Two books on psychological therapeutics

nemonemini at nemonemini at
Fri Apr 5 08:07:14 MST 2002

Here are two books dealing with issues of psychology, and
psychoanalysis. I recall the great confusion in the seventies as the
legacy of Freud was still dominant, R.D. Laing and others were
challenging the field in one way, while the new forms of therapeutic
treatment were gaining a foothold. The first book describes the chaos
in treatment methods and, while, I don't endorse its viewpoint in
toto (after all, Laingian confusions apart, there is an ambiguous
sometimes dangerous power relation between patients and therapists),
it does indicate an entirely new horizon of psychological care.

Out of Its Mind: Psychiatry in Crisis
J. Allan Hobson, Jonathan Leonard
Having lived through the Freud to R.D. Laing Thorazine generation
watching the disintegration of the system of psychiatric care, it is
interesting to read this account of the subsequent fate of the
profession and of renewed efforts to reconstitute some form of order
from a great disorder. We have reached the age Freud predicted, in
which knowledge of the brain would challenge the reign of
psychoanalysis and allow a new foundation for both the study of
psychology and the treatment of psychiatric disorders. Without
agreeing per se to the new perspective offered,as such, the attempt
to establish some new compassionate form of care in this
psychiatrist ...patient bedlam gets an automatic if provisional
endorsement, somebody do something, anything might be better than
what just passed. The book also reviews briefly the considerable
advances of neuro-psychiatric research and the new models of mind and
brain. The viewpoint of the reductionist, fruitful as it is limited,
will, one might think, sooner or later evoke the challenges of
yesteryear in a new form, but these advances have changed the basics
to the degree that a passing age seems-is-an age gone by. 	

Why Freud was Wrong
Richard Webster
One looks back on the Freudian age with as much wonder at its
flourishing as its sudden demise. The confusions of psychoanalytic
thinking and the poor foundations on which it was laid were always
concealed in the humanistic insights that gave the theory appeal and
seeming cogency in the reign of positivism. This brilliant disguise
behind an incoherent metapsychology hides a theory that was a
casualty of the impossible demands placed on a science of psychology
by the demands of reductionist science. Finally, in the account of
Webster, we see the fatal account of the details of record in Freud's
early research whose great success seems more a brilliant feat of
paradigm promotion than of any breakthrough in science. The oddity of
Freud's thinking is and remains a mystery in itself. The legacy of
the invisible strain of Schopenhauer botched is seldom seen here, and
the source of confusion over the 'unconscious' can be instantly
clarified by seeing this positivist nosedive of the earlier 'right
sense of the noumenal self' and its unknowability. Perhaps this was
the poignant ambition of the scientist triumphant here, where defeat
was foreordained by the philosopher. This book reads as a relief to
anyone who survived the onslaught of this charming muddle with its
impossible financial demands placed on the curse of being neurotic,
even as one senses we have not heard the last of Freud. One might
fault the conclusion where sociobiology is seen to come to the rescue
with still another confusion of the basic issues in still another
ambitious science whose fate will be another book like this one. But
anyone who suffered the arm-twisting pretensions of this reign in
thought will find a swift exit from the mesmerizing contradictions of
Freud's theories. And yet a legacy of Freud remains as soon as the
mind is freed to reconsider the issues from scratch without the
fixation on certainty in the basic tenets. But for the moment it is
important to simply a necessity to be free from the false claims and
demands of what was an impostor theory, hard as it is to make that
statement of one of the most enigmatic minds of the twentieth
century. This book can be very helpful in simply moving on without
looking back. 	

John Landon

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