Matters of the Mind: “How to Be a Mentalist: Master the Secrets Behind the Hit TV Show”, by Simon Winthrop

Intertitle from season 2 of the television pro...
Intertitle from season 2 of the television program The Mentalist (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In honor of the much-anticipated end to the Red John saga, from the TV show The Mentalist, I thought it would be a fun idea to discuss a book that is written around this very show.

How to Be a Mentalist”, by Simon Winthrop, promises its readers to uncover the mysteries of “mind reading”, as presented by Patrick Jane in his mission to find and imprison murderers. The only exception to this mission is the man because of whom it all begun, as Patrick has different plans after having found him.

The Mentalist is all about the mind: tricks and games, readings and predictions, realizations and assumptions. Winthrop tries in his book to shed light into how Patrick Jane has managed to master these matters of the mind.

Though I can’t say that after having read the book I can go out there and know people the same way Jane seems to, I do feel like I’ve gained some pretty interesting insight into what’s required to truly understand people.


1)The Mind-Body Connection

Winthrop stresses this quite a lot: you can’t expect to have a well-functioning mind if your body is badly taken care of and generally unhealthy. He brings some viable suggestions to the table, such as meditating, doing exercise, and getting enough sleep. These may sound like common-sense notions, but it is staggering just how many of us don’t get around to doing any of these things.

2)Improve Your Memory

To truly be a mentalist, your memory must be excellent. When watching the show, we can’t help but notice that it is Patrick’s remarkable capacity to recall that almost always solves the case, or at least plays a crucial role in it. Winthrop gives some suggestions of improving the capacity of recalling. For example, practicing by trying to remember as many details from any event, object or person as possible is one of the best ways of improving the memory.

Winthrop also explains the concept of the Memory Palace, which is brought up in The Mentalist in a few episodes. It seems that the trick is to use a space that you’re extremely familiar with, and every time you have to remember something, you must break that thing into (funny) parts, and place each part in different sections of the familiar space.

3)Deal with Liars the Right Way

To me, the most valuable thing that I read in this book was, in fact, not something I’ve never heard before, but something I think we should all be reminded of as often as possible. Before you’re dealing with someone you know is a liar, make sure you have checked all your beliefs. That way, there’s no way you’re going to get confused and lost in the lie.

4)Maintain Your Appearance

We’re all about appearance, whether we like it or not. Truth is, we’re programmed that way, so fighting against it, though helpful to some extent, will probably end in failure. This is why, particularly those interested to become mentalists, must make sure that they appear powerful. To appear powerful, you must be confident and relaxed.

I participated in a psychology study recently, and there we had to watch several videos of pairs of people interacting for the first time. After that, we had to fill out a questionnaire about one of the people in each video. Most questions were concerned with whether I liked them or not, would I trust them, and so on.

The funny thing? The more confident and in control of the situation they were, the more tempted I was to say that I liked them. And yet, I hadn’t even actually met them! Just something to think about… 🙂

5)Instincts and the Subconsciousness

One of the theories out there is that instincts come from our subconsciousness. How? Well, it is assumed that our subconsciousness is able to pick up on clues that our conscious mind doesn’t (such as the body language of the person you are talking to). This is what Winthrop was also suggesting, and I believe this is a valuable to keep in mind. If this is true, then instincts should be used to our advantage. A little besides the topic of this post, but connected to instincts is the book “The Gift of Fear”, written by Gavin de Becker. It explores how fear that might seem unjustified might in fact, be an indicator of danger that your subconsciousness has picked up on.

If you like The Mentalist, and are looking for a fun read, then this book might just hit the spot. However, don’t expect it to convert you into the best mentalist that ever walked the Earth, first of all because that would require practice. Lots and lots of it. Second, this book did not strike me as a manual, but rather, as I just said, a fun read for the evenings.

As far as the actual TV show goes, what are your thoughts on the Red John matter? Are you excited for it to finally be over?


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