A psychologist explores the human psyche’s tendency toward fragmentation and a plan to restore a healthy self.
In this debut book, Litvin argues that the human psyche tends, often as a response to trauma, to shatter into disjointed parts. This can be a normal and even salutary psychological mechanism, especially when employed to defensively sequester the mind from overwhelming pain. But the mind can overreact to distress, leading to a self so addled with internal fissures that unhappiness, anxiety, confusion, and a deficit of self-esteem can ensue. Fortunately, the author contends, the splintering of one’s self can be remedied by establishing a dialogue between the parts, hence producing a “congruence” that results in the harmony of a “Utopian collective”: “The solid identity is a unique structure of the psyche where the fragments are aligned together in common goals and attitude.” In order to illustrate his chief points, Litvin concocts a fictional case study that chronicles the life of soldier Stepan Kryvoruchko, who fled the authoritarian ideology of the Soviet Union and suffered from a “shattered identity” as a consequence. The author vividly personifies the scattered shards of Stepan’s mind, and the process whereby he heals destructive “splitting” through a reconstructive unification. Litvin compellingly assesses the political dimension of his theory, and the “virus of radicalization” that can infect both individuals as well as body politics. He also includes helpful literary analogies, drawing a connection between his critique of totalitarian collectivism and Dostoyevsky’s novelistic dissection of the issue. The author’s intentions are breathtakingly ambitious: a comprehensive account of the human psyche, replete with a substantive vision of self-actualization. But the book is surprisingly unempirical for a psychological treatise—the author cites no experimental studies in his main text (some are listed in the Bibliography), and offers declarative assertions in place of careful arguments. In addition, the issue of the psyche’s fracturing into warring parts has a long philosophical pedigree as well, a history of thought Litvin mentions only in passing.
Delivers an intriguing look at a fragmented mind; but this serious philosophical and scientific subject needs a more rigorous treatment.