Thursday, February 16, 2017

Mount TBR #5

I read this book for the Mount TBR Reading Challenge hosted over at My Reader’s Block from January 1 – December 31, 2017. The challenge is to read books that you already own.

She Bets Her Life: A True Story of Gambling Addiction - Mary Sojourner

The shocking results of November, 2016 has driven me to read books about cognitive psychology, so that I can mull over the question, why do people do irrational things against their own interest? One reason is addiction.

This well-written self-help book is about compulsive gambling, which is an addiction because it messes with brain chemistry and renders arguments about “moral failings” and “will power” irrelevant and unhelpful. Not comforting is the fact that among all the addicts of this and that, gambling addicts are the most likely to relapse.  Sojourner herself is in recovery from compulsive gambling, so obviously her own experience brings insight to the research that she reports.

The book is mostly taken up by the dreadful stories told by members of the support group called Scheherazade’s Sisters. These women have been through the mill, experiencing physical, mental, and financial hardships brought on by compulsive gambling. I daresay that people who have had similar experiences will have many head-nodding, “youbetcha” moments when they read these narratives.

Sojourner takes the role of the teacher and facilitator of the group, providing them and us the readers with information about physiological, emotional, and social factors contributing to the behavior. She also describes the morally disreputable tactics of the gaming industry to get people in the chairs, especially in front of the slots. The smartest people in the world work devise ingenious ways to extract money from certain types of people utilizing the effect of behaviorist psychology on the chemistry of the brain. It’s sobering that human beings can be so cynical and avaricious as to screw with people’s brains like this.

As a self-help book, it is not written for hard-core readers like us. Instead, it is written for people who don’t usually read. So to reach the majority who see reading as an unavoidable ordeal and boring chore, the prose style is extremely easy and direct. For instance, the relatively difficult information about brain chemistry and psychodynamics is listed in bullet points.

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