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Got your head together? Ready to go with the flow? Psychobabble, the lingua franca of the self-help Seventies, refers to those ubiquitous empty phrases that tyrannize conversations these days, subverting the relationship between language and psychology, substituting style for substance, mechanizing the expression of feeling. Rosen, an arch, witty writer with impeccable timing, begins with a smashing chapter on the Me Decade, finding confession ""the new handshake,"" candor a cult, and well-being endlessly available. Thereafter he peers intently at the movement's more enterprising manifestations, analyzing the ingredients in all those non-nutritive sweeteners: Dr. David Viscott, a virtual cottage industry, who reduces psychotherapy to a ""chorus of aphorisms""; est's Werner Erhard, another consummate salesman, whose appeal is a barely disguised ""mass-ochism""; Re-evaluation Counseling, a seemingly rational approach which submits a ""no-fault attitude"" toward personal distress; computer therapy, begun on a lark by an MIT professor-turned-Luddite, now pursued by ranking mechanics at Berkeley; Re-birthing, in which a warm bath cures all; and Janov's Primal therapy, in which habituÉs seem to compete for best performer in a series. Rosen has compiled a forceful, nuanced indictment; moreover he has no pet theory lurking in the wings, although he suggests that Freudian therapy--despite the vulgarization of its clinical terms--has more to commend it. No babble here: Rosen has a bead on this grim national franchise and provides instant gratification--and sustained enlightenment.

Pub Date: Oct. 14th, 1977
Publisher: Atheneum