Book Review: From Madness to Mindfulness
I reviewed this book which was provided for free by the publisher. However, I do not receive any compensation for reviews. All book reviews are My personal and subjective opinion.
Dr. Jenn starts out by saying,
"If you are a woman who is totally comfortable with your sexuality and body, if you move with ease and mindful awareness in sexual situations and communication, if you are comfortable being vulnerable both emotionally and physically, and if you love yourself deeply, then this is not the book for you. And as a side note--congratulations!"
With this disclaimer, I assumed that I, a highly educated woman in the field of sex work whom has spent many years taming My demons and learning to be comfortable with Myself, would have nothing to gain from this book. I was wrong.
From Madness to Mindfulness by Dr. Jennifer Gunsaullus takes the reader on a journey from the confusing, contradictory madness that we're taught as children (especially females) and how it reflects on developing sexuality, to how to reinvent our current sexual selves. The reader is treated to a discussion on the sociological factors that go into play to form who we are and how they push us into unhealthy habits and situations. To extend the conversation, Dr. Jenn has a writing portion at the end of each chapter to encourage the reader to move from passive to active in further thinking about what's been covered and how it translates into their everyday life. These writing prompts are especially useful in chapters 3 through 5: Relationships and Communication; Sex, Passion, and Desire; and Body Image.
Chapter 3, covering Relationships and Communication is a wonderful chapter that applies to both men and women. In fact, chapter 3 may have been My favorite chapter in the entire book, as communication is vital to everyday life, and who hasn't had an issue with their relationships? While I was reading it, I was amazed at what pointed, helpful concepts and activities it contained. For one chapter, it covered more issues and provided better advice than some whole relationship books!
A major theme in Madness is the second half of the title: mindfulness. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, Dr. Jenn defines mindfulness as:
"focused awareness in the present moment, without judgment"
Mindfulness has been a popular trend in self-help and therapy in recent years as one can use it to retrain our brain on how we think about various topics, literally forging new neural pathways to think differently. The main focus of Chapter 2 is mindfulness, explaining the concept and providing many exercises on how to practice mindfulness, which are repeated and referred to throughout the rest of the book. Dr. Jenn teaches through mindfulness, how to hone in on our discomfort, sit with it, and respond rather than react. I have studied mindfulness previous to Madness and Dr. Jenn's explanation is the most clear I've come across and the exercises the most useful. For that reason alone, I'm a fan of this book.
After working on specific aspects of our personal life, Dr. Jenn coaches us on how to break the cycle of societal stigma for young girls, and then for ourselves. At the end of the book the reader is given instructions on how to reinvent their sexual selves, avoid roadblocks, and continue growth to a healthier you.
Madness is not a quick read, but it is a good one. Information dense, packed with heavy topics, and rife with activities and engaging questions, I definitely could spend more time with this book. At some point, I will be descending back into Madness to give myself a mental tune-up. Most any female would benefit from reading Madness as I think all of us could glean something from it's contents. I would especially recommend Madness to any female who had any sort of difficult childhood or suffered sexual trauma.
Dr. Jenn gave a TEDx Talk in 2012 that gives a beautiful feel for the book and lightly covers some of the major concepts. I strongly recommend watching Dr. Jenn's talk if you'd like to get a better idea of what the book is like for yourself. You can purchase From Madness to Mindfulness: Reinventing Sex for Women here.
About the Author
Jennifer Gunsaullus, PhD, sociologist and sex coach, is a national speaker on intimacy, sexual consent, healthy relationships, erotic play, and mindful sex. She has presented two TEDx Talks, is a podcast host on Sex Talk with Clint & the Doc, an intimacy expert on the morning news, and an active philanthropist with Women Give San Diego. Dr. Jenn has over 1.5 million hits on her “In the Den with Dr. Jenn” YouTube video series, and appears as an expert in a documentary on masturbation, Sticky: A (Self) Love Story.