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Review of The Power of Different: The Link between Disorder and Genius

Silvia Francesca Splattstoesser

Salt Lake Community College


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The Power of Different: The Link between Disorder and Genius

The more we come to understand about the brain, the more we will come to realize that there is no such thing as a normal brain.
Gail Saltz

Psychological disorders are more common than we imagine. In fact the National Institute

of Mental Health reports that approximately 43 million of Americans currently undergo some of

type of mental illness (NIH, 2015). However to this day there is a lot of stigma and stereotyping

associated with pyscholgical disorders, which are seen as disabilities that impair individuals

performances, productivity and success in a variety of settings. Gail Saltz, MD in psychiatry,

psychoanalyst and bestselling author challenges this negative view of psychological disorders with

her book The Power of Different: The Link between Disorder and Genius.

In this tremendously inspiring piece Saltz proposes that brain differences, as she calls them,

are also associated with great talents. Saltz challenges the overly pathologized approach that aims

to label mental differences and the life sentence of issues that come with them. Instead she argues

that there is a link between brain differences and creativity as well as great latent. She even goes

further and suggest that The world is full of fascinating people who didnt achieve such success

despite their brain differences, but rather in large part because of their brain differences (Saltz,

2017).

In her book Saltz organizes brain differences through seven major constellation of traits.

Namely: learning differences, distractibility, anxiety, melancholy, cycling mood, divergent

thinking, and relatedness. Each of these major categories contains a variety of diagnoses within.

For instance, she states that individuals with Anxiety are usually more determined and exhibit

great attention to details. The preoccupation associated with this trait sometimes helps people to
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spot errors in writing and verbal statements, predict outcomes and even and stand out at school or

work.

The aim of the book is not only to expose the correlation between brain differences and

skills. Saltz strive to point out the specific talents associated with each brain difference. She also

exposes how other people, some of which she personally interviewed, and that struggle with these

symptoms have made the most of their brilliances. That seems to be especially helpful for those

individuals with similar diagnoses who cannot only relate but gain understanding, hope, and

appreciation of their differences which can lead to further develop their talents. Finally the book

tries to persuade family members, educators, employers and people in general to see beyond brain

differences and appreciate the true talents that come associated with them.

To back up her claims the author includes extracts from interviews she conducted during

her 30 years of clinical work. The book is filled with personal statements of high-achieving

individuals who exhibit brain differences and intellectual and artistic gifts as well as their parents

in some cases. The book is also enriched with mentions of research literature conducted in related

fields. Each and one of those mentions are backed up by an extensive bibliography. Some claims

especially at the introduction and closure of the book are also supported by experts on the field of

Child development and Psychiatry.

Saltz has a very interesting approach as far as persuasion and claims go. She doesnt

directly motivate readers to adopt her position, but she exposes her view along with evidence

collected from different sources. Only at the introduction and the closing chapter she calls for

action and conveys powerful statements for why people should try to think differently about

individuals with brain differences.


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The narrative is simple and easy to understand and the specific description of symptoms

and talents made by individuals interviewed by Saltz make the reading even more enjoyable. There

is however some psychiatric terminology but they came along with basic explanation of the

phenomena. As a Psychology student the minimal terminology and explanations were really easy

to understand but I can see how it could be a bit challenging for those unfamiliar with the field.

While it was very refreshing and inspiring to read about the magnificent and almost out-

of-a-movie-script talents associated with brain differences, I have to admit that the struggles of

such disorders seemed a bit left aside. Although some of the debilitating symptoms associated with

each disorder were mentioned in the book, the mention was brief and almost unimportant.

Psychological disorders can be stressful, painful, detrimental and even sometimes restraining.

Thus some people are never able to fully develop their talents, especially those on the severe ends

of each spectrum. I understand that the main focus of the book was to avoiding extra pathologize

human behavior and address a different way to look at mental disorders. Thats is way I dont think

this is a major setback or utterly detrimental for the book. However its worth to mention that

highlighting the positive and somewhat overlooking the negative features associated with

psychological disorders can be dangerous.

Overall the books has very good critics and it seems to have resonated in positive and

meaningful way especially among those with brain differences and their love ones, whose

comments are optimistic and emotional. To illustrate the impact the book has made in some people

here is one comment left by a reader in the Amazon selling platform of the book.

Whether you have been diagnosed or not, if you've always felt "different" this book

is amazing. I'm 69 and diagnosed recently as having a "learning disorder". When I

got over finally discovering what's "wrong" with me, I feel depressed and a bit
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hopeless; all that changed with this book. It is uplifting and supportive of those of

us who "think differently". . . After years of teachers, parents and friends criticisms,

judgements, and frustration, my self-esteem was very low. I have been depressed,

anxious, ashamed of myself and overwhelmed by my inability to fit in all of my

life. I now believe that I can to unleash my genius. Thank you Gail Saltz for writing

a book about us that is easy to understand from a scientific perspective (Bradley H.,

2017)

I also can relate to this reader. The tittle of the book sparkled my curiosity when I found it

but I never expected the reading to have such resonance in my life. Not too long ago my sweet

talented 5-year-old nephew was diagnosed with ADHD. The struggles of my psychiatrist sister,

who divides her time between motherhood and a very demanding job, trying to help him navigate

the strict school system in South America took me through the path of discovering my own ADD.

After my diagnosis of ADD, and other related traits, everything seemed to fall into place. I began

to look back at performances and struggles throughout my life and understand where some of them

came from. I also can see now some of my nephews struggles thought the clearer lenses of my

own experience.

Reading this book has reassured in me the idea that we, my nephew and I, are special in a

good way. It has helped me recognized some of my shortages such as heavy day dreaming and

slow reading without the associated guilt. It has also helped me recognize some of my gifts such

as hyper-focus and creativity. This knowledge has helped me look at my nephew in a completely

different way that most people see him, not as a child with a learning disability but as a very special

little person with a huge potential for great things.


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I loved reading this book. At times my hyper-focus attention kept me awake until 3:00 am

enjoying stories from people telling anecdotes of their own struggles and accomplishments. I also

enjoyed the rich amount of information coming from research studies and the overall positive tone

of the book. I believe however that The Power of Different has a couple of setbacks such as

somewhat overlooking the negative aspects related with mental disorders. However overall the

book is exciting, positive and intellectually-stimulating. I would definitely recommend this book

not only to people with brain differences and their families but everyone. I believe that by changing

the stereotypes we have about mental health and trying to identify peoples talents instead we can

help individuals to unlock their true potential.


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Works Cited

Amazon.com (2017). The Power of Different: The Link between Disorders and Genius. Customer

Reviews. Retrieved from https://www.amazon.com.

National Institute of Mental Health (2015). Any Mental Illness among U.S. Adults. Retrieved from

https://www.nimh.nih.gov.

Saltz, G. (2017). The Power of Different: The Link between Disorder and Genius. New York, NY:

Flatiron Book Publisher.