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Frank G. Sommers, M.D. with Tana Dineen, Ph,D. Methuen. 176 pages. $9.95. Reviewed by Anne Hume
Can you get a clear, mental picture of an apple? Can you experience it completely, visualize it, touch it, taste it, smell it? If you can, then you are making use of right-brain thinking.
It is the thesis of Frank Sommers’ and Tana Dineen’s book, Curing Nuclear Madness that the world is suffering from the global mental illness of nuclear madness, brought on by too much reliance on left-brain thinking. It is their contention that we ‘live’ largely in the left hemisphere of the brain, the part of our mind which deals in words and symbols and processes information “logically” and analytically. The left brain is rational and has no feeling. It is also described as dominant, conscious and masculine. As Sommers says:
“…people operating without their right brains are described as being computer-like in all they think and do. Such people are talkative, giving extensive and detailed answers to questions; however, their voices are dull and monotonous and they neither show nor recognize playfulness or enthusiasm. They remain acceptably cheerful and optimistic, expressing no anger or fear. even when the reality of the situation they are in is terrible. Does that not remind you of many of our current political figures?” contrast, the right brain relics on images and feelings, processes information many bits at a time, is good at synthesis and creativity, operates from the emotions. According to Sommers and Dineen, our human ingenuity has brought us to the terrible predicament we arc in, and it requires the forces of this same will to undo the damage. It is thus the contention of Sommers and Dineen that we must find the emotional and mental resources to reverse the arms race.
The two of them (Sommers is founding president of Canadian Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR), and Dineen a founding member of Canadian Psychologists for Social Responsibility) come well recommended to helping us deal with this challenge. Like their well-known colleague, Dr. Helen Caldicott, they endorse the Charter of PSR which reads in part: “Nuclear war is the Number One health problem facing all mankind… a problem for which the only cure is prevention.”
Curing Nuclear Madness takes us beyond the grim analyses of many of the anti-nuclear books. With Jonathan Schell and others have done the work of documenting the problem, Sommers and Dineen focus on a prescription to treat ‘the malady — a method to help us engage our whole selves, to become integrated and thereby. aware. Once in this awareness we are in a position to fully realize the implications of the horror we live with. Directly confronting this horror, we have no alternative but to eradicate it. As integrated beings we will have the strength to work with others to achieve this.
The prescription then? A ten-step action programme designed to help us relax, become conscious of ourselves as sensitive. sensuous beings in touch with our creative energies.
When we do this we are integrating the two halves of the brain, and drawing on the unique resources of both.
Sommers and Dineen are not speaking from a vacuum. Their professional expertise is evident through out, combined with humour and warmth. Their mentor is Albert Einstein, to whom they make frequent reference, not only as the brilliant scientist, but as an example of their thesis. They believe that Einstein’s genius derived from his balanced mind — that he drew as much from his right brain as from his left, and that he knew this.
Sommers says that “Einstein… managed to consciously tame his own unconscious mind,” and quotes him: “The business of logical thinking is strictly limited to the achievement of the connection between concepts and propositions… which are the concern of logic. The concepts and propositions get ‘meaning’, viz. ‘content’, only through their connection with sense experiences. The connection of the latter with the former is purely intuitive not itself of a logical nature.” This statement is the nub of the book.
Will the cure work? The message is certainly an old one: somewhere along the line we have lost hold of the fundamental need to love ourselves and each other. If this were our primary focus we would long since have seen the weapons of annihilation for what they are — tangible extensions of our fear, our hate, our mistrust. Or, as a wise friend once observed when I told her I was working in the peace movement, before we set out to change the world we each need to do a lot of personal work on our hearts and minds.
The authors’ detractors will probably dismiss this book as slick and gimmicky. Others will see it as cloud~ cuckoo-land, or will be alienated by some of the sexual explicitness (The rebuttal is obvious; you must not read this book from your left brain!)
However, one is struck by the authors’ erudition, and by their conviction. Professionally they have had demonstrable success with the most desperate of patients. They have some justification in believing that their skills lie in helping us to improve our ‘“feeling” selves~’ I recently heard Dr. Sommers on the radio being interviewed on his research with school children, and the despair and fear that undermine their lives. Sommers said that it is imperative that we move from pessimism and resignation to optimism and affirmation of life because the world is what we perceive it to be. How terrifying, and how hopeful!
This book will reach those who are depressed by horrific scenarios. It’s readable, informative, and, despite the urgency of the message, optimistic. And even if the prescription seems improbable, we could have fun trying!!