THE BETRAYAL OF THE SELF: The Fear of Autonomy in Men and Women by Arno Gruen

THE BETRAYAL OF THE SELF: The Fear of Autonomy in Men and Women

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Psychoanalysist Gruen has been listening to patients for 35 years. In this slim yet potent book (first published in Germany in 1986), he issues an urgent warning: If fantasies of power continue to mask contact with the inner self, our culture will produce increasingly violent and destructive individuals. Drawing on the insight of scores of explorers of the psyche, from the Gnostics to Chekov to Henry Miller, Gruen locates the roots of a variety of social and personal ills in an early childhood split. The self begins to experience its needs and feelings as threatening to its security and opts for the consolations of external mastery and power, crippling the development of an autonomy in which one lives in harmony with these needs. Having sacrificed this autonomy, the child will avoid the emotional conflicts growing within. Gruen shows how the child's self-hatred mimics that of the parents, and goes on to indict the basis of our culture, demonstrating that the Western tendency to overvalue the abstract has eroded the capacity to achieve an authentic humanity as power and domination have become the coin of an increasingly impoverished realm. Particularly impressive is his chapter on the resultant dehumanization of the male psyche, an impassioned plea to men to face their feelings of fear and helplessness. Only this confrontation, he insists, will free them from grandiosity and a primitive and destructive rage. Also telling is his observation that we depend on external stimuli to artificially induce a feeling of aliveness. We have become ""stimulas-bound,"" he says, prisoners of a shrunken consciousness--while the inner world remains untouched and unsatisfied. Gruen offers no methodology of self-transformation, pointing out the necessity of each to find their own path. What he does provide is an invitation ""to possess a self of our own along with a human heart."" While much of his psychological analysis is familiar, he is wise and insightful, and his message is a critical one.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1988
ISBN: 0966990889
Publisher: Grove