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'Sooner or Later, Someone Needed to Write a Manual for Self-management'

Anton Zainiev and Daria Varlamova, recent HSE graduates, have written a popular science book This is Crazy! A guidebook of psychological disorders for a big city resident. The authors told us why an urban resident needs to understand how their head works, how journalism can be turned into a non-fiction book, and why bipolar disorder seems fashionable. Anton and Daria also told us how and why they decided to write the book.

Anton Zainiev graduated from the School of Business and Political Journalism (today it’s the Faculty of Communications, Media, and Design) and worked as a journalist for three years. Then he entered a master’s programme in management.

Daria Varlamova worked for Izvestia newspaper after graduating from HSE, and now she is working with www.slon.ru and studying at the Moscow School of Cinema.

‘It was very useful that at HSE we were taught to convert information into comprehensible words, which would then go not to a dissertation, but rather could be understood by everyone’, Anton said.

Daria Varlamova continued Anton’s thought: ‘The HSE community also played a role in the fact that we decided to start this book project. We studied with interesting people. When I’m asked: what did you get at HSE?, I answer that people are the main thing. Knowledge is something you can get on your own, but you can’t download people from the internet.

I wrote a lot on psychology and neurobiology for the Theory and Practice website as an editor there, talked to HSE psychologists a lot, and even wanted to take a master’s course with Vasily Klucharev, but was afraid, since my background was in the humanities. These topics are like a detective story for me, since it’s so thrilling to see how everyday processes in our brain influence our behavior and beliefs.

Not to do too much soul-searching, but to really understand how it works inside you – this is important. Sooner or later, someone needed to write a manual for self-management. I wish a generation of people could evolve who would be knowledgeable about their mentality, prevent disorders, regulate their behavior, and communicate more effectively in society. If the topic of brain research could be popularized today, even through novels, it would advance the psychology-related areas of research, and lead to new discoveries.’

What’s in the book

The authors focus on the disorders that don’t make people crazy at first glance, but make them suffer while other people near them might not even notice. For each of the disorders, they chose a story, a real person with the disorder. They used these examples to tell us how a person feels, what problems they face, and what treatment they use.

They also tell how these disorders used to be treated in the past, and give some examples using well-known people.

‘The stories that we tell are not some tales from the asylum, but from our everyday life. We wanted to start talking about the problem, since it seems strange to be silent about something that involves everyone’, Anton said, ‘There is sometimes an impression that it’s fashionable at the moment, and this is not because people just want to have a romantic bipolar disorder, but because people who have it are no longer afraid to talk about it. In the past, they used to think that they were freaks or crazy.’

The book has become very popular, and a recent talk with the authors attracted over 250 guests. The co-authors are engaged in different projects today. Anton is a business analyst, and Daria is working together with her husband on a project with the Samokat publishing house about future professions for children.

‘We are making a book for children that will help them with career guidance,’ Daria said, ‘taking into account the rapid changes in trends and technologies. It could help them to be ready to succeed in the digital future and not to be lawyers in a dying firm, when all the processes are automated.

I like to work on socially important projects, since it makes your life meaningful and allows you to feel part of something bigger than your personal interests. And I feel most comfortable in the field of knowledge distribution’.

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