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By: Fredric Schiffer, MD Reviewed by T. O. Paul Harper, PhD
Some may think it odd to find a book review about a book that does not mention eating disorders in a newsletter dealing with recovery from eating disorders. But in light of the recent attention focused on the impact of the “negative mind” on eating disorders, in of Peggy-Claude-Pierre’s book, The Secret Language of Eating Disorders , there is a need to have plausible explanations of the negative mind. One of the best explanations of the negative mind can be found in Dr. Fredric Schiffer’s book, Of Two Minds: The Revolutionary Science of Dual-Brain Psychology . Dr. Schiffer is a psychiatrist on the faculty of the Harvard Medical School and is Associate Attending Psychiatrist at McLean Hospital. He has been practicing for over twenty years.
Dr. Schiffer proposes a dual-brain model of the information processing of the human mind. He suggests that, “We have two minds, one associated with each hemisphere.” A second basic postulate proposed by Dr. Schiffer is that, “often the two minds are different.”
In one constellation, one mind is more mature, reasonable and living in the present. The second mind, immature in its cognitive and emotional aspects, is stuck back in an old trauma. It sees the world as it was at the time of the trauma, and like a child, it is dogmatic and overly emotional. It knows, no matter what one tells it to the contrary, that the painful situation it experiences will repeat themselves.
Two minds can cooperate with each other in a deep, synergistic relationship that fosters creativity and maturity, or they can sabotage each other, leading to a plethora of psychological and psychosomatic problems. I am suggesting that the roles and activities of the hemispheres are dynamic and changeable. Sometimes the subordinate hemisphere influences a person in the background, and sometimes it comes out and takes over the personality, as when we suddenly lose our temper and then later say, “I don’t know what came over me.” When a patient recovers quickly from an acute depression or psychosis, it may be because his more mature side has regained control.
Dr. Schiffer believes that resolution of psychological illness is “largely due to the maturation and healthy development of the more troubled hemisphere.” He shares excellent case studies on how he facilities maturation and healthy development of the troubled hemispheres of some of his patients. His results are encouraging and enlightening.
In conclusion, many have speculated about the nature of the negative mind. Dr. Schiffer has developed a plausible explanation of it, verified in years of clinical experience. In addition, he has developed a therapeutic process that reduces the impact of the negative mind on individuals and illuminates a path for reducing the impact of the negative mind on one’s life. The information is a valuable resource in helping patients understand what the negative mind is and in giving them hope in their ability to control the impact of their negative minds on their lives.