Verdict: Despite the technical language, THE NEUROTIC’S GUIDE TO AVOIDING ENLIGHTENMENT presents a creative method for self-improvement as well as a deeper understanding of our phobias.
Judging this book by its title, a reader would assume it to be a lighthearted send up of pop psychology. This could not be farther from the truth. This is a densely written work on the psychological interaction between reality and perception, specifically the left-brain interpretation of our environment.
THE NEUROTIC’S GUIDE TO AVOIDING ENLIGHTENMENT begins with the perception of patterns by the left-brain. Evolutionarily, this was a necessity because the rapid interpretation of patterns was necessary for survival. With the development of the frontal lobe of the brain, the left-brain also sought to weave these interpretations into a “story” in order to understand the patterns better. This however alters our sense of reality to a subjective understanding of our surroundings. The left-brain’s continuous interpretation of its surroundings creates what Dr. Niebauer refers to as the “law of opposition”. If a test subject is told not to think of something, like the number 3, their left-brain prevents them from doing so. In a series of exercises in the book, this is illustrated quite well despite its counter intuitiveness.
While this interplay of left-brain interpretation and storytelling seems to be a problem, Dr. Niebauer looks at the biological phenomenon of “fight or flight” in animals. It is the “pattern interpreter” that senses a pattern, a growl or the sight of a predator, and then either causes an animal to flee their surroundings or fight for survival. Interestingly, with humans who no longer live (for the most part) in fear of predators, this same biological response may lead to neurosis if left unchecked. “Flight” may become apprehensiveness or phobia while “fight” can become violence.
THE NEUROTIC’S GUIDE TO AVOIDING ENLIGHTENMENT builds from its original premises to a larger understanding of ourselves, our egos and even reality itself. At times, the prose is quite dense as in: “The ego is no different than any other whimsical, fleeting verb pretending to be a solid noun resounding in its thing-ness but it is just a creative image in the interpretive mind.”
The central premise to THE NEUROTIC’S GUIDE TO AVOIDING ENLIGHTENMENT is that no matter how hard we try to improve ourselves we will not be able to do so, despite what the self-improvement books tell us. Essentially, one needs to stop trying to improve, relax and try to live in the moment without the left-brain trying to make sense out of our surroundings.
Despite the technical language, THE NEUROTIC’S GUIDE TO AVOIDING ENLIGHTENMENT presents a creative method for self-improvement as well as a deeper understanding of our phobias.
Reviewed by Ed Bennett for IndieReader.