Sometimes you read a book that is not only utterly riveting but also gives you useful tips for dealing with difficult situations in your own life.
As I have mentioned before, a lot of self-help/self improvement books make such promises but it is rare that they actually deliver.
"Talking to Crazy" by Mark Goulston is one of the few books that does.
Who is Mark Goulston?
If you are not familiar with Mark Goulston he is an eminent psychiatrist and psychotherapist who has written a number of best selling books.
He has also contributed to a variety of respected business and health publications but most people will probably know him from being a guest on shows like Oprah!
You can find a bio on his website here.
What is this book about?
Contrary to what you might think this book is not about overt mental illness (at least the vast majority of it is not).
As Dr Goulston himself says in relation to his use of the word "crazy":
"I know it sounds inflammatory and totally un-PC. But when I use this word, I don’t mean mentally ill (although mental illness— which I’ll address separately in Section 5— certainly causes crazy behavior). And I don’t use the word crazy to stigmatize one group of people either. That’s because all of us, at some points in time, are crazy. What I mean by crazy is irrational.
Essentially this book is about dealing with the everyday irrational behaviour that tends to have a more frequent (and sometimes even larger) impact on our lives than people who have actual mental illness.
Dr Goulston uses his many years of experience as both a psychiatrist and psychotherapist to teach us about these everyday forms of "crazy" and different techniques of dealing with it that have worked for him.
How is it to read?
Quite often self-help books forget to break up the information into easy to digest segments.
They may have very important points to make but the presentation can make it hard to take them in. One can often end up at the end of a chapter asking -"What was that about?"
In contrast to that, this book is easy to read and is broken up into nice, short chapters. It is quite clear that Dr Goulston is an experienced teacher who knows how to pace his lessons.
The chapters are further broken up using short vignettes from Dr Goulston's professional and personal life.
These help to further contextualise the points he is making as well as illustrating his instructions for dealing with the specific situations in a practical manner.
There are also summaries of the key information at the end of major chapters. These make excellent points for bookmarking and quick reference.
As an example here is a section from chapter 11:
This book has useful insights for health professionals too
Whilst the main audience for this book is regular people I think it is also something that would be very useful for health professionals too.
No matter what your medical field you will deal with some form of crazy on a daily basis.
Any kind of high stress situation seems to bring out the irrationality in people and ill health is one of the most common triggers in my experience.
I only wish someone had given me this book in Medical School!
I will be keeping the Kindle version of this book on my phone for revision before difficult situations.
Some Favourite Quotes
Here are some of my favourite quotes:
"If you treat them as if they’re nuts and you’re not, they’ll bite down deeper on their crazy thinking. But if you lean into their crazy, you’ll radically change the dynamic."
"An irrational person’s M.O. is a weapon. However, it’s also a weakness because if you can figure out the person’s M.O., you can turn this information to your advantage."
"Remember: Stripping you of your poise is among an irrational person’s best weapons, and refusing to surrender your poise is one of your best defenses."
"Institutional crazy occurs when otherwise sane people are determined to follow an institution’s rules even when the rules are irrational or destructive. If you work for a large corporation or a government agency—or if you need to deal with one of these institutions—this technique can help you break through to people who are completely trapped in this kind of bullying."
"Many people in the grip of garden-variety crazy—especially if they’re normally pretty sane—are actually looking for a quick way out. So help them find it."
"Think of crying as a high colonic: It happens because people desperately need to get something out, and in this case, it’s tears."
"Splitters can’t take no for an answer. If they hear a negative response from the first person they talk with, they move on to the next person. In addition to bad-mouthing the first person, they delete key facts to make that person look worse. Their goal is obvious: They want the second person to side with them and say yes."
"Talking to Crazy" is a fantastic book and I can wholeheartedly recommend it to everyone.
We all encounter irrational behaviour in our daily lives - sometimes in others and sometimes in ourselves!
This book will enable you to become more conscious of the mental processes that are going on in these situations and provide a practical means of dealing with them.
- Important subject with useful practical advice and examples.
- Well written and easy to read.
- Generally well presented with short chapters and summaries of important points.
- Doesn't take long to read.
- Kindle font size for vignettes/examples can be a bit small compared to the rest of the text.
Thank you for reading