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  • Book Review: Smoke & Mirrors by Chuck Ruby, Ph.D.

    Dr. Ruby’s book Smoke & Mirrors offers and articulates an alternate and compassionate way of viewing the human emotional and behavioural problems that are often and typically labeled as “mental illnesses”. After identifying some challenges with the prevailing and classifying views (e.g., that designate difficulties as malfunctions, imply a degree of moral judgment, etc.), Smoke & Mirrors proposes the idea of a kinder, non-judgmental model depicting a cyclical experience of feeling emotional pain, subconsciously attempting to escape this difficult pain in various ways, feeling brief relief, until the pain returns, etc. As a corollary, the book also describes what role psychotherapy can play in assisting someone within this often ingrained and habitual cycle, such as accepting them and supporting them in the difficult tasks of listening to and tolerating the emotional pain, becoming aware of different, beneficial choices, and moving towards a desired life with more contentment, self-determination, and satisfaction.

    Overall I enjoyed the book, and found it to be engaging to read and consider. Chapter 12 required a bit more focus, as it temporarily shifted gears some to describe the author’s perspectives on epistemology (a branch of philosophy), I think in part to support the non-judgmental model proposed above.

    Transparency/Disclosure note: Dr. Ruby is a professional peer of mine through the International Society of Ethical Psychology & Psychiatry (ISEPP). He brought this book to my attention, but did not ask me to review it, or to read this review before I posted it, though he has read the essence of it, at my invitation.

    Per KSFR, featuring an interview with Dr, Ruby about his book, in addition to being a Maryland Psychologist in Private Practice, Dr. Ruby “is also the Executive Director of ISEPP, the International Society for Ethical Psychology and Psychiatry and as a former military Lieutenant Colonel who served in counterintelligence, counterespionage, and criminal investigative assignments across the globe.“.

    This review is my own and does not imply any endorsement of it on the part of any professional association or regulatory body I am a member of. It is for information only, and is not advice of any kind (e.g., it is not medical advice — please consult with your physician if you require medical advice such as regarding any medication you are taking, as it can be dangerous to make any changes to these without medical supervision). It is neither counselling nor psychotherapy and implies neither an intent to provide professional services to readers nor that a professional relationship has been established with readers. If you need these services, please contact me or another professional. If urgent support is needed, calling your local distress centre is an option such as Toronto Distress Centre at 416.408.4357 or in Calgary 403.266.4357. For emergencies, consider calling 911 or going to your local Emergency Room. Current adult residents of the Canadian provinces of Ontario and/or Alberta are the only intended audience of this page.