Hungry for Ecstasy: Trauma, the Brain, and the Influence of the Sixties, by Sharon Klayman Farber, Ph.D., Lanham, Maryland, Jason Aronson, Inc., 2013, 413 pages, $90 hardcover, $56.99 e-book.
Farber draws on her personal and professional experience, as well as her research, to explore the human desire for the ecstatic experience. She writes in a straightforward and engaging manner that would appeal to anyone who wishes to learn more about the cultural history, science, and psychology of the experience of ecstasy. She explores various ways, including religious ecstasies, cult-induced ecstasies, addiction, eating disorders, and body mutilation, in which individuals seek to fill a hunger for ecstasy. She weaves in concepts of how trauma is processed in the brain and is experienced in the body and describes what people are actually seeking when they engage in harmful behaviors. She illustrates altered states of consciousness and assists therapists in understanding dissociated communications from their clients.
Readers will come away with fascinating and thought-provoking perspectives of many different theorists, mental health practitioners, and individuals with their own stories of pain and a desire for an ecstatic experience, which will spark creativity in the therapist when working with individuals who are trying desperately to escape painful emotions. Hungry for Ecstasy is a must read for social workers who work with adults or adolescents who engage in self-mutilating, addictive, or other high-risk behavior, because it will spark the curiosity of the reader to further explore these concepts and to keep an open mind and be accepting when engaging with these individuals.
Farber provides rich examples of therapeutic dialogue and practical examples of how to be more self-aware, attuned, empathic, and caring in order to provide a safe and accepting space for these individuals to open up about painful aspects of their lives. She offers engaging ways to plant seeds and open the door to a discussion on how individuals can learn to manage difficult emotions without engaging in self-harm. Lastly, Farber provides countless references, giving the reader an opportunity for further exploration of captivating ideas and concepts.
Reviewed by Danielle M. Willenborg, MSW, Veterans Village of San Diego.