In The Breakthrough in Two Acts, Dr. Fredric C. Hartman paints a vivid picture of emotional pain and its context within the human mind and brain. Set in the dramatic backdrop of a therapy session as a stage play, featuring Dr. Hartman as the psychologist and Human Consciousness itself as “the patient,” this is a practical guide for anyone who struggles with negative or painful emotions.
In his play, Dr. Hartman tells the story about our vulnerability to painful emotions, which flare up from the depths of our brains, casting distressing and destructive spells over us. As the play unfolds, he develops two new experiences to help strengthen our consciousness: one, by actively breaking the spell of the two thoughts that lie at the heart—and generate the distress—in each of our negative emotions, and two, by embracing the strange, fleeting collection of conditions that come along with the present moments of our lives as they each flash by.
The Breakthrough in Two Acts is an appeal to humanity and a plan for how to use one ‘part’ of our brain—consciousness—to quiet down another, chronically overheated ‘part’—the limbic system—which has ravaged our species with troubles ranging from emotional illness to war. Here is a blueprint for overcoming emotional pain and embracing a calmer and more fulfilling way to experience life.
Fredric C. Hartman is a clinical psychologist in private practice since 1988. He works and makes his home on Long Island, New York. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Dr. Fredric C. Hartman. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.
Author Interview for Fredric C. Hartman, Ph.D.,
author of The Breakthrough in Two Acts
There’s an interesting history to your book and your difficulties reading and writing that writers might find intriguing and inspiring:
So it was the second after midnight as 1999 was turning into 2000 when I began to write the book. I had just turned 46. Seemed like an interesting moment to begin. My wife and two young daughters were asleep. Thereafter I wrote from 5-6 am every morning, 7 days a week, for 7 years (with more towards the end) when the book was originally published. I read somewhere that it will take two full years of daily, focused writing to find my voice, which I did at precisely the two year mark. Then every year after I revised it thoroughly (the new self-published world allowed this) beginning in August until the first of the next year when I would get a new copyright date to keep current. I did this over and over because I actually had such serious difficulties reading and writing (and still do). I love reading but I read very slowly. So I got into revising the book to clean and tighten the grammar, update the scientific facts and adjusting the vision of it to how I was changing along with mood of the culture as I saw it. I always kept the outer structure of the book the same and only polished and revised the prose within it, just like a hard chrysalis with the butterfly forming and transforming inside. And so the book has been revised thoroughly over 13 times with 13 editions being produced, a copy of each of which is in my cabinet.
But now we are in a very dramatic moment in history with the pandemic, civil unrest and economic and political chaos and the book speaks directly to it like never before. The book now feels complete and finished. It addresses this huge moment of turmoil in the world and in people’s lives with an explanation—a theory—to explain our history of emotional problems as a species, and it offers a remedy, the ingredients of a new outlook, for all the anguish of our times.
Why did you choose a stage play as a format for your self-help book?
I wanted the effect of the book on a reader’s mind to be one in which there was a feeling of being among others. A play can have that effect. There can be a very heightened, communal focus in a theater where a play is performed. And when people hear of a play about something serious they tend to think of Shakespeare and a sense that something profound is being communicated. Really, my book has a lot of these modifications to a usual kind of self-help book (the stage play with stage directions, the changing, font sizes for emphasis, etc.) because I wanted it to have a striking effect. I want it to be dramatic. There’s a sentence in the book that goes like this which sums it all up nicely: “There are props I use in this performance, seemingly ridiculous at times, but playfully designed to amplify it’s deadly serious message.”
What would you say is your target audience?
I would say any late teen or adult who could read. The book offers a theory based on science and history about why humans have emotional problems, why there’s greed, crime, corruption, oppression, genocide and war. It’s a hopeful book about what I’d like to think is the next stage in our evolution as a species which every individual can and needs to play a role in. The book is for everyone; it’s written in the simplest English I know. But I have a strong feeling that, because of its unusual design, it may appeal more to young people, late teens and 20s, young adults. The book has a soaring feeling in it in many places. It seeks to generate awe and wonder and touches on mysteries in the way it uses the universe and scientific facts as metaphors. There’s also enough in the book to keep going back to it for more. And it doesn’t want to be pigeonholed or forced into any category. These things I associate with young people. And after all, the book is 20 years old now; it’s on the brink of adulthood itself, ready for the world.
Were there any real life inspirations behind your writing of this book?
Yes, I believe, apart from it being an attempt to overcome the painful time I’ve had with reading and writing, my brother, Doug, was an inspiration. He took his life at 24 (severe bipolar disorder) precisely when I was finishing my doctorate in clinical psychology in 1986. We were the best of friends and loved being together. I miss him. The feeling in this book, the aim in it for a total view of everything, the fun, the playfulness, the ridiculousness, hearkens me back to the way he and I would carry on. And of course inspiring this book is also an urge to heal—one and all.
How do you manage to avoid burn-out? What do you do to maintain your enthusiasm for writing?
Writing, revising are encounters with your deepest nature that you translate into words. You translate this vast wordless universe inside into a vivid strand of words that will somehow evoke what’s important. It’s all quite impossible and humbling. So I take a lot of breaks to stay refreshed. I get away from language except for the little bit of reading I’m able to do each day. I have left this book aside from January until August. I was renewed by the time I went back to it, excited to reshape it with who I and my world became in the interim.
What bits of advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Know yourself as deeply as you can. Be in psychotherapy for a while with a good therapist. Write about what pains you and what inspires. Go all the way to the most disturbing and wonderful things. Let yourself feel lost. Don’t stop wondering. Try to feel as much awe as you can because it’s the doorway to a paradigm shift. Learn about nature. Learn words. Be your feral self and stop using words for stretches of time. Read. Read the greatest writing you can find.
How did you celebrate after finishing this book?
Well, I approved of my revisions just a week ago. So I just finished. I’m celebrating by letting the book just reverberate in my mind, feeling free of the exhausting labor of revising, preparing corrections for the publisher, reading proofs over and over. I’m celebrating by taking long walks, socializing, find new sources of inspiration for myself as COVID-19 rages, civil unrest breaks out and this whole strange world is transforming before our eyes.
What would you say are the most significant cultural influences of your life?
I grew up in the 60s, another time of crisis and transformation like the one we’re in now. I would say that the space program had a very powerful effect on me. Young people now probably don’t know that just about every 3-4 months throughout the 1960s there was the launch of a major mission into space toward the goal of going the Moon. Every 3-4 months for the boy I was to watch a liftoff and a journey
into space and the astounding progress of each mission! The Beatles and the general explosion of new music were also quite captivating to me.
What’s next for you?
Because my book feels like it has reached its final form and is looking now like such a strangely direct response to our times, I feel a call to try to get the book out there and get as many people to read it as I can. The ideas in it about our human nature and the calamity at our doorsteps, about what explains our troubles as a species based on what happened 14,000 years ago that we haven’t dealt with yet, what needs to happen now and what each individual can do with his or her own mind to help make it happen—these ideas are compelling me in an urgent way to get it out there now. I’m involved with my private practice, but I’ll see where this goes.