I'M DYSFUNCTIONAL, YOU'RE DYSFUNCTIONAL by Wendy Kaminer

I'M DYSFUNCTIONAL, YOU'RE DYSFUNCTIONAL

The Recovery Movement and Other Self-Help Fashions

KIRKUS REVIEW

 Kaminer (A Fearful Freedom, 1990, etc.) examines and deplores the latest manifestations of America's historic obsession with self-help: 12-step recovery movements, confessional talk-shows, pop-psych quick-fix books, New Age philosophy, the men's movement, and contemporary popular religious phenomena, including the evangelical movement and the writings of Rabbi Harold S. Kushner. While acknowledging that AA and Narcotics Anonymous may be genuinely helpful to people suffering from addictions, Kaminer deplores what she sees as the tendency of these and other groups to instill in their members a sense of victimization, helplessness, and dependency on a higher power. In this trend, she sees a danger to democracy and the possible menace of totalitarianism. Trying to understand the attraction that these groups hold for ever- increasing numbers, she subscribes to Abraham Maslow's theory that self-actualization has been the only way to live a meaningful life ever since the perceived collapse, after WW II, of all sources of values outside the individual. But most people find self- actualization too hard, she says, and thus the field is wide open for the self-help gurus and the authoritarian 12-step support groups. Kaminer attributes the readiness of people to claim victim- status for themselves to a widespread sense of powerlessness in modern society: ``Being recognized as a victim is at least affirming,'' she says. ``Surviving as one is heroic. When action is no longer possible, heroes are people who wait.'' Acerbic and entertaining: ``Codependency experts stress that disease is `dis-ease' with the ersatz profundity of adolescents discovering that God is dog spelled backwards.'' The omission of a discussion of typical cults (Rajneesh, Scientology, etc.) seems the only lack in an otherwise wide-ranging survey of America's perhaps dubious spiritual/moral landscape.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-201-57062-9
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Addison-Wesley
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1992




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