Better Than Normal: How What Makes You Different Can Make You Exceptional

Better Than Normal: How What Makes You Different Can Make You Exceptional

4.6 12
by Dale Archer
     
 

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A New York Times bestseller that offers a groundbreaking new view of human psychology, showing how eight key traits of human behavior—long perceived as liabilities—can be important hidden strengths

What if the inattentiveness that makes school or work a challenge holds the secret to your future as an entrepreneur? What if the shyness in groups

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Overview

A New York Times bestseller that offers a groundbreaking new view of human psychology, showing how eight key traits of human behavior—long perceived as liabilities—can be important hidden strengths

What if the inattentiveness that makes school or work a challenge holds the secret to your future as an entrepreneur? What if the shyness in groups that you hate is the source of deep compassion for others? What if the anxiety and nervousness you often feel can actually help energize you?
     Renowned psychiatrist and popular on-air personality Dr. Dale Archer believes that behaviors frequently labeled "ADHD," "bipolar," and "OCD" are often normal human qualities—and he contends that we all experience these and other psychological traits to some extent yet fail to leverage the significant advantages they can offer. Worse, we stigmatize one another for these aspects of our personalities.
     In Better Than Normal, Dr. Archer offers an empowering framework for redefining mental health. Drawing on his 20 years of clinical experience, he describes eight traits of human behavior, each of which occurs along a continuum rather than as a simple on-off switch. These are the aspects of our personality that we worry about the most, but these are also the very things that make us distinctive and different. Filled with engaging anecdotes and practical tools to help readers capitalize on their unique characteristics, Better Than Normal offers a new and liberating way to look at ourselves and others.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“A psychiatric pep talk guaranteed to rev up any reader.” – Booklist
 
“Archer’s creative redressing of these pathologically considered conditions is compelling and will definitely capture the attention of readers eager to “re-diagnose” themselves using his spectrum scale.” – Kirkus Reviews

“[An] extraordinary book.” -LibraryJournal.com

"With his fresh approach and some interesting ideas, Archer normalizes personality characteristics too often seen as pathological." -Publishers Weekly

Publishers Weekly
Concerned about the mental health trend of “Overevaluating. Overdiagnosing. And most important of all, overmedicating,” psychiatrist Archer identifies the dominant trait of each of eight disorders and says they exist on a spectrum in everyone, from absent to superdominant. He argues that if someone exhibits a trait associated with a disorder but the trait is not “superdominant” and is properly managed, it can be seen as a strength, not a mental disorder, and may make the person “better than normal.” For instance, someone may be adventurous, hence restless and easily bored, but they do not have ADHD. Similarly, someone may be a perfectionist and not have obsessive-compulsive disorder. Other disorders he covers include narcissistic personality disorder, histrionic personality, and schizophrenia. As the title suggests, this is an upbeat book. Archer tends to rely too heavily on the experiences of people he has treated or known, and on his own personality and experiences (“Last week I found myself in Los Angeles, celebrating the Oscars.... Next, it’s on to New York, where I’m... appearing on television to talk about Charlie Sheen.” With his fresh approach and some interesting ideas, Archer normalizes personality characteristics too often seen as pathological. But his book covers too much in an often cursory, anecdotal manner. (Mar.)
Kirkus Reviews
A psychiatrist and CNN regular examines commonly held notions of mental-health disorders and their potentials for "normalcy." Frustrated with today's "overdiagnosed, overmedicated, and undertreated society," Archer attempts to destigmatize eight common psychological ailments by quantifying the dominance level of their inherent traits. In uniquely defusing disorders ranging from ADHD and OCD to anxiety and schizophrenia, the author believes the mental-health industry has been somewhat "glamorized." Throughout his chatty, anecdotal book, Archer convincingly argues that we can actually function normally with mildly influential characteristics of narcissism, social anxiety and bipolar disorder. When these traits are within the lower (harmless) end of the continuum and don't become a "superdominant" mannerism, they can be seen as beneficial behavioral enhancements--e.g., high energy and enthusiasm doesn't always mean a bipolar personality; sensitivity and deliberation shouldn't equal social anxiety disorder. Archer's creative redressing of these pathologically considered conditions is compelling and will definitely capture the attention of readers eager to "re-diagnose" themselves using his spectrum scale. The author, who admits to being a hyper-intuitive "world-class poker player," does gamble a bit, however, with the free association of some of the more volatile psychological conditions in considering their lighter traits as derivatives of normalcy. Drawing heavily on his own experiences, Archer proudly advances his beliefs with episodes from his psychiatric practice, website queries and travels throughout the country. There are some fresh, modern and mildly amusing associations here; however, contrasting self-assessed symptoms of a disorder as significant as schizophrenia with the idiom of "magical thinking" will surely raise eyebrows. Optimistic and creatively inspired assessments that occasionally overreach.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307887481
Publisher:
Potter/TenSpeed/Harmony
Publication date:
03/12/2013
Pages:
256
Sales rank:
303,753
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.70(d)

Read an Excerpt

ONE the eight traits

And it ought to be remembered that there is nothing more diffi cult to take in

hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take
the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator
has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and
lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new.
— Niccolò Machiavelli
 
 
It’s time for the introduction of a new order of things in the world of mental health. As a psychiatrist, I feel called to look critically at the overdiagnosing and overmedicating of America. More important, I am driven to spread an empowering new message about mental disorder that places responsibility for identity and mental health back where it belongs— in your hands. 
   I am envisioning a real change in the way we all talk about what it means to be ourselves. I believe that by understanding the eight fundamental behavioral traits and by seeing them as part of a continuum, we can really make a positive change in the way we understand ourselves. By the time you finish this book, I hope you will be able to see that every one of us has all of these traits, to some degree, and can analyze where each of our traits falls on a one- to- ten continuum (more on this in a moment). You’ll be able to say:
 
“I’m an eight on the ADHD continuum.”
“I am a seven on the narcissism continuum.”
 “I am a seven on the bipolar continuum.”
“I am a two on the OCD continuum.”
 
   What’s more, you should be able to recognize exactly how your dominant traits have aided you in the past. “I would never have had the desire to do that ten- day solo sailing trip if I wasn’t an ADHD eight,” you might say, as I do. Or even better: “I have all the strengths I need to go on that trip I’ve always dreamed of. There’s nothing to stop me now.”
   Here’s a story for you. It’s about me, but it could easily be about you or lots of other people.        
   One day when I was in fifth grade, my homeroom teacher called in sick and we had a substitute teacher for the day, whom I’ll call Ms. J. When this young woman walked into the classroom, I was pretty sure I understood what she was all about. 
   I decided to see if I was right about her. To do so, I would perform a series of experiments. My first one involved spitballs. I’m not sure if kids still shoot spitballs, so let me give you a quick primer on this technique:
 
1. Tear off small bit of paper, ideally from homework assignment.
2. Wad up paper, place in mouth, and moisten with saliva (aka spit).
3. Remove paper from mouth and compress into hard little ball.
4. Insert ball into one end of straw, place mouth at other end.
5. Blow hard.
 
   I prepared the first spitball and waited until Ms. J was at the blackboard with her back turned. Ptooey! The spitball shot across the room and hit the neck of a kid in the first row. Ms. J faced us. If she noticed the disruption, she didn’t let on. Oh my, yes, I was quite right about her. I followed up on my experiment by sending several rubber bands zinging across the room before upping the ante to a whole new level: paper airplanes.
   That did it.
   My airplane missed its kid target and nailed Ms. J’s right kneecap. She gasped. She turned red. She looked on the brink of tears. She hastily departed the room and, a moment later, returned with the assistant principal, Mr. B. Without hesitation, he called me to the front of the room and glared at me. “D,” he said sternly. (D was my nickname in school.) I slumped a bit. “Yes?” Mr. B spoke in a low, controlled tone. “If you don’t behave, I will have to call your parents. I will tell your mother and father that you have been disrupting class and that someone will have to come get you and take you home.”
   Despite the way this story makes me sound, I was actually a pretty obedient kid. I told Mr. B that I would behave. I apologized to Ms. J. I went back to my desk. Mr. B departed. I leaned my chair up against the wall. Ms. J continued the lesson. I fell asleep.
    I feel a little bad when I tell this story. Ms. J was probably a shy woman whose personality type was not particularly well suited to substitute teaching fifth graders. So let me take this opportunity to apologize (again) for ruining her day. Sorry, Ms. J!
   My spitball story provides a textbook case of the condition called attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. Symptoms include inability to focus, acting out, and fidgeting. According to traditional ways of thinking about this disorder, when such symptoms become disruptive— as they did that day in Ms. J’s class— they are no longer considered normal personality traits. They become abnormal, signaling a mental disorder that needs to be treated, usually with a combination of therapy and medication, typically a psychostimulant such as Ritalin or Adderall.    
     What’s more, anyone who exhibits the symptoms— and goes in for treatment— is labeled mentally ill. They are categorized, stigmatized, and often scarred for life. Good thing for me that my escapade didn’t occur recently or I might have been taken to a doc and medicated on the spot!
   This is the traditional way of thinking about certain personality traits. My mission is to do whatever it takes to blow that thinking out of the water. And I’ll use every tool at my disposal to do so, including, if necessary, spitballs.

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What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
“A psychiatric pep talk guaranteed to rev up any reader.” – Booklist
 
“Archer’s creative redressing of these pathologically considered conditions is compelling and will definitely capture the attention of readers eager to “re-diagnose” themselves using his spectrum scale.” – Kirkus Reviews

“[An] extraordinary book.” -LibraryJournal.com

"With his fresh approach and some interesting ideas, Archer normalizes personality characteristics too often seen as pathological." -Publishers Weekly

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