THE PATH NOT TAKEN: Reflections on Power and Fear by Allen Wheelis

THE PATH NOT TAKEN: Reflections on Power and Fear

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Practicing psychoanalyst and novelist Wheelis (How People Change, The Doctor of Desire, etc.) sums up his psyche and considers the path not taken toward power in his profession. This is a book best read twice. Only at midpoint does Wheelis' often abstract or congested style begin to clear up so that ideas can be taken in on first reading For much of the time, readers will find themselves rereading for sense and parsing for grammar. It takes a number of Wheelis' painful life-experiences and other examples of his theme to form a pathway through his abstractions. The theme is that in childhood we are fashioned by our parents to seek or deny ourselves power in later life. The basis of our learning is fear of our parents, who have all the power. Fear helps form our earliest sense of morality and conscience. We carry our childhood fear into adult life, and it has much to do with whether we settle for second place (or lower) in the pecking order or try to rule the roost. So what's new? Says Wheelis: ""Since I intend in this work the utmost honesty, the reader, if I am successful, cannot in the end think well of me. If he does, I will have failed."" What's important is to follow Wheelis' life-examples: ""My father was a despot who rendered me powerless. But with his death I assumed absolute power over my mother."" This still left him as something of a guilt-ridden wimp among his peers in analysis, a guiltiness for which his wife takes him to task in her own need for power. He is quite striking on marriage: "". . . [S] ex is something that women have and that men want. A trade must be arranged: She allows the conquest which potentiates his sexuality, and in exchange exacts from him her own version of power--support, recognition, protection, commitment."" Yes, we knew this--but he says it quite well. It seems unkind to praise Wheelis and add to his failure and guilt, but he deserves praise.

Pub Date: June 11th, 1990
Publisher: Norton