Psychoanalyst Horowitz (Psychiatry/UCSF, Stress Response Syndromes, 2011, etc.) provides a crash course in understanding the true nature of the self, from defining and redefining identity and building harmonious relationships to identifying destructive behavioral patterns and discarding bad habits.
With a slew of prestigious credentials (President of the San Francisco Center for Psychoanalysis; Director of the Program on Conscious and Unconscious Mental Processes of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation) and a number of awards recognizing his work on PTSD (Pioneer and Lifetime Achievement Awards from the International Society of Trauma and Stress Studies), Horowitz clearly knows his stuff—and it shows in his academic, jargon-heavy writing. But the heady psychobabble shouldn’t deter anyone; his latest endeavor is perfectly accessible (although those searching for breezy self-help tomes touting trendy quick fixes best look elsewhere). A flip through these pages first takes readers on a general tour of personal and interpersonal development with an emphasis on self-improvement through introspection, the text providing question prompts as guides (“What is the difference between what I need and what I desire?”) and case studies as examples of what, and what not, to do. Sections devoted to early childhood and adolescence—when most behaviors are first formed—are standouts. Horowitz delves into maladaptive response patterns (passive-aggression, perfectionism, self-sabotage) and explains how to adopt healthier coping skills, such as maintaining safe boundaries, tolerating tension within unfamiliar or uncomfortable situations, and testing new solutions to old problems. In the last and perhaps most useful third of the book, Horowitz unpacks how to control undesirable emotional states (denial and suppression, dissociation, idealization and projection) and effect positive change by using the past as a barometer for solving conflicts. The presentation of information might seem dense at times, though bulleted “Points to Remember” are included at the conclusion of each chapter, and Horowitz pays careful attention to looping new ideas back to concepts explained earlier in the book. While light therapy-seekers might not relate to every topic covered in the book (i.e. the bits covering masochism or erotogenic fantasies), there are plenty of other contemplative nuggets worth noodling over.
A stint on Horowitz’s proverbial couch promises hearty rewards at a fraction of the price.