Last Week’s Links

Recent articles on psychology, memoir, and writing

How ‘Mad Men’ Taught Us about Trauma, Shame & Healing

Hilary Jacobs Hendel offers an interesting interpretation of AMC’s hit series Mad Men. She looks at Don Draper as a man injured by traumatic shame:

When someone hurts us, we first react with anger and sadness. When those feelings are not responded to, we withdraw in self-defense. The vulnerable self hides deep inside the mind, much like a turtle retreats into its shell. The sustained and visceral experience of disconnection from other people and from one’s own wants and needs defines traumatic shame.

Believing we are defective, unworthy of love and happiness are signs of shame. Shame causes us to isolate and withdraw from connection with others. Shame causes physical experiences that make us feel we are disappearing, disintegrating or sinking into a black hole with no bottom.

In the final few episodes, Hendel argues, Don embarks on a transcontinental road trip symbolic of the journey of the wounded self seeking healing. She interprets the show’s final scene, Don concocting the Coca-Cola commercial while meditating near the beach, this way: “Landing the Coke account and creating history’s greatest ad campaign, Don’s future looked bright.”

Mad Men showed us the conditions under which trauma and shame are born and what is needed for healing. Don, like all of us, needed to feel safe and accepted by at least one other person in order to heal.

William Boyd: ‘I can only manage three hours’ writing before fatigue sets in’

Every writer who struggles to produce work will be grateful to hear this from novelist William Boyd:

Now, writing my 15th novel, I can only manage three hours or so before brain fatigue sets in. It’s just like a plug has been pulled out of a socket and I have stopped – as if a battery has died.

Read more about his writing process: why he writes a first draft in longhand, how long writing a novel takes him, how distractions affect him.

9 mental health memoirs that have helped me through my own mental illness

As always, you should accept this article for what it is: one woman’s account of her own experience. Her reading recommendations are interesting, but you should not take any book as a substitute for professional advice.

Renee Fabian writes:

Like millions of other women, I struggle with mental illness. To cope when I go through a rough patch, I often read memoirs written by other women about their mental health journeys. These books remind me I’m not alone when I don’t feel up to leaving the house. These books prevent me from giving up. Not to mention, these women are great writers.

I’ve read three of her nine titles (An Unquiet Mind, Lucky, and The Center Cannot Hold), and every one was very well written.

Health and well-being are more than just physical

Mental health factors like loneliness, and sensory factors like hearing loss, can matter more to someone’s well-being and risk of death than traditional measures like cancer and high blood pressure, a new study suggests.

Particularly in caring for older adults, doctors should consider more than just physical health, the researchers say.

Traditional measurement of health and well-being involves a medical model based on physical health and the absence of disease. This article reports on research that adapted the medical model to include medical, physical, psychological, functional, and sensory factors in what the researchers call a comprehensive model.

© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown