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Nadir/Desolation Experiences
Record Type: Review   ID: 209

Snapping: America's Epidemic of Sudden Personality Change

Conway, F., & Siegelman, J.

 The authors provide the following summary of their book. "For many Americans, the quest for personal growth or spiritual fulfillment culminates in an experience that is unmistakably traumatic, an experience that has negative, and perhaps disastrous, effects on their personalities and their lives. In contrast to the reported pleasures and benefits of the ‘big breakthrough,’ for many individuals sudden change comes in a moment of intense experience that is not so much a ‘peak’ as a precipice, an unforeseen break in the continuity of awareness that may leave them detached, withdrawn, disoriented—or utterly confused. The experience itself may produce hallucinations or delusions or render the individual extremely vulnerable to suggestion. It may lead to changes that alter lifelong habits, values, and beliefs, disrupt friendships, marriages, and family relationships; and, in extreme instances, excite self-destructive, violent, or criminal behavior. Former members of religious cults and veterans of mass-marketed group therapies and self-help techniques provide vivid confirmation of the existence of this phenomenon when they speak of what they have experienced in the process of some cult ritual or therapeutic technique. For the most part, these individuals are at a loss to explain what happened to them. Many, however, describe it in one graphic, almost visible term. ‘Something snapped inside me,’ they report, or ‘I just snapped’—as if their awareness were a piece of brittle plastic or a drawn-out rubber band. And, indeed, this is often the impression of those people who are closest to them: their parents, spouses, friends, and colleagues. To these observers, it appears as if the individual's entire personality has ‘snapped,’ that there is a new person inside the old one, someone completely different and unrecognizable. Because this exceptional transformation has not been looked at on its own—although countless Americans have struggled in vain to understand their experience or gone to great lengths to rationalize it—in this book we investigate the phenomenon we call snapping, a term which designates the sudden, drastic alteration of personality in all its many forms. We chose this word not only because we have heard it so often from other people but because, to us, it depicts the way in which intense experience may affect fundamental information-processing capacities of the brain. Our research has confirmed that snapping is not merely an alteration of behavior or belief. It can bring about a much deeper and more comprehensive change in individual awareness and personality. And, as we have discovered, it poses an even more pervasive threat to our society as a whole, one that challenges psychiatric, legal, and social interpretation."
Publisher Information:Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott, 1978
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