The Breakthrough in Two Acts

Breaking the Spells of Painful Emotions and Finding the Calm in the Present Moment

Non-Fiction - Self Help
222 Pages
Reviewed on 11/16/2018
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Author Biography

Dr. Fredric Hartman is an author and has been an active cognitive-behavioral psychologist for 30 years.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Joel R. Dennstedt for Readers' Favorite

Within the first few paragraphs of The Breakthrough in Two Acts by Fredric C. Hartman, Ph.D., one breathes a very deep sigh of appreciation for something truly fresh and intelligent, startled by the clear recognition that, “Hey, I’m in the presence of something brisk and new, something that explains with crystal clarity this current life I live, something, even more importantly, that I can actually use to live it better." Some of his earliest words explain the basic parameters defining this recognition: “Our brain keeps believing danger is everywhere, as it was neurologically designed to do.” “But shouldn’t a sturdy, stable awareness be as basic to civilized life as shelter, or clothing?”

It might seem axiomatic that an academic subject written about by an accomplished academic would sound, well, academic. However, The Breakthrough in Two Acts, a remarkable evaluation, assessment, and practical revelation of human consciousness and our intimate connection with it, reads more like Fredric C. Hartman is a poet, not a doctor, or a mighty wise guru sitting alone atop a hill. That is the pleasure one feels while reading: not like he is listening to a lecture, but like he has wandered into a private conversation revealing the big secret behind our existence. Almost like someone finally unearthed that rumored-to-exist-but-must-not-be-seen instruction booklet. If all of this seems a bit light-hearted for such a serious subject, it is because the effect of Dr. Hartman’s book is to make one feel enlightened, and yes, a bit more light-hearted. But, in a most down-to-earth and useful way. And finally, I will say something I have never said before: Everyone needs to read this book. Everyone should read this book.

Melinda Hills

Amidst the countless ‘self-help’ books that can be found on bookstore shelves or E-readers, The Breakthrough in Two Acts by Fredric C. Hartman, Ph.D may well be the most significant. Billed as a way of ‘Breaking the Spells of Painful Emotions and Finding the Calm in the Present Moment,’ Dr. Hartman’s unique work clearly defines the source of humanity’s unhappiness and constant quest for ‘more,’ while also addressing the steps to confront the built up painful emotions that cloud our perceptions of the world as we live and experience it each day.

Dr. Hartman contends that our minds are still holding on to the fight or flight responses our ancient forebears depended on for survival, stemming from the limbic system. It is into this mental repository that every disappointment we may have experienced as a child is stored and added up, and the inability to gain satisfaction for these slights is what leads to emotional pain and problems such as frustration, panic, guilt, humiliation, shame, and impatience later on in life. Without our consciousness being able to stand up to the innate pain, we may spiral deeper into emotional un-wellness, which Dr. Hartman sees as a worldwide crisis.

Cleverly written as a stage play between himself and a patient, The Consciousness, The Breakthrough in Two Acts: Breaking the Spells of Painful Emotions and Finding the Calm in the Present Moment by Fredric C. Hartman is amazingly smooth to read and full of wonderful scene titles and quotes so that you know exactly what to expect. There are amazing analogies and comparisons that make the processes of the mind easy to understand so that you really develop a sense of hope if you do, in fact, want to overcome the mental blocks that prevent you from creating a better present and future for yourself. As complex as psychology is, the author has made it quite approachable to countless people - I would almost hope that this text becomes required reading for all teaching, nursing, political science, business, (in fact every subject) students, if not all high school students!

Marta Tandori

The Breakthrough in Two Acts: Breaking the Spells of Painful Emotions and Finding the Calm in the Present Moment is an entertaining book by clinical psychologist, Fredric C. Hartman, Ph.D. Although best characterized as a self-help book, its innovative presentation nevertheless makes for an entertaining read. The Breakthrough in Two Acts presents a therapy session as a stage play in two acts, featuring the author as the psychologist, and Human Consciousness as the patient. In Act I, he introduces the mind, as he sees it, and in Act II, he focuses on teaching us to become free of emotional pain. Quite literally, and entirely aptly named, The Breakthrough in Two Acts is a single psychotherapy session that has an entire treatment built into it with all of the ideas and perspectives being presented to us in the “journey to the cure.”

The author has many insightful comments that sadly ring all too true. Our culture is not particularly concerned with emotional pain, with consciousness and achieving constant serenity. When we’re faced with a serious turmoil in our lives, we flail and automatically reach for comforts, distractions and quick fixes. We hope that the passage of time will take us away from the pain. Most self-help and self-improvement books deliver a message of positive feelings and encouragement. They’re usually chock full with reassuring directives about what to change and how to change it and what the outcome will be. Unfortunately, these books only provide a temporary fix. Hartman believes the problem is an over-emphasis on the positive, but that positive thinking alone is not enough to achieve lasting change until the grip of negative thinking is actually broken.

The Breakthrough in Two Acts delivers a very strong message that cannot be ignored: the truth about how to live doesn’t help someone cope with the strains of the journey. In other words, a crisis can be great for bringing about deep change in a person, but it’s not the catastrophe that creates new strength to transform – it’s the interest, the motivation and the urgency to find that strength which is mobilized by catastrophe. Hartman teaches us the process of transformation, the redesigning and metamorphosis of consciousness to reach the breakthrough point; an exact moment-by-moment method for teaching consciousness how to have a breakthrough and free itself from the grip of pain – only to do it again and again, each time more easily as life’s circumstances will dictate.

With over 30 years and 100,000 sessions under his belt, it’s abundantly clear that Fredric Hartman, PhD knows what he’s talking about. Reading The Breakthrough in Two Acts is similar to watching an engrossing play unfold before one’s very eyes, easily making one forget that behind the intimate and emotionally-draining session, we are being taught valuable life lessons. Never preachy, cleverly insightful and downright entertaining, Hartman’s book dishes up solid insight that is worthy of a standing ovation. Bravo!

Mamta Madhavan

The Breakthrough in Two Acts: Breaking the Spells of Painful Emotions and Finding the Calm in the Present Moment by Fredric C. Hartman, Ph.D. is an insightful and thought-provoking book that gives practical suggestions and techniques on how to work through our consciousness to achieve a peaceful and calm state of mind. Dr Hartman links the human mind and the brain through a stage play - where he is the psychologist and the human consciousness is the patient - and handles the memories, emotions, and pain of our lives effectively. The thoughts in the book are helpful in understanding why we go through low phases in our lives and experience anxiety and depression. With an excellent set up and interesting anecdotes from his personal journey, this book is encouraging and helps to break through painful emotions and reach a state of happiness.

Dr Hartman handles a relevant topic in a unique and different way that will enable readers to perceive life with a difference, handle problems with ease, and live in the present moment free from a painful past and memories associated with it. I like the way he used the concept of a stage play to make readers understand human consciousness and its mysterious ways. The way he associates the mind with playhouses, and weaves perceptions, thoughts, feelings, and images evoked in our minds into the meaning of human existence, makes it easy to understand the concept better. The style of writing is honest, straight-forward, and simple, enabling readers to comprehend what the author is trying to convey.

Lesley Jones

In this world of negative influencers such as the media and people around us, human consciousness can be overpowered with mixed messages, causing us to feel unsafe. Positive thinking is sometimes not enough to permanently remove the feelings of unworthiness. How can we create change in our thinking processes so we can overcome tragedy and painful emotions? Discover the powerful spell that the human consciousness has over you, and the unhelpful way you tackle emotional pain. Why are our strategies and coping mechanisms for pain not working? The Breakthrough in Two Acts by Fredric C. Hartman, Ph.D. will lift the lid on all your unanswered questions regarding the human mind, how you can clear the mental blocks and learn new techniques so you begin to live in the present moment and not the past.

In the majority of self-help books I have read, they give you techniques to tackle feelings of low self-esteem and negative thought patterns, but The Breakthrough in Two Acts takes the plaster off your emotional wounds, exposing them clearly, and then provides you with an effective toolkit to heal yourself permanently. The role the human consciousness plays in the way we solve problems and view the world and people around us was truly compelling. The insights are fascinating into the mechanics of the human consciousness and how the role yearning for acceptance -- that began in childhood -- becomes the criteria we live by in adulthood. The biggest revelation for me was the section on how we live our life and solve problems using an outdated blueprint of our memories. Using these techniques, you really can alter the way you think which enables you to make a new, more positive blueprint that will help you tackle painful situations and emotional turmoil in a calmer and more rational manner. The lessons can sometimes be hard to accept as Dr Hartman stresses the need to take personal responsibility and shift the blame from others to yourself, but once you have mastered it, peace and tranquility are yours for the taking.

Karen Walpole

Everyone experiences emotional pain and for some the pain is debilitating, causing depression and dependencies. The Breakthrough in Two Acts by Frederic C. Hartman instructs the reader on how to diffuse pain by pausing, letting go of wishful or magical thinking, and coming back to the present moment. The subtitle, Breaking the Spells of Painful Emotions and Finding the Calm in the Present Moment, describes the process. Dr. Hartman uses the clever and engaging format of a play featuring a therapist and his patient, Consciousness. Scene descriptions and drama notes plus over-sized and bold type in places all make the book very readable. The workings of the mind, while complex, are broken down into components and made more understandable in the book.

I read The Breakthrough in Two Acts quite slowly, digesting each scene before moving to the next. The insights of this experienced therapist, Frederic C Hartman, are extremely thoughtful, even profound. Understanding how past painful experiences and memories pull us into a cycle of negative emotions and wishful thinking changes how the reader looks at living in the moment. Living in the present moment, mindfulness, being in the now are phrases used in many self-help books, tapes and videos. What has been missing has been a clear understanding of why we need to stay in the present and how we can dispel and diffuse painful memories from the past. While the emotional work described is not proposed to be easy or painless, a breakthrough is possible for those willing to make the effort.

Edith Wairimu

In The Breakthrough in Two Acts, Fredric C. Hartman, Ph.D. conducts a therapy session between “Consciousness” as the patient and Dr. Hartman, a psychologist. In the scenes, the author reveals the background of emotional pain as interpreted and stored in the brain. This pain drowns positive thinking, therefore dominating many processes including the way we view different circumstances. He explains how the primitive part of our brain causes us to believe that we are in danger constantly. This part overpowers our consciousness, which results in the false interpretation of actual situations. As the session continues, solutions are explored that involve the fortification of consciousness through the introduction of new experiences.

Perhaps the most outstanding feature of The Breakthrough in Two Acts by Fredric C. Hartman, Ph.D. is the style in which the book is written. Instead of the usual way of explaining psychological processes, the use of a play is applied, where a conversation is used to explain the importance of awareness and how it can be strengthened. This makes the book more interesting and its content easier to understand. The eye-opening revelations contained within are profound and they help provide answers for many experiences that we go through and our interpretation of them. I also liked that consciousness was personified, therefore creating an even deeper understanding of how the brain works. Ultimately, it was intriguing to read The Breakthrough in Two Acts and see the role that emotional pain plays in decision-making and interpretation, and learning how it can be overcome.

Gisela Dixon

The Breakthrough in Two Acts: Breaking the Spells of Painful Emotions and Finding the Calm in the Present Moment by Fredric C. Hartman, Ph.D. is a non-fiction book on psychology. The book is written essentially as a therapy session that is performed on stage between the psychologist and “human consciousness.” Essentially, in this setup, human consciousness is the patient sitting in the doctor’s office as he being psychoanalyzed. As a result, the entire book is divided into the format of a play, with characters, acts, and scenes. Throughout this discourse and dialogue, Fredric talks about how the human mind and human consciousness can better tune in to what their emotions are and what they are feeling, living in the moment and learning to savor it, how to generate serenity in our lives based on these principles, and more. Ultimately, the goal of the therapy session and this book is to enable people to live calmer, more peaceful lives for the betterment of all.

I found the concept of The Breakthrough in Two Acts intriguing and the setup of the book as a patient-counselor dialogue certainly unique. That being said, personally I found the stage format and unequal font unfamiliar. I would have preferred a more conventional book format, but that’s just me. Still, this doesn’t take away from the content of the book itself and I found that Fredric has some good points to make on how to live life. He talks a lot about serenity and I liked the word in this context, especially in a world where mental illness is on the rise precisely due to a lower quality of life and happiness in general, even with the technological advances. The ideas presented in this book are applicable at the broadest level of human experience and in fact I love how they integrate philosophy and practicality in one go.

Erin Nicole Cochran

The Breakthrough in Two Acts written by clinical psychologist Frederic C. Hartman is a transformative piece of non-fiction. Although it is short, yet somehow you feel as though you have read volumes of important information all at the same time. The tone is intelligent, but also so relatable that I feel even a pre-teen reader would be able to grasp parts of it. It’s definitely a book that would have interested me at a young age. The matter discussed is concerning yourself with what is and with what always is “Now”. Being aware of what is happening “Now” in this very instant, instead of other emotions from the past, which will keep us from feeling so many negative emotions will ground us. Our past negative emotions do hold us in this spellbound kind of limbo that keeps us from being aware of this very second where in fact everything may be calm.

I can easily say that Fredric C. Hartman's The Breakthrough in Two Acts is an epiphany in written form. The book felt as though it was written for me personally, and I have a feeling that anyone who reads it will feel the same connection as well. He mentions that as a society nobody teaches us to keep a healthy state of mind. And I feel that our world has truly done us, as a people, a great disservice. There is so much turmoil happening all around us, and it never does seem to stop. If this book was implemented in school systems, I feel that things could be different. Perhaps, if there was also a simplified version written for those in elementary school settings, where our sadness seems to be cultivated within ourselves, it would be a great help as well. You need this book, and your sister, brother, cousin, father, and mother. The stranger you don’t know on the corner needs it. It’ll change you and give comfort in a way that you never would have thought possible.