cover image Fires in the Dark: Healing the Unquiet Mind

Fires in the Dark: Healing the Unquiet Mind

Kay Redfield Jamison. Knopf, $30 (400p) ISBN 978-0-525-65717-0

Psychologist Jamison (The Unquiet Mind) brings personal and professional insight to this rigorous, deeply felt meditation on psychological healing. Focusing on the relationships between sufferers and those who help them, Jamison begins with the discovery of combat-related trauma during WWI. Diagnosed with “shell shock,” English poet Siegfried Sasson was treated by W.H.R. Rivers, a psychologist, physician, and anthropologist known as the “English Freud,” who combined empathy with clinical brilliance. Healing need not come from psychologist, physician, or priest, Jamison notes, pointing to Black singer-activist Paul Robeson, whose music and art “expressed the suffering he saw in others and that he knew for himself; he lent it meaning.” Other artists crafted memorable, mythopoeic protagonists, such as author Pamela Lyndon Travers’s Mary Poppins. The stories of these characters can convey therapeutic effects, according to Jamison: “Those who enter into the worlds of exemplars and heroes... will be tutored in bravery, in suffering, and in suffering put to purpose.” Citing her own experiences seeking help for depression, Jamison concludes that “healers leave their mark.” It’s an eloquent, wide-ranging, and edifying look at healing relationships of all kinds. (May)