Psychoanalysis teaches, correctly enough, that neurotic symptoms are due to unresolved, unconscious conflict. However, it would be more accurate to say that neurotic symptoms are due to the fact that the subject (the so called “neurotic”) chooses indecisiveness in the face of conflict: confronted with the necessity of having to choose between two things both of which he wants but only one of which he can have, he refuses to choose, as if hoping that by waiting only a little longer he would be able to have both. In this sense, the neurotic is simply greedy, preferring the pain of his “symptoms” to that of consciously relinquishing something he wants.
-Thomas Szasz, Heresies
Animalism is the opposite of humanism. It is treating man as though he were an animal. Science, medicine, and especially psychiatry are often guilty of animalizing man. The theory and practice of conventional psychiatry are, at bottom, the expressions of this tendency. Mental illness is a distinctly human affair. But the more we insist that it is an “illness”-and the more we prove this by producing “experimental neuroses” in animals and by curing human neuroses by means of drugs and shocks and surgery-the more we bestialize, animalize man. Having reduced him to the level of animal, we expect him to act like one-unconcerned about past failures, misdeeds, and wasted opportunities and heedless of the future; in short, unreflective and “happy” – a veritable anti-Socrates.
– Thomas Szasz, Heresies
I came across an incredible children’s book called, What Do You Do With A Problem. I found it to be one of the best explanations of the existential approach to problems in life. The story touches on some existential themes such as anxiety, depression, isolation, freedom, and responsibility.
In the paper, The Economics of Szasz: Preferences, Constraints, and Mental Illness, Bryan Caplan summarizes Thomas Szasz’s views on mental illness and translates them into the language of economics. Caplan is an economist with a wide variety of interests. He is an interesting writer, thinker, and regularly provokes conversation on Twitter and his blog. Caplan won the Thomas Szasz Award in 2005 for the above-mentioned article. Caplan mentions on his blog that having a conversation with Szasz was a “highlight of my intellectual life“.
I found the interview below with George Mecouch and Will Hall of Madness Radio very interesting. The author George Mecouch emphasizes the spiritual aspect of human nature, something that the biological-reductive approach does not accept. Mecouch’s new book, While Psychiatry Slept: Reawakening Imagination in Therapy, emphasizes that humans are storytelling, meaning making animals. Mecouch uses a Jungian perspective to help those struggling with psychosis.
The book, Existential Therapy: Distinctive Features by Emmy van Deurzen is a good reminder to view each person as a free individual, responsible for their life. But, on another level, the is a book about how to push a particular set of belief on another person.
The book, The Philosophical Practitioner, is a surprisingly interesting novel about a man who makes a living by talking to people about their moral dilemmas, and struggles of navigating life. His somewhat mundane life is interrupted when a femme fatale enters his office. He is left trying to figure out what sort of quandary he has gotten himself into.
We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak. – Epictetus
I just listened to the book, I Hear You: The Surprisingly Simple Skill Behind Extraordinary Relationships. The book is a good reminder about what it takes to be a good listener. So often we are not really listening, but merely waiting to reply. The book reminds us to stop, think and try to understand where another person is coming from before responding to them.
The aim of the book is to introduce readers to the key concepts of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT). REBT is a type of therapy developed by Albert Ellis, a 20th-century psychologist. Ellis maintained that we disturb ourselves and make ourselves angry, anxious and depressed about external events. He claimed that by understanding our underlying philosophy behind why we become upset, we can choose a new philosophy that is more helpful and realistic, which in turn will allow us to navigate life’s difficulties with more ease.
If you’d like a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review on Amazon, please contact me.
Below you can read an excerpt from the book:
Existentialism (as I see it) is the idea that we can explain human behavior according to reasons (choices), not causes. To this end, I have been interested to read how existentialism is used as a practical tool to help people understand themselves and their lives. I picked up the book, Existential Perspectives On Coaching, edited by Emmy van Deurzen, to see if I could gain insight into how coaches use the existential approach to help people with problems in living.
The book, Stepping out of Plato’s Cave: Philosophical Counseling, Philosophical Practice, and Self-Transformation, was an interesting read about how one philosophical counselor who uses philosophy to help his clients understand and improve their lives. The author Ran Lahav, uses Plato’s Cave allegory to try to help people understand how they may be enslaving themselves inside a self-chosen cave.