What comes to mind when you think of a “Skinner Box?” For a rat, it means a sterile life confined to four walls under complete stimulus control on a precise schedule of reinforcement—press the lever; then press it three times; now press it only when you see the light come on. And the reward? A bland pellet of food. But, what if you’re human and your Dad is a die-hard, exacting Skinnerian? What if Radical Behaviorism is introduced to you at birth and becomes the primary lens through which you observe, examine, and make sense of your world? Surely, based on what the world thinks they know about Burrhus Fredrick (B. F.) Skinner, I must have lived undignified—controlled by rewards, punishments, and contrived token economies—with mind, soul, and feelings neglected. What if I said…it was just the opposite?
Why you should buy this book…
Dean’s story-telling is as real as it gets while she takes the reader on a visceral and intellectual journey of a life examined. After her parents’ divorce, Dean—an only child—is raised by her rational father, who interacts with her through logic and science. Yet, as a soulful young girl, Dean has a deep desire to love and be loved. Because this important piece of her core is never recognized or affirmed, she spends years searching for someone or something that can resonate with the deep emotional connection she craves.
Using the only framework she has—rationalism—Dean experiences repeated disapproval from adults and rejection among her peers, which leads her to mistrust and dissociate from…herself. Along the way, she is able to connect with other damaged people, because she can empathize and see a life of beauty beneath the barriers of others’ brokenness.
As a young woman, Dean becomes more aware of her own dynamic internal battle—between trying to be what others expect and realizing that she only feels unity when she experiences the world alone. Only through studying psychology, experimenting with drugs and underground subcultures, and travelling solo can she feel internal integration.
Full of vulnerability and strength, Dean doesn’t hold back from sharing her own role in her failures, as she learns to channel her pain into compassion for those that failed or hurt her. A deeply introspective and emotionally honest Dean uses humor, lively characters, and an on-going philosophical dialogue with her father—spanning 35 years—to search for answers regarding the nature of human behavior, the meaning of free-will, and the existence of mind and soul.
But in her heart, the answer she’s always been searching for is “Will I ever truly be seen or loved?”
The answer lies within her book.
To read an excerpt of the book, click Excerpt.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
By John on August 3, 2014
This gave me hope for myself that true strength comes from failures with personal relationships for many of my good friends. It is when things are the worst that purity of the soul shows what one is truly made. I loved the book from the start to the finish.
The book (Life in a Skinner Box) brought back what I used to call “the good old days”. Upon further inspection of my own life, though, I have come to the conclusion that the “good old days” weren’t always so good. Life in a Skinner Box reminded me of that time in my life where everything seemed so perfect on the outside, but inwardly most of us were hiding secrets that were so painful that we were embarrassed to share them with others. From this book, it seems obvious to me that this author has actually created an autobiography of her own life and “only the names have been changed to protect the innocent”. Each page that I turned, I felt myself becoming more personally involved. I was in the “3rd person from on high” looking down at all of the cruel things that were happening in this girl’s life.
The more that she tried to seek love and acceptance, the more that others took advantage of her. It was a never ending process of trying to learn from her mistakes to only find herself repeating them over and over again. She felt like a sex object in many sections of the book, thus the only way to have that approval was to give of herself not only spiritually but physically. Her mindset was that if I “I give of myself” then I will be loved.
This was a cycle that she found she had to break eventually or she would be consumed. She showed, though, that finally in her adult years that she had to learn from her mistakes and know that true beauty and pure love comes from within herself. She left me wondering and hoping that all would eventually worked out and she would know that even if she had nobody in her life…..she would and could be comfortable in her own skin. But of course, I hope that she finds someone that is her true soul mate.
This was a very painful book, but it gave me hope for myself and others that true strength comes from failures. It is when things are the worst that purity of the soul shows what one is truly made. I loved the book from the start to the finish.
By Kim Hurlees on August 7, 2014
What a fascinating read! Dean takes us along with her on a trip through her life and her search for understanding (both to understand life, and to be understood.) She begins with some of her earliest memories with her father and continues through her various educational, sexual, and pharmaceutical experiences to bring us to her present philosophy of life: that the search for love and understanding comes with a price. She reveals both the good and bad in a very descriptive writing style. Her writing voice changes as she takes you on this journey with her. I don’t read many memoirs but I found this one a great read!
By peter schram on September 1, 2014
Michelle Dean pulls back the curtain of real life and the desires of growing up, finding different paths then starting a family all with the honest true grit of desire and pain that life affords. She breaks down the walls of her Own Skinner box and realizes life outside the box is uncharted territory. Michelle Dean does not hold back on the honesty and exposes her personal journey through pain, sexual encounters and triumphs to show the reader life outside the Skinner box.
By James P. Shea on August 29, 2014
A very entertaining read with a lot of insight. Highly recommended.