Friday, January 28, 2011

RatCave Book Club—Heal Thyself

Last updated 2011.08.24

"Physician, heal thyself"—Luke 4:23

"You'd PAY to know what you REALLY think"—Dobbs

One night as I was leaving work during my sojourn at the now world-famous software company (circa '95), I saw the guy who ran the junk, er, antique store down on the first floor standing over a pile of boxes in the trash zone out back. It turned out that he'd just bought an entire collection of books at a local auction and was going through them looking for something he could sell. There must have been 10 or 12 boxes. I really wanted to take a look for myself but I played it cool. We talked for a couple of minutes and then surprisingly, with only half a dozen books of no particular interest in hand, he left for his shop, telling me to take whatever I wanted. Thank you, "Bob".

It was glorious—rummaging through junk always has this effect on me—though most of what I saw was crap. I can't remember what other books were there because when I got to one particular box I knew I'd hit paydirt and forgot all about the rest. That box contained an entire collection of self-help books. Old self-help books. And crazy old psych stuff. As I scanned through the titles I couldn't believe my luck. A first edition by Ida Rolf! Quackpot!

I can't remember which Rolf book it was. I think it was Rolfing: Integration of Human Structures. I don't have the book anymore (I traded it for an antique lamp I'm very fond of) but I remember leafing through page after page of Rolfesque jargon with many of the same illustrations being used repeatedly throughout the book. A quick web search turns up plenty of "trained" Rolfing® practitioners—here's one with lots of woo-speak:

The human body is a quantum particle structure completely at the effect of gravity. It is an array of atoms, ions, and molecules in a three-dimensional pattern. It is a functional field of recurrent, radiant energy. The movement of electrons within the human atomic and molecular structure continuously travels at an unbelievable rate. When you change and re-mold the shape and configuration of a random structure into a more vertically appropriate pattern within gravity, everything about that structure and its vitality renews, improves, and revivifies.

And here's woo-loving Dr. Oz bringing Rolfing® to a whole new audience.

I hear the best part is having a finger shoved way up your nose.

Note that I haven't actually bothered to read any of these books but I figured you'd get as big a kick out of them as I did (click the pictures to see the fine details). As I started Googling them I uncovered more than I expected...

Be Glad You're Neurotic by Louis E. Bisch, M.D., 1936

The book is rather out of date. For example, Bisch uses the deprecated psychoanalytical term "id". The lone reviewer on Amazon thinks it's still fantastic. It is more progressive than a lot of psych books from the same era. It includes such chapters as "Are Your Glands on Friendly Terms?" and "Of Course Your Sex Life Is Far from Satisfactory". Naturally there's a test in the back of the book to help you determine how neurotic you are.

Autoconditioning: The New Way to a Successful Life by Hornell Hart, Ph.D., 1956

What more can I say about a book that has this on the cover:
"Featuring instructions on how to use the famous MOOD-METER. A single, scientific method for measuring the degree of you happiness or unhappiness. Developed at Duke University, after 15 years of research."
The covers feature rave reviews, including one by John Schindler, M.D., author of one of the early self-help books, How to Live 365 Days a Year. Sadly, I don't one a copy of that one. You can preview it here and download it here.

As for Autoconditioning, it's is not available on-line. But that's not all there is to say about Hart. It turns out that he was convinced of the existence of ESP by the PSI research of J.B. Rhine, one of the earliest scientists to test ESP in the laboratory and who, like so many to follow, allowed himself to be conned into believing in it. Hart contributed a chapter touting Rhine's research to the book Man's Destiny In Eternity entitled "Psychical Research and the Life Beyond Death" which discusses ESP and the existence of the soul. He even coined a buzz-word:
It was Hornell Hart who, in 1959, first used the term "super-ESP," writing: "the dramatizing power of the unconscious, making use of a comprehensive form of telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition and retrocognition (which I shall call super-ESP) may create pseudo spirit personalities, which convince wishful believers, but which give no genuine evidence of survival beyond bodily death." 
In the Fifties Professor Hart had a run-in with alcoholic bully Senator Joe McCarthy, who had a very small penis.

Find Your Perfect High by John Armstrong Marshall, 1978

As you may have noticed Marshall looks like he's high on something. The badge on the front cover reads, " absolutely essential book in a culture that loves to drink... Richard B. Stolley, Managing Editor, People magazine." The back cover says in part:
"Based on the latest scientific discoveries, THIS BOOK WILL TEACH YOU TO USE THE FEELINGS YOU DON'T TRUST, THE UNTAUGHT, INTUITIVE RIGHT HEMISPHERE OF YOUR OWN MIND...the spontaneous, sensual, self-expressive part of us that we find in the Great American Drinking Standard. At last, THE RIDDLE IS UNRAVELED! WE DRINK LIKE WE THINK!"
He's still in business. His main gig appears to be helping alcoholics using the intuitive vs. logical, right/left brain duality that was so popular in the Seventies with its emphasis on right hemisphere development.

Twenty Steps to Power, Influence and Control Over People by H.W. Gabriel, 1962

I feel like eating raw meat already. Like so many books of this genre there's hype all over cover. It continues on the front flap, the back flap, and the back of the cover. And there's a folded leaflet inside with even more hype. I managed to find a copy of the book online, but it's in Español.

Where to begin? Chapter 19, section 6: Wade through the woodpussies; don't avoid them
The woodpussies present quite a different problem from those of the tramplers and the beagles. The tramplers and beagles try to demean you when they are face to face with you but the woodpussies seldom do; in many cases they fawn over you when they face and then do their demeaning behind your back.
Chapter 11, section 10:
When a self quote slips by you, even a supposedly unimportant one, such as, "I said yesterday it would rain today." kill it as a quote at once. Treat it as an introductory statement and immediately append something to it. For example! "and to make sure it would I had my car washed." Or, "because that barometer I got for Christmas hasn't been wrong yet."
Chapter 8, section 11:
When a person issues you a command, even a small one (such as: "Hand me that ashtray."), promptly say, "Did you ask something?" Unless the person is one who is being deliberately rude, he or she will change tone and manner and say, "Yes. I asked if you would hand me that ashtray."
Where the person is one who is being deliberately rude he or she is likely to instead reply, "Yes, I said to hand me that ashtray." When this happens quietly say, "Sorry. I thought you had asked me something." And then immediately continue the conversation, reading, or whatever you had been engaged in when interrupted.
At this point the rude individual will either (a) apologize and ask for the ashtray; (b) exasperatedly get it himself; (c) say "are you or aren't you going to hand me that ashtray?" or (d) repeat his or her command.
Where it is either of these last two that happens, quickly say, "Whomever you are speaking to evidently doesn't hear you. If you care to ask me, maybe I can help."
Absolutely brilliant. I've been doing that last part (and things like it) for years. I should read the entire book just to find out if there's anything I've missed. Fuck the woodpussies.

Going Sane: An introduction to feeling therapy by Jornell Hart, Ph.D., Richard Corriere, Ph.D. and Jerry Binder, Ph.D., 1975

Note that this isn't the cover picture to my paperback edition—I found this hardback slipcover on some "bad books" site. What a hip looking bunch of Seventies guys...

I begin with Martin Gardner (Are Universes Thicker Than Blackberries?):
There have been several tragic spinoffs from [Janov's] primal therapy. In 1971 a Center for Feeling Therapy made its appearance in Los Angeles, founded by two defectors from Janov, Joseph Hart and Richard Corriere.
It turns out that this innocuous book belies a sinister history:
In September 1987 The longest, costliest and most complex psychotherapy malpractice case in California history came to an end when the Psychology Examining Committee of the California Board of Medical Quality Assurance revoked the licenses of Joseph Hart and Richard Corriere, former heads of the Center for Feeling Therapy...
...the stories eventually collected...were so nightmarish and bizarre that at first investigators found them hard to believe. A man whose therapist told him he was "living his life like a baby" had been required to spend several weeks living like one — eating baby food, wearing diapers, sleeping in a crib. An overweight woman had been told she "looked like a cow" and was ordered to take off her blouse and crawl on the floor mooing. A woman had been ordered to go to her father's grave and tell him he had "made her crazy" and then to confront and humiliate her mother. Women who already had children had been told to surrender custody because they were too "crazy" to care for them; those who became pregnant were informed kids were "a suck" and were pressured to have abortions. And patient after patient recounted instances of sex with therapists, of being hit, kicked, punched, ordered to strip, called "dead," "insane," of being told how often to have sex and with whom, where to live and work, how much to weigh, what to eat, what to think, what to feel. 
...this had not been some hidden, far-out sect. The men who had run the Center held Ph.Ds from Stanford and the University of California... From 1975 to 1980, they had been regulars on the talk show circuit, speaking of their theories and work on literally hundreds of television and radio shows, including The Tonight Show, Tomorrow, Merv Griffin, The Mike Douglas Show and Good Morning, America.
...the Center had its own public relations firm, Phoenix Associates. "The image you want to convey (not say) about them," ordered its manual, "is that Dr. Richard Corriere and Dr. Joseph Hart are the Freuds of today. They are future Nobel Prize winners." ...gushed a Honolulu paper, "may be onto the biggest thing to hit psychotherapy since Freud kicked cocaine."
"All I can think of is the word fucked," says Lisa. "There was always this severe, severe personality flaw -- you were 'fucked' in some area. You were almost gone. You were seriously ill. It was real serious."
You have to read the entire article. I'd heard about this sort of pathological "therapy" before but had forgotten most of what I'd read until I began writing this "book report".

Here are some examples of what passes for wisdom taken at random from the book:
By countering the patients defenses and demanding a feeling present, the therapist gives direction. The fight has no meaning unless the therapist, by being an ordered human, can help the patient know when he is being taken over by disordering and when and how he can begin to fight for himself. If the patient chooses not to respond to the therapist, he removes himself one step further from the present. In doing this he gives in to insanity and nonsense; he has less expression and less feeling. This is quite different than when the patient fights for his feeling—then he feels the strength and magnitude of his own disordering process.  
The session lasted for another hour and half. During that time the patient continued to fluctuate between feeling how he literally went crazy as a child and feeling totally insane in the present. Throughout this session, it was only the deep contact with the therapist that provided the base of reality. When all defenses are torn away, the full impact of a seemingly simple disorder is felt, as logic and image reality are reduced. All that exists is the feeling contact with the therapist to guide the individual through the ruins of his life. This experience, while terrifying, opens the individual to a new level of feeling consciousness which expands life in the present.
This text takes on a quite a different light when you know how pathological this "therapy" was. It also make me wonder whose library these books came from. I could go into the greater history of related pathological therapies but I'll save that general topic for another post.

More books to come. Stay tuned...

There's a list of all my books reviews here.

1 comment:

metasonix said...

Hornell Hart was one of the pop-psych people of the 1950s from whom Hubbard stole many of his ideas, including the E-meter. Uncredited, natch. Hubbard was not only schizophrenic and arrogant and manipulative, he stole ideas from others right and left. The mark of a "Great Leader".

But the 70s were Prime Time for crackpot self-help books and the crackpots who wrote them. I suspect that the Reagan Devolution of the 80s was partly a reaction to the 70s-style gimme culture. Idiot middle Americans didn't understand Est or Scientology or Rolfing or you-name-it, because it wasn't mentioned in their fucking Bibles.

I could say a ton about Est and Werner Erhard. That guy, and his many many followers and schismatics, may be a major collective reason why this country's economy is crashing. So many young baby boomers subscribed to that warmed-over Ayn Rand-selfishness religion, it's amazing. And now they're getting old and ready to retire, and they don't have the big fat bank account for it. Solution? Tea Party!