Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Book Review: "Thrilled to Death"

Thrilled to Death: How the Endless Pursuit of Pleasure Is Leaving Us Numb
By Dr. Archibald D. Hart

Let me start this review by letting you know why I wanted to read "Thrilled to Death". Ravi Zacharias is one of my favorite apologists for the Christian faith. Many times I have heard him state that, in general, today's society's people are depressed not because they are weary of pain, but are weary of pleasure. I had always thought that this was just an opinion based on some careful observation. However, I was listening to Focus on the Family's podcast about marriage (James Dobson on Marriage) and heard psychologist Dr. Archibald Hart talking about the pleasure center of our brains and how over-stimulation of that pleasure center can cause it to become "accustomed" to the level of pleasure and the never-ending higher levels that are required to maintain a feeling of pleasure. I was quite interested since this seems to be scientific evidence of what Ravi Zacharias was claiming. So I got the book.

I have to tell you that this is one of the best books I have read. I love psychology. I have always wondered what causes people to act in certain ways- especially peculiar ways. Dr. Hart starts right off with defining a word that is used in psychology quite often as a precursor to depression. It is "anhedonia". The word is related to "hedonistic"; which means "pleasure-seeking". The "a", negates the "pleasure". So, it literally means "no pleasure". Dr. Hart split the book into two sections. The first he focuses on what anhedonia actually is, its many forms, what causes it, how its manifested, and its long-term effects. Dr. Hart has a chapter that focuses squarely on the new generation- great information for any parent (no matter how old your child is) or any parent-to-be. During his discussions of the different types of anhedonia, he has short tests that you can take quickly to determine if you might have it in a particular area.

In Part two, Dr. Hart discusses how to recover from all levels of anhedonia. Granted that I didn't score even moderately in many of the tests, I still went through all the recovery chapters and found that they not only discuss ways to recover a damaged pleasure system, but they also discuss how to prevent it.

There were so many aspects of this book that made me not want to put it down. The first thing that really caught me was that Dr. Hart defined "anhedonia" almost immediately. This sounds like an obvious step in writing such a book, but he made the distinction that there is a technical "anhedonia" that he was not referring to. He stated that he wanted to make this distinction for the sake of his peers who might think that he was referring to it at the traditional level. He wanted to make it clear that he was referring to "anhedonia" as a more subtle, yet more powerful version of the clinical "anhedonia".

Another thing that I liked was the fact that Dr. Hart readily tells you about his own experiences with anhedonia. He makes it clear that everyone deals with it and there is no "quick fix". He does not try to give some "self-help" false hope in this book. He is extremely "down to earth", very eloquent, yet not hard to understand in even the slightest bit. Psychology has been a fascination of mine for many years. This book covers a topic that affects every person alive, especially in today's society.

I highly recommend that everyone read this book. If you don't have time to read the entire book, take a few minutes to listen to the podcasts below.

Here are the podcasts that I heard Dr. Hart speaking on. They are each about 10 minutes, and they will give you a quick taste of the actual content of the book. Enjoy!

Part 1

Download the MP3 here.

Part 2

Download the MP3 here.

Part 3

Download the MP3 here.

Part 4

Download the MP3 here.