‘We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.’ Anaïs Nin
Review by Grady Harp
New York’s Chief Psychiatrist Lloyd I. Sederer, M.D., is Chief Medical Officer of the New York State Office of Mental Health (OMH), the nation’s largest state mental health system, an Adjunct Professor at the Columbia/Mailman School of Public Health, and has been Medical Director and Executive Vice President of McLean Hospital in Belmont, MA, a Harvard teaching hospital, and Director of the Division of Clinical Services for the American Psychiatric Association. His contributions to his field and to the community at large have been rewarded by the American Psychiatric Association (Psychiatric Administrator of the Year), Scholar-in-Residence grant by the Rockefeller Foundation and an Exemplary Psychiatrist award from the National Alliance on Mental Illness. He has published books for both professional and lay audiences in addition to many articles in medical journals and non-medical publications like TheAtlantic.com, The New York Times, The International Herald Tribune, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Commonweal Magazine, and Psychology Today. He is Medical Editor for Mental Health for the Huffington Post and Contributing Writer to US News & World Report.
The title of this sensitive, thoughtful and wise little book – FOUR SECRETS IN PLAIN SIGHT – is defined on the Contents page – 1) Behavior serves a purpose, 2) The power of attachment, 3) As a rule, less is more, and 4) Chronic stress is the enemy – and as Dr. Sederer comfortably explains, ‘each one, unveiled and freed from constraints of the ineffective habits and behaviors, can change lives. Together, when revealed and acted upon, they can change the world.’
There are many ways to read this book – to better understand signs and manifestations of mental illness in our families, among friend and associates, in the public at large, and in reflecting on our own adaptation to the world and situations. But it is also a brilliantly clear guide to understanding global behavior, which at this particular time in our social history seems inexplicable. How to we explain senseless killings, bullying to the point of excluding sectors of society from the joy of quiet living, the growing disparity or polarization between the extremely wealthy and the dissolution of the middle class which is approaching the other extreme, the increased growth of the internet control of all aspects of our lives and the hackers and drones that accompany that expanding threat? By reading and absorbing Dr. Sederer’s book we come to a new level of understanding of how our own behavior and responses and these in tandem with the other secrets can help not only our personal experience but also effect the direction of global society. It is brilliant timing to release this book in the quaking anxiety of the new effect the new leaders of government will take us. Follow the four secrets…and breathe.
The concluding comments are poignant: ‘Failing to understand that a behavior is serving a purpose seems a habit worth changing because it has the power to distance us from those we serve and care about. Not appreciating that a human touch, a connection made, and attachment fostered, which are the greatest anodynes against isolation and despair, seems a sad habit that derives us all – caregivers and recipients alike.’ And that is only a small excerpt from a book that should be in the hands of us all.
TITLE: Improving Mental Health: Four Secrets in Plain Sight
AUTHOR: Lloyd I. Sederer, MD
PUBLISHER: American Psychiatric Association Publishing
ISBN 13: 978-1615370825