THE MIND'S FATE: Ways of Seeing Psychiatry and Psychoanalysis by Robert Coles

THE MIND'S FATE: Ways of Seeing Psychiatry and Psychoanalysis

Email this review


Twenty-eight articles written over the past fifteen years for an assortment of publications. Coles makes a complacent virtue out of a certain tepidity, while providing due chastisement of his audience's insufficient social consciousness. Having assured us that ""psychiatrists are very much influenced . . . by their own situation as members of a given society,"" Coles, himself a psychiatrist and author of The Achievement of Erik H. Erikson (1970), Children of Crisis (19671972) and other books, devotes his first section to the Decay of America: ""Gone are strong, sensible words with good meaning and the flavor of the real."" And people don't care about prisons or racism. Apropos of the latter, Coles asks, ""How did the nation of Beethoven turn itself over to a bunch of thugs, murderers and confidence men""--a question trivialized by his failure to answer it. Ducking another hard issue, in a sympathetic review of James Wechsler's published effort to understand his 26-year-old son's suicide, Coles merely reproaches the eight psychiatrists who treated his son, rather than attack the horrors of insulin, psychopharmaceuticals and electroshock. The book moves on to a critique of psychiatric personalities and ""psychohistory,"" including Erikson and Jean Piaget (who shouldn't be taken as God, Coles admonishes us). Freud is disposed of with the cliched and inaccurate claim that he worked from ""a 19th-century view of nature, a cause and effect mentality,"" but Anna Freud is commended as a good woman who ""achieved simplicity."" These essays probably lulled many readers of the New Republic, Commonweal or The New Yorker into a vague sense of edification the first time around, but when they are all put together Coles' own trading on ""simplicity"" leaves one feeling had.

Pub Date: Aug. 29th, 1975
Publisher: Atlantic/Little, Brown