Sigmund Freud  [1856-1939]
      I read a lot of Freud a long time ago, but I’m no longer so enthused about him. I agree with recent criticisms that he was not really very scientific, that his ideas reflected some of the narrownesses of his time and culture, and that there is little evidence that psychoanalysis is as therapeutically effective as it was once thought to be.
      But I am equally dubious about the smug critics who attempt to dismiss him. They often seem to be classic cases of the psychological repression that he analyzed so perceptively. In any case, Freud’s influence has been so enormous that everyone should have some familiarity with him. The Interpretation of Dreams is probably his most important and interesting book, though his “wish-fulfillment” theory may be questionable. (My impression is that no one has yet come up with a very convincing general interpretation of dreams, but that there are more factors involved than Freud seems to think.) The Psychopathology of Everyday Life is another pretty accessible work, dealing with “Freudian slips” and other manifestations of the unconscious in waking life. Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis is perhaps the best general overview.

Carl Jung  [1875-1961]
      I haven’t read much of Jung. He seems to have been a rather muddled thinker and he is certainly not a very lucid writer. Still, his general vision of human consciousness is in some ways richer and more holistic than Freud’s, in particular his insights about how the human personality is marked by certain “archetypes” that are expressed in dreams, arts, myths and religions, and that recur in similar forms even under different cultures and conditions. So you might want to look into The Portable Jung or some other volume of selections.

Wilhelm Reich  [1897-1957]
      Reich started out as one of the most competent of Freud’s followers (see in particular his Character Analysis). He then attempted, far more radically and perceptively than Freud, to apply psychoanalytical insights on the broader social terrain. The Mass Psychology of Fascism is his most significant work in this area, but he wrote a number of other interesting ones, including The Sexual Revolution, People in Trouble, Sex-Pol, and Listen, Little Man!
To my knowledge, Reich’s later “orgone energy” theories have proved to have little, if any, validity. For those who may be interested, the following website presents detailed refutations of many of his claims in this area: http://pw1.netcom.com/~rogermw/Reich.
      [J.P. Voyer essay on Reich]

Paul Goodman, Frederick Perls, Ralph Hefferline, Gestalt Therapy  [1951]
      One of Paul Goodman’s many “hats” was Gestalt psychology, a field in which he was both a theorist and a practitioner. Gestalt therapy combines Freudian (and to some extent Reichian) psychoanalysis with more positive and holistic theories of self and world.

Eli Siegel, Self and World  [1981]
      This book expounds and illustrates Siegel’s “Aesthetic Realism” therapeutic methods. (See the Siegel entry in the “American Literature” section.)

Eric Berne, Games People Play; What Do You Say After You Say Hello?  [1964, 1971]
      Berne is sometimes dismissed as a “pop psychologist,” but to my mind that hardly amounts to a criticism — it simply means that he succeeded in expressing his findings in an easily graspable form. His descriptions of the “games” people play and the lifelong “scripts” that they unconsciously follow seem to me to be very perceptive insights about people’s behavior.

Theodore Isaac Rubin, Lisa and David  [1961]
      I liked the film David and Lisa (1962), so I read the book — a story about two mentally disturbed teenagers who are cured in part through psychotherapy and in part through their developing connection with each other. I found it both interesting and touching. A more recent edition, Lisa and David Today, includes the original story plus a sequel written 25 years later.


Section from Gateway to the Vast Realms (Ken Knabb, 2004).

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