Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Reading and Planking Month: Review

I've just spent the last month lying in forearm plank position, reading as often as possible in an attempt to a) strengthen abdominals and b) get some books read.

I'd already tried reading and planking with the shortest book in my to-read pile, as discussed here. I mentioned here that a month-long project should allow me to beat my planking record of 3:05.

So I got to it. First, I hammered through an advance copy of The Vagenda, sent to me by publishers Vintage. See here

Next, I worked through Dorling Kindersley's The Psychology Book, a historical analysis of the ground-breaking discoveries made in the field of psychology.

The book begins with psychology's Greek philosophical roots- Hippocrates, Galen, Aristotle et al- before leaping into the 1600s and 1700s, where practitioners in the emerging field of psychology quickly tread new ground. Each psychological idea is given a double-page spread, with a plain-English description of the psychologist's life, their key theory and experiments, their main findings and what influence they had on the future of the field they worked in.

I'm reading into psychology at the moment as it's a field I'd like a little more knowledge of. I've been a patient in child psychology, neuropsychology, social services, counselling and psychotherapy. I've always found it interesting to consider not just how this time in treatment can help me- with issues like short term memory difficulties- but what else I or others could also do with that knowledge. What stops people from learning to do things, what hinders them? What effects do childhood traumas have on adults? How can this field help individuals to overcome these issues? There are some answers in this book.

The Second World War spurred many psychologists to discover some of their most important findings. Boris Cyrulnik, born 1937, lost both his parents to Auschwitz. They had handed him to neighbours for his safety, but in turn they handed him over to the Nazis. He managed to escape whilst waiting for a transfer to a concentration camp, and went on to study medicine at the University of Paris. His key works about childhood resilience and not allowing our history to determine our future has benefited many children who have suffered trauma.

Many psychology experts emerged in Europe during the two World Wars. This left me with mixed perspectives. On the one hand, the experience of war meant people needed to develop their theories to help people to survive, but on the other many people may have gone on to make beneficial findings had they not been part of the millions killed during this period in Europe. The book left me wondering how much further ahead- or behind- the field of psychology would be had the Second World War been averted.

As well as informing me, this book confirmed something that I already knew: If you go to through your GP to the psychology department for advice with a problem, it's hit-and-miss as to whether you'll get the support you need. The NHS is a mixed bag. You can go to one person performing one job one week and they will give you no help at all. Then the next week you can get an appointment with another practitioner doing the same job and they can help you greatly. The psychology field is still developing, still consolidating its knowledge. There isn't always a right or wrong answer for certain situations in life but I found a few answers reading The Psychology Book. And if they're listed in a book for an armchair enthusiast- a book such as this- then surely professionals should at least be aware of some of these ideas. Through my experience, I've found they aren't always aware.

But, of course, to back up what I'm saying I'd need to give you a solid example from the book. And I can't find that example, because I can't remember anything about it.

Anyway. It's a fascinating book putting complex theories into straightforward English, with simple flow charts, diagrams, timelines and explanations. It's a great introduction into the field. I found it in The Works for a fiver. Boom!

As mentioned, I read this book as part of a month-long reading-and-planking project. My personal best was 3:05. I started testing my time, getting 2:09 on the first attempt within the month. By the deadline, my record was 4:02. I could read through 2 double page spreads in one plank. I had maybe another 10 or 20 pages to get through. So close!

I'll be attempting more reading and planking over the next few weeks.

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