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Masters of the Mind: Exploring the Story of Mental Illness from Ancient Times to the New Millennium

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The mind is unique in its interest to people from all walks of life. This interest is not new; throughout written history people have observed, described, and pondered strange behaviors and thoughts within themselves and their neighbors. The questions that people have posed about these experiences seem so simple and basic. Why do we seek to please our friends, but experience great difficulty being congenial with our families? Why do we vacillate so often between hopeful fantasy and dark despair? Why do we dream peculiar events and suffer terrifying nightmares? Why do we succumb repeatedly to foolish temptations against our better judgment? Questions such as these have puzzled and intrigued people since ancient times; they persist to challenge us today. Despite their apparent simplicity, they raise some of the most stubborn and absorbing issues facing modern psychological and medical science.

It is the undramatic and mundane problems of how the mind works, the quiet but persistent anxieties we experience, the repetitive ineffectualities and the immobilizing conflicts we encounter day after day that best represent the subject matter of the mind and its difficulties. Milder disorders of emotional and mental life usually are taken for granted as part of human nature: the promising college freshman who cannot settle down to her studies; the high school teacher who is seductive with the young boys in her classes; the father who cannot tolerate disagreement from his children and flies into a rage when they question his authority; the anxiously self-conscious young engineer who sits alone each evening; the mother who binges on food and constantly complains of fatigue or headaches for which no organic disorder can be found; the child who cannot concentrate on his homework.

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