An examination of adult neuroses connects most difficulties to early infancy and children’s interactions with their mothers.
Holtzman’s (Dead End Sex, 2016, etc.) manual intends to help mothers in “getting it right the first time” by discussing behaviors they should avoid in order to be “Mothers From Heaven” instead of “Mothers From Somewhere Far Below.” After learning about dermatoglyphics—the science of diagnosing disease by studying the hands and feet—Holtzman wondered if physical attributes could be used to identify behavioral problems. Touting the power of subconscious memories, the author claims that nothing is ever truly forgotten, asserting that babies’ positive maternal experiences—such as the uninterrupted comfort of suckling at breasts—are crucial to their healthy cognitive development. “Criminal mothering,” writes the author, makes a child feel worthless and creates adults “who are incapable of experiencing joy.” Freud is center stage in this exploration, and clinical jargon, such as the “false self” (an artificial persona created for protection from trauma), is applied liberally. In addition to definitions of terms, chapters include vivid anecdotes about people who suffer from various neuroses, like Janice, who was rejected by her mother as a child and is unable to form lasting adult relationships. Chapters conclude with useful tidbits; for example, instead of scowling when babies pick up dirty objects, mothers should smile and replace the offensive items with something suitable. Holtzman’s prose is academic and sometimes heady but never dull—there is even a little humor. He jokes about Jewish mothers who might whack him “with a purse” if he offers any advice about them. Somewhat old school in tone—footnotes explain that the pronoun he is used for grammatical continuity—this unapologetic work may be offensive to some readers. For example, ADD and ADHD are referred to as disorders that are “now the rage.” And even though he mentions genetics as one reason for homosexuality, Holtzman also claims that “deficit-father syndrome” is a cause.
A well-intentioned but sometimes-controversial guide to preventing and diagnosing behavioral problems.