Why We Fool Ourselves We Aren\’t Being Fooled
by Jennifer Freyd and Pamela Birrell
I saw this book sitting on a table at my friend\’s house, and when for a moment I picked it up idly and started reading a segment, she offered to loan it to me. So I read it out of curiosity. In short spurts, over the past few weeks.
It\’s about the psychological phenomenon where a person can be so invested in keeping their situation safe, that they literally turn a blind eye to things that are wrong in a relationship. Why do people stay in bad relationships, why remain on at a workplace where something very wrong is going on behind the scenes? It\’s usually because subconsciously they know that admitting or recognizing the real issues will threaten their security. The most common example here is a person who does not realize their spouse is being unfaithful, even when there are obvious signs and everyone around them knows. This was the most frequent type of instance mentioned in the book. The other common one was of childhood abuse- children blank out or forget what was done to them, sometimes only remembering years later. Because to know that a person their very lives depended upon was harming them, is too risky. There are also other cases given- in the workplace, the military, governments and institutions. Denials of rights, or compensation, or support, or even just recognition. The biggest one, but it was only mentioned a few times, loomed large in my mind (probably because of a recent book I read): the Holocaust.
It\’s not only about how denial of trauma can occur in people\’s minds; the book is also about how these things can finally be recognized, how the person who suffered wrong can heal from it, how to be a good listener if someone is revealing past trauma to you, and how future wrongs can be prevented. The most interesting chapter to me was the one about mental and physical health issues caused by the betrayals. When someone you trust hurts you so fundamentally, especially as a child- it damages your ability to develop healthy relationships in the future. There were instances where the authors actually conducted studies with trauma survivors to see how their mental and emotional abilities were compared to other people. It was very interesting.
But overall also an upsetting book to read, even though the details were kept minimal, and (except with some famous cases), the reports were all made anonymous. Quite a few of them are repeated through the book, as various aspects of the subject are discussed. The most telling was in the final chapters, where one of the authors tells about her own experiences with a serious betrayal of trust. That section of the book felt like the largest revelation. The rest of it, many of the examples felt too simplistic- probably to keep identities private- but I frequently wondered what else there was to know.
Rating: 2/5 201 pages, 2013