Mike Kueber's Blog

May 20, 2012

Sunday Book Review #76 – Better than Normal

Filed under: Uncategorized — Mike Kueber @ 2:49 am
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Psychiatrist Dr. Dale Archer is on a mission to convince Americans that there is nothing wrong with having personality traits that, in their severe form, might be diagnosed as a mental disorder requiring treatment.  In fact, these traits might serve you well in living a fulfilling life.  That explains why Archer’s book, Better Than Normal, is subtitled, “How What Makes You Different Can Make You Exceptional.”   

Better Than Normal is essentially a very simple book.  In each of eight chapters, Archer takes a famous mental disorder and describes how individuals with personality traits commonly associated with the disorder, but without a full-blown affliction, can actually use those traits to achieve and accomplish.

For example, the first mental disorder described is Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity.  The so-called ascendant strengths associated with this disorder are energy, playfulness, adventurous, need for high levels of stimulation, and divergent thinking.

In addition to listing ascendant strengths, most chapters also discuss (a) careers that would benefit from those strengths, (b) the effect of those traits on a personal life, and (c) the evolutionary imperative (Garner’s best guess as to why the oft-genetic disorders were not weeded out by evolution).    

In addition to ADHD, the other seven mental disorders discussed are OCD (obsessive/compulsive), social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, histrionic, narcissistic, bipolar, and schizophrenia. 

I think Dr. Archer is on a noble mission.  Strong personality traits should not be routinely muzzled as long as those traits do not trample on the rights of others.  Instead, these traits should be encouraged to flourish in beneficial ways. 

There’s an old saying about being comfortable in your own skin, and I think Dr. Archer is working in that direction.

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