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on 10 June 2012
Hope! That's what this book is - it's hope in a world where people are so often told they're incurable, insufferable and just plain crazy.

One must begin by asking oneself why, on a planet with so many PHYSICAL illness, one only hears the word "incurable" as a last resort and why conversely, in issues of MENTAL health, the word "incurable" is tossed around like salt and pepper. In itself, THAT assumption is surely "crazy?" Johnson turns that on its head in this fantastic volume. Very few have managed to capture the key - the essence - of human psychology, but Johnson has not only picked it up, he's put it in his pocket and is going around freeing metaphorical prisoners all over the place.

This book is based in truth, trust and consent as well as a great deal of hands on experience with some of the most "disturbed" individuals in the world. If Johnson can enable an individual labeled incurable, insane and psychopathic to feel remorse, sadness and a myriad of other emotions that the regular psychiatric profession feels it is not possible to experience with this type of personality "disorder," then why are we hiding behind the curtain of principles that don't have to apply? Sure, it might be a little bit like questioning the laws of physics - or at least, that is what certain members of the psychiatric community have said - but if the laws are wrong and we are not questioning them or making progress, we must surely be as far down the rabbit hole as the patients we are pretending to treat.

An absolute must-read for anyone who regularly comes into contact with other human beings of any kind, anywhere. Basically unless you're living under a rock and plan to remain there for the rest of your life, pick this book up and let the contents astound, uplift and enlighten you. Because they will.
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on 22 September 2010
As a qualified therapist and a recovering child, I have spent many years studying and working with mental and emotional wellbeing. This book is evidence of the power of talk and insight and as Dr. Bob says, what works in a prison with 'dangerous' offenders, will work for anyone. I love this book, made me laugh, cry and wake up some more.
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on 25 January 2012
I found this book very useful. I have written notes throughout as there is much that I want to go back to.

As with all the best books that are sharing a lifetime's learning, the basic messages are simple. For me the main message is:


I have written this inside the front cover of my copy as it is what Dr Johnson has proved beyond doubt throughout his career. I can see how this can be applied to any and every individual, any group and to the whole of society/our world.

Some highlights for me include the first sentence of the foreword, "Emotions are the single most vital ingredient in all human affairs." - This is so true and yet most psychiatrists refuse to talk about anything emotional, which for patients is confusing to say the least.

Page 53 - I like the simple idea that illnesses often/usually become curable once the causes are known. It is the same for just about all physical illness and `mental illness'.

By half way through the link between `frozen terror' and addictive behaviour had become a lot clearer in my mind. It clearly explains how so many of us, when not addicted to drugs etc, become addicted to work. It is as if we are too frightened to stop and face our fears. As addictions go, they say that "work is better than whiskey" but sorting out what is causing our addictions has got to be better still.

Overall, the book left me with an increased strength in the belief that `mental illness' is an out of date expression as these troubles are all simply different degrees of emotional distress. I am responding to this by increasing the emphasis on emotions in the training I provide. The world is going to be a much better place for us all when more people are able to get help for difficult emotions before they start to be labelled as mentally ill.

It is well recognised that effectiveness in the real world depends on having a belief that we can make a difference. (This Stephen R Covey describes as the first habit of highly effective people. He says, "Be proactive".) Dr Johnson steers clear of simply stating that we have free will as that is always being disputed. Instead he presents a series of discussions to emphasise the diagnostic manual approach of ignoring the mind and treating the brain as simply a clockwork organ has never had any success in reducing the incidence of emotional distress. As a scientist I can understand the reasoning behind the strange idea of, `patients are incapable of decision making', but in the real world it is plain stupid. Patients invariably want to make decisions, and allowing patients to make decisions is a key factor in all recovery.

I found the first half of the book very powerful as there are many accounts from Dr Johnson's work in prisons. By describing extreme cases of emotional distressed linked with murder and life-sentences, the links between our own distress and our future emotions become clearer. It can leave no doubt that it is the events in our life we need to look to when considering how happy or sad we are and not anything that could possibly have been programmed before we were born.

There is a lot more in this book and I am sure I will be increasingly making use of the concepts I have read here.

Why would I mark this book as 4 out of 5? A tiny problem I had with the style was the number of words used that just were not in my vocabulary (about 30 in total). Yes, I was able to learn a few new words, by using a dictionary, but it did leave me wondering if the message could have been even clearer if a `less well educated' editor had been employed to kind of dumb the book down for the less academic reader. The other thing I did not like were brief mentions of thermodynamics towards the end of the book. I found these unnecessary and the misinterpretation of how thermodynamics works was disappointing, although I am guessing that non-scientists would not spot or would easily overlook this error

On the whole this is an exceptionally good book. A book everyone working in healthcare should make themselves familiar with.

Roger Smith
Mood and Recovery Researcher
Co-author of the Advance Statement Workbook: Easy to Use Step by Step Practical Guide, Create Your Own Advance Directives and Preferences
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on 28 September 2014
Bob's book has quite literally been a life saver for us.
I cannot begin to recommend it highly enough.

One of those books that every single person who can read should read.....

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on 7 April 2014
i agree withe frozen terror,but what if the terror is too much to bear and cannot be faced? is it also a little too cause and effect? suffering also seems to be part of the human condition,is it too simplistic?
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on 4 June 2014
Excellent book on coping with your past and letting go of pain so as to move on in love and hope....
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on 17 December 2015
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