Tag Archives: mental health

TDH: The Oxford English Dictionary


February 1st, 1884: The first fascicle of the OED published.

Many an eager speller has quit within days of trying to read the abridged version of the dictionary from cover to cover. Writing the very first unabridged edition took a bit more time and determination.The project was dreamed up by the London Philological Society in 1857 and expected it to take 10 years. It was actually finally completed in 1928, 70 years after the idea was conceived and 54 years after work began. It took a year of wrangling between the Society and the Oxford University Press just to get started. When completed, it included almost 2 million illustrative quotations drawn from the over 5 million suggested by literally thousands of volunteer readers. Most notable among these was Dr. W. C. Minor, a Union veteran who had been committed to London’s Broadmoor Asylum for the Criminally Insane after killing a working man during a schizophrenic episode. From his cells, where it was presumed that he would simply live out his years, he dedicated 21 years of his life. In one 2-year period he provided no fewer than 12,000 quotations. If the very existence of the Oxford English Dictionary is a testament to the tenacity of the human spirit in the face of the most daunting challenges. The work of Dr W.C.Minor is proof of the redeeming power of focused and selfless work.

Simon Winchester entertainingly tells the story of the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary in his The Meaning of Everything. His The Professor and the Madman focuses on the story of Dr. Minor and Prof James Murray the editor of the project.

By the way:
fascicle, n.
Etymology:  < Latin fasciculus diminutive of fascis: see fasces n.
2. A part, number, ‘livraison’ (of a work published by instalments); = fasciculus n. 2.
1647   J. Mayne Late Serm. False Prophets 19   In your next Fascicle, you say, that I maintaine that some things[etc.].
1858   T. Carlyle Hist. Friedrich II of Prussia II. x. ii. 606   Suhm translates; sends it to him..fascicle by fascicle, with commentaries.
1887   Homeop. World 1 Nov. 521   The Sixth Fascicle completes this beautiful work.


10 Prescriptions for overcoming trauma


Resilience: The Science of Mastering Life’s Greatest Challenges,
Steven M. Southwick, MD, and Dennis S. Charney, MD

Books about resilience often focus largely on positive thinking and self-confidence.  Resilience does require both but that approach does not appeal to everyone.  Resilience: The Science of Mastering Life’s Greatest Challenges provides an alternative.

The authors, Steven M. Southwick and Dennis S. Charney, are psychiatrists who are authorities in the field of post-traumatic stress disorder. Like Laurence Gonzales,
Southwick_Resiliencethey interviewed a number of people that have persevered after suffering extreme trauma: Army Special Forces members, former Vietnam prisoners-of-war, survivors of a land mine explosion and of attempted murder.

Through their interviews, Southwick and Charney uncovered ten common habits which we summarize below. Most interestingly, the authors distinguish their book by grounding their observations in physiology.  Each chapter is devoted to one way of recovering from stress and trauma and includes neurobiological evidence in support of that method. Relevant scientific research is duly cited but our readers need not shy away. Resilience remains a slim, readable book, with plenty of vignettes. It was a joy to read.

Evidence shows that most people experience some trauma but can train themselves to overcome life’s challenges and even thrive. Here are Southwick and Charney’s ten recommendations for building and sustaining resilience:

  1. Be optimistic
  2. Face your fears
  3. Trust your moral compass, ethics and altruistic dispositions
  4. Lean on your religious and spiritual convictions
  5. Give and receive social support
  6. Have good role models
  7. Build physical fitness
  8. Cultivate mental fitness
  9. Develop cognitive and emotional flexibility
  10. Find meaning, purpose and growth in your life.

Drs. Steven M. Southwick and Dennis S. Charney can be found at resilienceinus.com


12 tips from Surviving Survival


Laurence Gonzales - Surviving Survival

Laurence Gonzales’ Surviving Survival is in some ways a sequel his best-selling Deep Survival. As the title suggest, this book goes beyond the work of staying alive and persevering during especially challenging moments to examine how does one live with and manage the aftermath of trauma. Gonzales uses a series of often harrowing mini-biographies to delve into the role and potentialities of the brain and the mind.  This reader got the general sense that Gonzales believes in the innate hardiness of some individuals but he is at pains to draw out lessons for all of us. We have taken the liberty of distilling these 12 lessons even further:

  1. Take control. Devote yourself passionately to something connected to your ideal self.
  2. Be mindful. Get off autopilot and listen to your mind and body. Allow your unconscious brain resources such as blindsight to guide you via gut feelings.
  3. Be patient. Trust the process of recovery.
  4. Be tough. Look around at the suffering that is not happening to you. When it is your turn, own it.
  5. Find joy in the small things. Even under conditions of extreme suffering moments of relative lightness can be found
  6. Face your fears and put them in a rational context. Leverage rituals.
  7. Stay busy.
  8. Help others.
  9. Stay connected to your friends and community
  10. Be grateful. At the very least, you have survived and are still here. There is probably even more to be grateful for.
  11. Fake it until you feel it. Act as if you are better and you will feel and be better
  12. Lighten up. Even morbid humor helps.

Gonzales’ various subjects survived IEDs, murderous spouses and attacks from bears and sharks. We can build our own resilience in the face of life’s smaller insults by incorporating these lesson’s into our daily routine.