very well love this book. I was not sure this book was for me. So, I read first just a couple of chapters/cases, than another, and another. And, before I knew it I had read the vast majority of them.
The difficulty I had with it was that eventually, it just seems to repeat the author's main thesis. For me, it failed to really get anywhere. I don't want to disourage anyone fronm reading this. However, it eventually got a bit tiresome for me. I do give it a mild recommendation. However I was hoping for it to really come to a point and for me, it didn't. Read it, but be prepared for some disappointment by the time you finish it.
I didn't expect this book to be the sort of book where I would find myself or members of my family. Possibly, neither will you. However, if you have had to have your guard up, have had to be brave, don't understand why you can't move forward in your life in certain areas, or are simply curious about human nature and why we do the things we do, read this magnificently researched, compassionate, nonjudgmental book. I found it eyeopening.
The chapters begin with Supernormal and go through Origin Story to Secret to Fight and Flight. After these come Vigilance (one I identified strongly with), Superhuman, Orphan (another very touching one), Mask, Alien, and Antihero. Reboot, Kryptonite, Secret Society, Cape, Avenger, Good v.s. Bad and Neverending complete the chapters. Notes, Acknowledgements and information about the author complete the book.
I was fascinated at the way in which Dr. Kay wove in quotes from famous people. Among them are Jay Z, George Bernard Shaw, Oprah, Andre Agassi, Oliver Sacks, and many more.
I very much appreciated her writing style when she wrote about her own patients, although each of them was partially fictionalized to protect them. None of them were glamorized; all rang true. They were wonderfully depicted and they taught me a lot of lessons.
The great way in which Meg Jay brings comic book superheroes such as Superman, Batman. Wonderwoman, Spiderman and more into this book in order to explicate why we are like them (and also are not like them) is terrific. They basically appear in each chapter.
SUPERNORMAL, The Untold Story of Resilience is not a tough read. It is a read about tough things which happen to all of us. It will lift you up if you read it because you will understand that you are not alone. If you are feeling lonely and unloved, get this book and takes some steps to getting some help--including caring for yourself.