A therapist/sage's ironies re ""the mechanisms for the pursuit of unhappiness""--situated somewhere between Dan Greenburg's...

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THE SITUATION IS HOPELESS, BUT NOT SERIOUS: The Pursuit of Unhappiness

A therapist/sage's ironies re ""the mechanisms for the pursuit of unhappiness""--situated somewhere between Dan Greenburg's parodies (most recently, How to Avoid Love and Marriage, p. 929) and R.D. Laing's airy dialogues. The ""true genius"" of negation, writes Watzlawick, (How Real Is Real? etc.), rejects not only what other people recommend, but even what ""he himself considers the best decision."" Such persons find, in the past, ""more of the same"" (hence neurosis--and lengthy psychoanalysis). They not only create problems, they avoid problems ""for the purpose of their perpetuation"" (pickpockets, exhaust fumes, ""incandescent fragments of American or Soviet space satellites""). They are prey to ""self-fulfilling prophecies"" (""others are whispering behind our backs"")--and expert at not arriving. (""Not even revenge is sweet."") That brings us to ""the baroque hell of human relationships"": the communication on two levels (""Would you like to take me to the airport this morning?""); the demand for spontaneous behavior (parents' demand for a smiling countenance, anyone's equation of sadness with depression); the ""why would anybody love me?"" syndrome; the suspicion of one's own unselfish behavior. In sum: the zero-sum game. ""Why is it so difficult for us to realize that life is a non-zero-sum game? That we can both win so long as we are not obsessed with the need to defeat the partner so as not to be defeated by him?"" That we can ""just as well construct our own happiness"" out of ""such qualities as fairness, tolerance, and trust."" The situational dynamics are often as Watzlawick portrays them--and no one would disparage ""such qualities."" But without the humor that induces rueful self-recognition, or the philosophical elegance that commands respect, this is a heavy-handed, satirical approach to a positive outlook.

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 1983

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1983