Category Archives: Book Reviews

Book Review: “Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men”

why_does_he_do_thatThis was a really painful book for me to read and this is going to be a really painful review to write.

I once had an employer who fit the emotionally abusive criteria in this book. When he first hired me, he treated me very well. He praised my abilities often. He gave me credit for increased business. He sent me to training and paid for it. He gave me the second best office in the building after his. I thought I had the best boss ever – so much better than all the ones I’d had before. I worked really hard for this boss, and it was my pleasure. It’s nice to have my hard work acknowledged and appreciated!

After a few very happy years, I started noticing that he seemed to be undermining my projects and encouraging other employees to keep information from me that would help me do my job. It didn’t seem to matter if clients were being harmed in the process. No boss would do that, would he? I was just being paranoid, wasn’t I? He started discouraging me from learning new things. He started telling me I didn’t have the ability to learn what I wanted to learn. Then one day he insulted me in front of other employees, then tried to talk me into quitting. When I wouldn’t agree to quit without finding a new job first, he fired me. Then he asked if we could still be friends!

This behavior was unlike any I’d ever experienced before, and I found it baffling. I didn’t enjoy the process, but I got over it pretty quickly because I found a better paying job with an even better boss within 18 hours. I’d noticed this boss lying to other people in the past – I just need to be more skeptical about people who lie, right? If I ever meet someone like this again I’ll be able to recognize it, won’t I?

During the summer before last, I started dating a guy. I was really impressed by how he treated me. He opened doors for me. He made baked goods for me. He showed me lots of affection. He seemed interested in what I said and when I did nice things for him he expressed appreciation. It was wonderful to finally be in a relationship where I was treated well – so much better than all the others. I met his friends and family. Nobody warned me to watch out. For months he talked often of our future life together. We discussed where we’d like to have a wedding, what kind of reception, where we’d live, whether to get a trailer so we could haul two kayaks. I’d never caught him in a lie about his background or work or anything like that. I’d never seen him lie to anyone else – I thought he was an honest guy. When he said he loved me I believed him. I trusted him completely.

For several months he had also been suggesting there might be something wrong with me, like ADD or Asperger’s. I thought he was trying to help me be healthier but I realized later he didn’t want me healthy – his goal was to gradually break down my self confidence. Several times he expressed doubt about my ability to manage money even though I have no debt and he has quite a bit (an example of a manipulation called “Projecting”). I did notice he seemed gradually less interested in my activities and interests but he still feigned enough to satisfy me. One night this past summer he talked about where to go on a honeymoon and the very next day, he told me he’d been thinking about breaking up with me for months. Why? Because he was angry that I had a garden and rented an art studio, plus I didn’t make enough money to suit him. He tried to talk me into breaking up with him but when I suggested I go into counseling to try to fix what was wrong with me instead, and made an appointment, he cruelly dragged out the process for several days then dumped me, in order to cause maximum pain and humiliation. He said I was the best girlfriend he’d ever had, he had to dump me because of a “gut feeling”, he loved me and still wanted to be friends later! (Of course I realize now he meant none of that, it’s just an extra bit of cruelty typically added on to confuse the abused person and delay their recovery.)

Well, here I was taken in by the same kind of emotionally abusive person again, going through the exact same stages again, only this time it was much more hurtful because I had really loved him and was changing my plans for my life to include him in it permanently. I thought I was safe with him but he wanted to hurt me for having interests and accomplishments. What is wrong with me that I am vulnerable to this kind of abuse? How can I avoid getting sucked in again?

I read this book hoping to get answers, and I learned a lot. There are certain subtle warning signs that I will pay more attention to next time, although I’m not sure how early one can detect abuse if the person is really good at hiding it. My ex-boyfriend is a very good actor and he had apparently read up on what signs to try to hide – he seemed to cover his tracks ahead of time on so many of the characteristics I should have been looking for. According to the author they do try to hide these things until they are sure you really love them and will really be hurt by them. There are guidelines to tell whether an abuser is a good candidate for change and how to tell if they are changing. I realize I’m lucky I got dumped because the vast majority do not change. Some of them dump you as a punishment for not agreeing with them on everything. How do you know if you’ve been abused? This book will help you figure that out. Lying to someone for months is abuse, for example. There are chapters in the book that address when the relationship goes further than ours did – what to when you’re financially dependent, if there are kids, if you fear it’s not safe to get out, if it escalates to physical violence. It was helpful to read about some of the things I’ve been spared. My emotionally abusive boss had been taken into custody for physically assaulting his wife, I found out later from public records, so the pattern described in the book sure does fit. It’s reassuring to read that my abusers wanted me to think there is something wrong with me so I’d be easier to control but they may have attacked me precisely because there is a lot RIGHT with me and it feeds their ego to hurt me because I am so accomplished. Their incomprehensible behavior now makes sense – making you feel great in the beginning is a tactic called “Love Bombing”. It was painful to realize that the man I had been in love with was not a real person but a persona calculated to best manipulate me – this is called “Mirroring”. Trying to confuse you with lies or make you doubt yourself by suggesting something is wrong with you is called “Gaslighting”. Learn about lots more tactics in here.

This book was hard for me to read and digest, but there are things in here that everyone needs to know. I felt better just reading the reviews so I knew this would be a good book for me to read. Abuse isn’t just a problem that makes women suffer – my male co-worker was a victim of a brutal crime last week. What is the difference between violent crime and abuse? Both involve someone thinking that they are entitled to cause others’ suffering to meet their own selfish needs. Read this to arm yourself against abuse.

Here are some of my older book reviews.

For those recovering from emotional abuse, these links have helped me – they might help you too.

http://liveboldandbloom.com/11/relationships/signs-of-emotional-abuse – recognizing the signs takes awhile sometimes – it can creep up on you slowly and it can happen to anyone

https://www.psychopathfree.com/articles/10-simple-things-you-can-do-to-support-a-survivor-of-emotional-abuse.335/ – send this link to your friends and family

http://www.dbtselfhelp.com/index.html – emotion regulation

https://www.psychopathfree.com/articles/stages-of-grief-from-a-psychopathic-relationship.138/ – understanding the stages of grief might help you avoid beating yourself up for taking too long to get over it

Book Review: Birdies, Bogeys, & Bipolar Disorder

Birdies, Bogeys, & Bipolar Disorder by Michael Wellington
Birdies, Bogeys, & Bipolar Disorder by Michael Wellington

I have a loved one who suffers from Bipolar disorder. A friend of mine who also has the disorder lent me this book so I could get a better understanding of what the illness is like and how to best be a help to someone who has this illness. My loved one will not talk to me much about his treatment, what it’s like when he’s in the different stages of the disorder, what it’s like to be hospitalized and what are the warning signs of symptoms escalating and how to help the sufferer put the brakes on. This book gave me a much better understanding of what he is going through. There is a limited amount of what you can do for a person with this illness because unfortunately much of the hard work has to be done by the patient. This book will however give you some guidance about whether you’re doing the right thing, what to encourage the person to do and how to recognize behavior that precedes different stages of the illness.

Unless you abandon the sufferer (and I’m not recommending that!), this disease is going to affect your whole family. You will need patience, empathy and education. I recommend Mr. Wellington’s book for friends and family members because it will help you in all those areas. You’ll feel less alone learning how people in the author’s life reacted to his situation. Bipolar patients should also read it to get some insight into their own symptoms and get guidance and encouragement in their own treatment. You will be inspired by this memoir of a true sportsman with real heart for the game and for life who has persisted against great odds to achieve and to help others.

You don’t have to be a big sports fan or a golf fan to enjoy this book – I finished it in two sittings because it was so gripping. The writing is top quality – I was excitedly turning pages waiting to learn the outcome about each tournament and each round of battling the illness. Although I like outdoor activities and fitness I don’t follow sports much nor do I know a lot about golf. I’ve never played though I do have a lot of family members who love it, so I did know that birdies are good, bogeys are bad, you use different clubs for different things and you are supposed to keep the ball out of the water and trees – but not much more! If you play golf or follow pro golf you’ll probably enjoy the book even more than I did. If you know someone with bipolar who is also a golf or sports fan, this book may get through to them better than any other book they might read because they will be able to relate to the author. After reading my friend’s copy I bought two more copies to give to family members.

Like the author, I’m a native of St. Louis, Missouri and geographical references in the book did help draw me in. Although I’m not the type to hang around in country clubs or golf courses I do recognize the names of a lot of places where the action takes place and I at least have a vague idea of where they are. Mr. Wellington is involved in charitable activities in the St. Louis area and elsewhere through the nonprofit organization Birdies4Bipolar. As someone who also does some work for a nonprofit that helps people with mental illness, I appreciate his efforts and those of others in that organization. Mental health consumers and their families need a lot of support!

Here are some of my older book reviews.

Book Review: “Surviving a Shark Attack (On Land) – Overcoming Betrayal and Dealing With Revenge” by Dr. Laura Schlessinger

Last year I was in the beginning stages of a relationship and my then boyfriend saw this book on my shelf. He expressed concern over why I had this particular book in my library – I explained that I had been a subscriber to Dr. Laura’s web site for a couple of years and each year her people send subscribers a free book or DVD. Now I have an idea why he was concerned about this book – he apparently knew he’d eventually be betraying me and feared when that happened I’d want to read this title and get back at him.

Well, he needn’t have worried about this book’s effect on his own well-being. Much of the book is dedicated to persuading people NOT to take revenge on those who have harmed them. Not because it’s not satisfying sometimes, not because the betrayers don’t deserve it, but because it usually does more harm to you than it does to them. This book also helps you realize the sad truth that some people don’t demonstrate any empathy for you because they don’t know what it’s like to have feelings. They can only imitate what other people feel and they can’t really be harmed by anything you do because they don’t care. They are very good at acting and fooling people because they’ve been doing it their whole lives. Even worse, they may get enjoyment from knowing how much they’ve upset you, so don’t be tempted to give them further entertainment by demonstrating your pain to them. I’ve often wished I didn’t have feelings, I’m sure life is easier if you can’t be hurt, but I guess God gave me feelings for a reason.

There is also a lot of reinforcement to help you avoid being taken in by the same person repeatedly and about appreciating the things you do have in your life that are good. That’s not very satisfying when you’re freshly betrayed and experiencing high emotions, but in the long run I believe you will be happier if you take this advice. It might also make you feel better to read anecdotes about people who have been hurt even worse than you have been, as hard as that might to imagine when you’re upset.

This book could possibly help you out even you don’t read it. Just put it in a prominent place in your home. If it makes anyone nervous, maybe that’s a sign you need to have your guard up around this person.

Here are some of my older book reviews.

Book Review: “A Thousand Acres” by Jane Smiley

A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley
Most of the books I review are not exactly current. Why is that? One reason is that I like to go to used book sales to save money. The other reason is that it seems like most current fiction books that I’ve tried to read are not very satisfying. I don’t think about them after I read them and I could almost read them again without realizing I’ve read it before until I’m partly done. They often seem like they were written by committee and not edited by someone who understood how to make the point of the book comprehensible to the reader. Has anyone else noticed this? Did I just read the wrong books? So I’m quite happy to read older books because they are on average much better!

“A Thousand Acres” was published in 1991 and the story takes place in the late 1970s on a family farm in Iowa. The family in question is the most successful in the community so you think at first they must have it pretty good. The story starts off kind of light but there are hints to let you know it’s not going to stay that way. Even so I did not anticipate how dark the story eventually turned out. Once I caught on to that  it doesn’t quite get to the crescendo of horror I thought might be coming. What DOES happen is bad enough. In that way it reminds me of “Other Voices Other Rooms” by Truman Capote but is written in a more straightforward way without the surrealism.

It took me awhile to get to sleep after finishing “A Thousand Acres” because I was trying to think of what the point was of telling a story like this. The book was certainly absorbing and made me totally forget about my own life for a few hours – and I sure was glad to get back to it! I should probably give my Dad some extra hugs too! (You’ll understand why if you read this!)

I normally don’t read reviews before writing my own but in this case I read a couple to see if I was missing something big. I was – I don’t know Shakespeare well enough to recognize on my own that this is a modern retelling of King Lear. I already was kind of thinking that this book is for readers who are fans of good writing for it’s own sake, which I am. I enjoy it when writers indulge their own virtuosity. Knowing that it’s kind of a exercise of sorts makes me feel better about it – it seems like it does have a point other than just making you feel bad! If like me you are not familiar with King Lear this might be a better read if you DON’T know what might be coming up. The shock value is the best part of it – the idea of what might be going on behind all the pleasant and successful facades around you is not a pleasant one but it sure is interesting! I don’t want to give away too much about why it’s so disturbing but I will say it’s not a “horror” book – while there is death and cruelty there is not much blood and gore.

I did not feel good after reading “A Thousand Acres” and I’m not sure if I’m glad I read it so in what way is the writing good? Any book that can keep my attention that intensely for that many hours is good writing in my opinion.  I don’t know if I’ll ever read it again but I probably will keep it in the permanent library since it is good quality and I want whoever inherits my library to get a good one!

Here are some of my other older book reviews.

Book Review: “Into Thin Air” by Jon Krakauer

Book Review: "Into Thin Air" by Jon Krakauer
Book Review: “Into Thin Air” by Jon Krakauer

I haven’t written a book review in quite awhile so it says a lot about Jon Krakauer’s writing that I’m moved to write one now. “Into Thin Air” is his personal account of the 1996 Mt. Everest disaster which is a pretty well-known story. There are two movies about it and several books. I’m interested in outdoor activities so I’ve read a few articles about the incident before reading this book. The articles in no way made me develop an interest in trying high-altitude climbing for myself and this book reinforced my opinion many times over! Just driving my Jeep up the Pike’s Peak Highway in the 90s scared the heck out of me and gave me such a bad migraine I had to take to my bed the rest of the day! I’m very grateful I live at 479 feet above sea level!

I wanted to read this book because I was curious about what it’s like to attempt such a climb and this book gave me a pretty good idea – it’s horrible! Just to get to base camp apparently involves more physical torment than I would ever dream of putting myself through. The kind of person who is willing to try this is a very different breed. I admire such people in a way though I frankly will admit I think they are crazy! Extreme forms of human behavior are interesting to read about.

If you get to the summit you’ve really achieved a major feat of endurance, but it doesn’t sound like any fun at all. To get back down safely is even harder. Many people make the ultimate sacrifice of their lives to try or while earning a living helping others try. There is a lot of money spent, a lot of environmental damage, a lot of cultural changes in the local area and a lot of injuries and mental suffering for some of the survivors in the attempts. Whether or not it’s worth it is a question you will ask yourself if you read the book.

The people in the expedition endured a lot of suffering by their own choice. A lot of people in this world endure suffering without any choice in the matter, so I don’t think this book is exactly inspiring. It is compelling and I won’t soon forget it – one for the permanent library. There are a lot more questions in it than answers and I like that in a book. It will make you appreciate your nice warm bed which is where I read it!

Here are some of my other older book reviews.