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Though Dr. Gaylin has sometimes found a valuable ground between pop-psychology and more serious psycho-social analysis (Feelings: Our Vital Signs, Caring), this essay on ""anger in everyday life"" is rambling, repetitious, and not-very-persuasive--lurching back and forth between technical/clinical specifics and sociological platitudes about the ""modern-day jungle."" Gaylin's central point: the anger mechanism (explained in biological detail) was intended by nature as a defense against physical assault--but it is constantly being triggered today, inappropriately, as a response to social/psychic assaults (withdrawal of love, deprivation, diminution, exploitation, frustration). ""What, then, are we to do with the excess anger that we seem to be generating? How are we to accommodate this anachronism of a biological mechanism gone honkers?"" Well, first Gaylin offers a familiar summary of the psychotherapeutic view of anger and its handling: the ""primitive device"" of denial; the dubious use of simple catharsis (""This solution should now be retired along with Primal Screaming, Esalen, est and their ilk""); passive-aggressive behavior patterns; bigotry; and the depression/anger cycle. But, finding little encouragement in the individual/therapy approach to dealing with anger, he then switches to a sociological tack--listing the anger-causing elements in everyday urban life, offering supposedly-typical examples (""Men have been killed in New York City in arguments over parking spaces"") and sweeping cultural jeremiads. (""We have lost our faith in ideas and principles. We have become apolitical. We have abdicated."") And so the only way to defuse what Gaylin sees--not very convincingly--as an epidemic of rage (""The anger of dispossessed minorities now joined with the anger of a majority"") is to ""reverse the process of frustration of despair. We must no longer tolerate the gradual erosion of the public space, the diminution of our self-pride and the deterioration of mutual relationships of trust."" In sum: editorial-page commonplaces--linked, not very effectively, to an intriguing view of anger as basically unnatural, ""vestigial and maladaptive.

Pub Date: Oct. 29th, 1984
Publisher: Simon & Schuster