Daniel Smith’s Monkey Mind is the stunning articulation of what it is like to live with anxiety. As he travels through anxiety’s demonic layers, Smith defangs the disorder with great humor and evocatively expresses its self-destructive absurdities and painful internal coherence. Aaron Beck, the most influential doctor in modern psychotherapy, says that “Monkey Mind does for anxiety what William Styron’s Darkness Visible did for depression.” Neurologist and bestselling writer Oliver Sacks says, “I read Monkey Mind with admiration for its bravery and clarity….I broke out into explosive laughter again and again.” Here, finally, comes relief and recognition to all those who want someone to put what they feel, or what their loved ones feel, into words.
Anxiety is no laughing matter, yet afflicted journalist and editor Smith uses humor (such as his use of maxi pads to stem his profuse armpit sweat) as he explains the excess of thought and emotion also known as "Monkey Mind" in Buddhism. He traces its roots to his psychotherapist mother, a woman whose life is riddled with attacks she actively works to overcome in her 40s. Smith's attacks are exacerbated by the loss of his virginity in a m nage trois with two predatory older women whose advances he's too angst-ridden to rebuff. Smith also reflects on college, where the abundance of freedom and absence of personal space induces frequent tear-choked calls home. After graduation, he embarks on his first romance and lands a fact-checking job at the Atlantic. There, he writes his first article, which results in a libel lawsuit. When his two-year relationship falls apart, he steps out of his stress-addled head long enough to heed the advice of his therapist. Reading the harsh comments posted online about his article and tracking his thoughts and behavior for triggers helps him reroute his psychological circuitry and win his ex back. Smith does a skillful job of dissecting the mechanics of anxiety as well as placing the reader in his fitful shoes.