Sunday, March 27, 2011

Nerve by Taylor Clark - Review (03/27/2011)

Nerve is a new book by Taylor Clark (author of Starbucked).  Nerve is a non-fiction, exploratory novel observing and breaking down anxiety, fear, and stress.  Beyond the typical fight or flight reaction in stressful or dangerous situations, the author looks at the psychology behind fear in the present information age.

"Nerves make us bomb job interviews, first dates, and SATs. With a presentation looming at work, fear robs us of sleep for days. It paralyzes seasoned concert musicians and freezes rookie cops in tight situations. And yet not everyone cracks. Soldiers keep their heads in combat; firemen rush into burning buildings; unflappable trauma doctors juggle patient after patient. It's not that these people feel no fear; often, in fact, they're riddled with it. In Nerve, Taylor Clark draws upon cutting-edge science and painstaking reporting to explore the very heart of panic and poise. Using a wide range of case studies, Clark overturns the popular myths about anxiety and fear to explain why some people thrive under pressure, while others falter-and how we can go forward with steadier nerves and increased confidence."

I normally prefer fiction to non-fiction.  You are more likely to see James Patterson on my nightstand or something from Oprah's book club.  I found this subject interesting though and raised my hand to review.

If I were in a dangerous or confrontational situation, my immediate reaction would be to run.  In fight or flight, I am not sure that I would ever fight!  You will never see me sky diving, riding on a zip line, walking a tight rope, running with the bulls in Barcelona, climbing Mount Everest, walking over hot coals, swimming with sharks, getting honey from a bee hive, working in law enforcement, or attending to a serious medical emergency.  In any and all of these situations you will see the back of me.  Running.  Fast.   

I am not alone.  Clark analyzes fears and anxieties (such as these) and breaks it down.  The reader is encouraged to differentiate when it is advantageous to be afraid and when it is perhaps best to overcome.   Nothing is too sacred to mention - from riding in a submarine, mass pandemics, the aftermath of a terrorist attach,  hypochondria or simply sitting in the hot seat on a nationally televised game show.   Regardless of the situation, ultimately he focus becomes less on the fear and more on the reaction. 

For many a fear of failure has lead to a lack of success, simply from a lack of trying and being literally frozen in fear.   Other people thrive on the energy of a fearful or stressful situation - instead of invoking frightful feelings, these are put into react and respond mode.  (Paramedics, ER doctors, law enforcement, fire fighters, military leaders, athletes in contact sports, hunters)  Clark gives us an interesting vantage point for analyzing fear and analyzing response- whether it be our own or others.   From that we are encouraged to embrace, confront or overcome fear.   

I wouldn't exactly call this a self-help book, but instead a motivational one.  Clark recognizes the simplicity of  feelings of fear and anxiety; instead of patronizing the reader he encourages us to embrace fears through first acknowledgement and then rationalization via confrontation.  He introduces different techniques, from building up self confidence to taking a different approach of worrying when faced with a new concern.

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