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Paranoia Switch Hardcover – Sep 13 2007


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Fsg Adult (Sept. 13 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374229996
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374229993
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 16.1 x 2.2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 454 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #445,601 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

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.

Review

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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Harrison Koehli TOP 500 REVIEWER on Oct. 29 2007
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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By ZSky on Nov. 4 2007
Format: Hardcover
A month ago, I have obtained this new book by Martha Stout, Ph.D, while browsing a local bookstore and this book has just been released this month. It was an interesting timing because this book has addressed how the traumatized event of 9/11 affected the American minds and how these minds were 'locked' on fear. By using her psychological and neuro-psychological research on fear and terror, Martha Stout wrote a very insightful book. Her work brings the reader to understand the nature of fear and terror, and how it was done to one's mind. There are nine chapters in this book, but it is composed of four parts: a personal struggle with fear, the phenomenon of terrorism, protection against future fear, and a new hope. Throughout The Paranoia Switch, there is an understanding about how politician leaders used people's fear by looking what are terrorism, limbic wars, and fear brokers.

We often hear this word, "terrorism," daily in our lives. We hear it on the radio, watch it on the news, read it in the newspapers, and we would feel the fear when this word is mentioned everywhere we go. In her book, Stout defined terrorism as "violence committed with the primary goal of manipulating the minds of the surviving population" (p. 27). So, why has terrorism becomes massive on global scale? It is because our fears are what fuels terrorism and our leaders are using our fears for their own selfish reasons. It is important for one to know, from reading this book, that terrorism does not always work unless it affects our minds.

Stout pointed out that the United States was a 'habituated' country until that morning of September 11, 2001. It was not 'used' to being exposed to acts of terrorism as other countries have had done, and it has experienced a profound shock.
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Format: Hardcover
This book was received in excellent condition and was delivered to my door in the Post Office time expected. The book itself was in perfect condition and as always I was well pleased with the service, selection and price offered by Amazon as well as the store who provided the same excellent service. I had selected the book for study purposes and had read a book review before making my choice. Thank you. Sincerely, Irene Broughton
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 20 reviews
38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
Limbic Warfare and the Rise of American Fascism Oct. 29 2007
By Harrison Koehli - Published on Amazon.com
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.
29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
Another Wonderful Gift from the Author of THE SOCIOPATH NEXT DOOR Oct. 5 2007
By D.H. - Published on Amazon.com
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.
Then most important of all, the book gives a list of ten characteristics of politicians and leaders who are "fear brokers" so that we can learn to recognize them when we see them on our televisions or elsewhere. Did you know for example that fear politicians have a different way of using pronouns from the way "moral leaders" use pronouns? There are many, many other danger signs discussed in the book that you can actually learn to recognize.
I can imagine the difficult corner the author was in when she wrote THE SOCIOPATH NEXT DOOR, which is also a wonderful book. In that book she talks about how sociopaths (people who have no conscience) can reach very high levels in the society and in government, but I'm sure it wasn't possible for her to name names. Now in THE PARANOIA SWITCH, it's a lot clearer what she meant even though she doesn't use the same word (sociopath).
If all you're interested in is a book that talks about your personal life, your circle of friends, or help deciding if your boyfriend/girlfriend is nuts, then you're not someone who can fully appreciate THE PARANOIA SWITCH. If you want to read something new age about sending positive energy to the White House, then maybe get a different book. But if you want to read about bigger issues and REAL issues such as the real brain and the real condition of our government, please read THE PARANOIA SWITCH. To go along with the five stars, I'd like to give it a large banner that says IMPORTANT. MUST READ.
The author talks about courage in this book and tells good people how they can get their courage back. In my opinion, it took a lot of courage to write this book in the first place about the so-called leaders who are using our fear after 9/11 to try to control us. She takes the masks off some powerful people who definitely don't like to have their masks taken off. But it's only when we can see something clearly that we stand a chance of dealing with it. Many thanks to Dr. Stout.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Save your Mind...Read this book Nov. 9 2007
By Laurie - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is a gift. The insight it brings cannot come at a better time. The truths spelled out so clearly in Martha Stout's most recent book need to be understood by us all, before it is too late.

The 'Paranoia Switch...' gives an understanding of the manipulations of our 'fear broker' politicians. How they perpetuate the fear of an imagined enemy to persuade us to follow their private agendas, while convincing us that it is for our own good, for our protection and to keep us safe from the enemy 'out there'.

She spells out how we can 'say NO to FEAR', say no to psychological manipulation and protect our God given ability for critical thought from the fearmongers of our government and the terrorists who exploit fear to the detriment of our well-being.

A guide book in how we can reclaim our courage.
18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Free your mind, and the rest will follow... Oct. 8 2007
By Gene Taft - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Building on two critically acclaimed books--The Sociopath Next Door, and The Myth of Sanity--THE PARANOIA SWITCH is Dr. Stout's latest groundbreaking look at the mental and emotional factors that drive people to do and feel the things they do.

Through her books, Dr. Stout provides fascinating insight into popular psychology, but it is important to remember that her theories are based on a stellar professional resume including over twenty-five years of teaching at Harvard Medical School and practicing clinical psychology.

The sixth anniversary of 9/11 has come and gone, but the memory of that horrible day lingers on in our brains. But does the memory linger on simply because of the severity of the mental trauma or because our leaders want us to remember it so they can more easily manipulate us?

According to THE PARANOIA SWITCH, the answer is a little of both.

The after effects of 9/11 are ingrained into our brains, and in fact, that trauma has changed our brains and semipermanently flipped on our own personal paranoia switches. But perhaps worst of all, the horror of that tragic day has been and will continue to be used by political fear brokers to control us and to bend us to their will.

Fight back! Free yourself!! Read THE PARANOIA SWITCH!!!
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Enlightening and Informative, Practical Tools for Self-Improvement June 20 2008
By B. Kopenhaver - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This latest tome from one of my favorite writers gives some incredible insight on the topic of fear. Namely, how it is generated, transmitted, and how it can impact your behavior without you knowing. Dr Stout has over thirty years of practice working with survivors of trauma, and treating them, helping them along the road to recovery. She's pretty much seen it all; children, adults, memory loss, missing time, child abuse, incest, multiple-personalities, and her experience shows in her writing.

The Paranoia Switch deals exclusively with the politics of fear, and how fear-brokers use our own limbic systems against us. The limbic system is a part of the brain that deals with reading and transmitting human emotions. It allows us to comprehend, in a matter of microseconds, the feelings of another human being through body language, expressions, tone of voice and other subtle yet present markers. Stout writes:

Our limbic systems receive and transmit emotional information in wordless neurological "conversations," and within these exchanges, work hard to bring different brains together into similar emotional states.

The neurological process that enables us to sense the emotions of other people is called limbic resonance

It gives us our fundamental ability to empathize, sympathize, and thus share in one another's emotional experience. This is not without it's downside however, without careful self-observation we can easily succumb to powerful emotions of others, such as fear, anger, and hate and allow those emotions to dominate our psyche even though they are coming from an outside source.

This is a powerful phenomenon in mother-child relationships, and very important for parents to be aware of since they can unknowingly transmit negative emotions, such as anxiety, to their children. Stout gives a very good example of this exact phenomenon.

She continues, demonstrating how this phenomenon can effect entire societies, and has effected ours in the recent past. Using Pearl Harbor and the Cold War, as well as 9-11 as examples, she gives point by point analysis of how each event traumatized us as a nation, and thus triggered an internal 'paranoia switch' which temporarily disables rational, critical thought and instead engages our more primitive survival instincts.

For example - how many of you knew Cat Stevens was deported from the United States on Sept 22nd, 2004? I missed it at the time. But was shocked when I discovered his chosen name, Yusuf Islam was listed on a government watch list. They diverted the plane, removed Yusuf, and put him on another back to London on the grounds of 'national security'. Yeah, you read that right: Cat Stevens was deported because he was a threat to national security.

She goes into a brilliant discussion of how our memories are formed, how they are given emotional context, and how we can understand future/present events given our stored history. She also explains how, during trauma, this system short-circuits due to an overload of emotional input and the event doesn't get properly stored. This allows future events that merely resemble the original trauma to suddenly bring back the intense emotional experience that overloaded the brain in the past. A common example she employs is the Vietnam Vet ducking for cover if he hears a firecracker or car backfiring.

She shows us our this 'paranoia switch' can be blamed for the internment of around 120,000 Japanese-Americans during WWII. McCarthyism is also a phenomenon directly related to our fear of 'commies in our midst', and even though McCarthy himself was exposed as an alcoholic with obvious issues with his sexuality, much damage was wrought from 1950-54 by people who actually believed the nonsense he spouted. People lost their jobs, their reputations, and their dignity because society at large was afraid of commies under the bed and willing to listen to a strong authority in order to protect themselves. Amazing how triggering survival instincts can cause a group of otherwise rational people to listen to a power-craving nut-job.

A Limbic War occurs when a group is traumatized and then individuals seek to use that trauma to push their own agendas. Stout lists the Six Stages of a Limbic War as guidelines for us to keep in mind. They're very enlightening so I'll include them here in brief.

1.)Group Trauma - A limbic war occurs after some form of national catastrophe. Most typically, this event is a war, or a single attack that is abrupt and brutal enough to generate nationwide fear. The disaster can conceivably be a natural one, but natural disasters are less apt to be starting points, since paranoia is less often induced by "acts of God" than by traumatic events brought on by our fellow human beings. Because traumatic memories remain in the brain as incoherent bits of image and sensation that together constitute a neurological trigger - a paranoia switch - the nation that has been traumatized is dangerously reactive to reminders or suggestions of ongoing threat, whether these cues by real, imagined, or contrived.

2.)Fear Brokers - One person or a handful of people use the public's fear to pursue a private agenda. These fear brokers are variously motivated. ...by far the most common motivators are ambition and a desire for power. Usually, regardless of their political affiliation or initial place in society, such individuals can be described as authoritarian, in the straightforward dictionary meaning of that word: "favoring blind submission to authority," or "favoring a concentration of power in a leader or an elite not constitutionally responsible to the people." Authoritarian fear brokers remind us, frequently and dramatically, of how much danger we are in, whether or not the remaining threat is significant or real.

3.) Scapegoatism - The fear-promoting leader can further heighten the population's anxiety and paranoia by contending that another group or race or people is to be blamed for the crisis.

4.) Cultural Regression - When there is a definite idea of whom to blame, the primitive lust for revenge can crystallize around it. And the idea of a self-righteous vendetta, once it is even whispered of, is a difficult thought for human beings to put away. With all the energy that great fear can generate, the designated out-group is persecuted, or interned, or attacked, and for a time, there is the gratifying sentiment that vengeance is being served.

Typically, encouraging an us-versus-them atmosphere impels a tidal wave of patriotism across the traumatized nation. The new fear-inspired emphasis on national fealty enables the authoritarian leader to divide the population psychologically into two groups: the patriots, who support his authority and his agenda, and the nonpatriots - the traitors, the conspiracy members, the subversives, the cowards - who do not.

Civil Rights are threatened. Humanitarian endeavors atrophy. The arts and literature lose their funding - and their daring. Protected now, intolerance comes out of its hiding places. The limbic war, the emotional manipulation of the people by their own leaders, is in full throttle.

5.) Recognition and Backlash - Of the McCarthy era, the playwright and accused subversive Arthur Miller has reflected, "Few of us can easily surrender our belief that society must somehow make sense. The thought that the state has lost its mind and is punishing so many innocent people is intolerable. And so the evidence has to be internally denied."

Fortunately, the evidence is not denied forever. Limbic wars come to an end, and their instigators are eventually deposed. In this stage, protests begin, small and uneasy at the beginning, growing larger and bolder as time goes on.

6.) Regret and Forgetting - As the original trauma-engendered fear begins to ease, often years later one, we have difficulty recalling why we allowed ourselves to be so easily co-opted into an authoritarian agenda. Many of us are left in a state of dissonance and guilt, and this uncomfortable condition promotes forgetting, a return to the internal denial noted by Arthur Miller. Thus, an experience that might have inoculated us against future problems is effectively lost to us, instead.

Her summary above is excellent and can be seen in virtually every trauma we as a society as suffered. Most appropriately, it can be used to describe the current national scene with the Neo-cons at the helm after the tragedy that was 9-11.

Stout continues, and demonstrates how a nation traumatized is similar to a battered-wife. She feels she needs protection (from the original trauma, perhaps child abuse) and so she seeks our a powerful defender (her husband/boyfriend) who will shield her from the evil world. The irony is that she only seeks out a new tormentor and he uses her paranoia switch, installed in childhood, to control her. Eventually, with help, these women can learn to protect themselves, and leave their abusers - however that is not always the case. Stout cites many incidents where women are killed by their husbands or boyfriends, and encourages us to take the message seriously and apply it to the national level.

The book continues with several anecdotes which are highly useful, but I cannot reproduce them here for lack of space. Given that the reader has already indulged me by reading this far, I'd like to wrap up this review with the Ten Traits of Fear Brokers left to us by Stout, briefly:

1.) Fear brokers speak to us of fear, dangerous people, and frightening situations. When addressing the public, he will raise subjects other than fear. These are often flattering topics, intended to showcase the people's superior bravery and nobility (that is to say, superior to those other groups of people). He may even use humor. But somewhere within virtually every address, there will be several references to danger, and to just how frightened people must not forget to be.

2.) Fear brokers are not limited by the facts; they use alarming "unfacts". Where terrorism is concerned, out-and-out lying may not be required. It is easy enough to fan public fears by giving alarming renditions of terrorist events that might happen in the future, and by speaking in imaginative detail about terrorist events that would have happened had they not been thwarted. When such "unfacts" are delivered dramatically, there is seldom any prosocial motive involved, only the intent to capture an audience and amplify fear.

3.) Fear brokers tend to accuse those who disagree with them of being unpatriotic and/or naive.

4.) Fear brokers look good. ...a scaremonger cannot afford to have shifty eyes or scary teeth, or any other seriously repellent feature... a broker of fear must be attractive. This is because, other factors being equal, and attractive person is perceived as smarter, more honest, and more trustworthy than an unattractive person.

Because we love the familiar, a fear broker who is not a natural head-turner can make himself attractive by looking as much like the people in his constituency as possible.

5.) Fear brokers behave like archetypal parents. They can make us feel the attitudinal equivalent of being patted on the back by a kind authority who tells us that he knows what we have been through, and that he is proud of us for being brave. The scaremonger can act comfortably omnipotent ... and that we must always rely on him. He demands we trust him. If he is a sociopath or, if he is delusional, he may even imply that he is in direct communication with God, who approves of his ambitions and plans.

6.) Fear brokers shame us over sex. A fear politician wishes to be viewed as the moral and literal rule maker where sexuality in concerned. Unlike a good parent, he shames us, and then tries to use that shame to exert control.

Of course, issues pertaining in some way to sexuality - sexual preference, same-sex marriage, birth control, abortion, certain types of medical research - are often discussed politically. The fear politician uses them manipulatively, as a distraction tactic. Matters of sexual morality are inherently divisive and highly emotional, and tend to divert us completely from whatever we had been thinking or discussing before.

7.)In a seeming contradiction, fear brokers praise us for being moral and heroic. In various ways, she or he tells us over and again that we, and only we, can take on anything, succeed at anything, and endure anything, in the service of what we know to be right.

Flattery always involves an intent to manipulate. Straight-forward, moral leaders almost never use extreme flattery. Listen for what are essentially come-on lines, and know that a person with no hidden agenda would not be speaking them.

8.) Fear brokers project personal infallibility. When you are evaluating a fear politician, look for moments when that individual is asked the direct question Do you feel you made a mistake? Invariably, the fear politician's answer will be reducible to one word: No.

9.) Fear brokers are secretive, and certain that other people, too, are keeping dangerous secrets. In general, paranoia is all about secrecy, one's own secrecy and that suspected of other people. The leader who advances cultural paranoia - who, as history demonstrates, may be moderately to seriously paranoid himself - is typically driven to collect information about other people, while at the same time withholding information about himself and his activities.

10.) Fear brokers use language that pulls for primitive affect. For centuries, the word evil, in all the various languages of the world, has been on the lips of fear brokers and also war makers. It is an overwhelmingly powerful tool. In addition to conjuring fear, the concept of good vs evil has the advantages of

reassuring the people that they are on the side of good;
creating a division between "us" and "them" that has no gray areas;
and casting as evil all doubters and dissenters.

Another concept with ancient links to fear is that of revenge. Whether or not the word itself is used, a typical fear broker will communicate the primitively appealing notion that the people should have revenge, and also that they will have revenge, provided they are loyal to him. He may induce still more primitive emotionality by introducing the notion of cowardice. Via a series of nonrational twists, the enemies are cowards, and therefore being cowardly is not just shameful - being cowardly means a person is one of the enemies.

To conclude, Stout gives us several useful facts. Most importantly, is that the odds of us being harmed by terrorists are virtually nill. Much less then our odds of getting cancer, heart disease, or dieing in a car accident. Comparatively it seems almost silly to worry about terrorism, and in point of fact, doing so lets the terrorists accomplish their goal.

She also gives us a few short, poignant clues as to how we can recover our lost sense of safety. One of these includes writing out our 'worst case scenario' in as much detail as we can. Then, we symbolically tear it up and toss it in the garbage, or burn it, allowing us to discard those notions and reclaim our courage.

Overall her book is stunning. It allowed one, such as myself, to understand in scientific terms, why and how our nation has become the caricature it is today. How a noble, and idealistic race of people became paralyzed and twisted by their own biology, and thus it helped alleviate much of my frustration and anti-American angst. It's also a tome of healing, and can help pretty much anyone, who's on the question for knowledge, gain insight and understanding about our world, and why it is the way it is.


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