A Psychology of Hope: An Antidote to the Suicidal Pathology of Western Civilization

A Psychology of Hope: An Antidote to the Suicidal Pathology of Western Civilization

A Psychology of Hope: An Antidote to the Suicidal Pathology of Western Civilization

A Psychology of Hope: An Antidote to the Suicidal Pathology of Western Civilization

Synopsis

This book offers a new approach by combining the disciplines of history, psychology, and religion to explain the suicidal element in both Western culture and the individual, and how to treat it. Ancient Greek society displays in its literature and the lives of its people an obsessive interest in suicide and death. Kaplan and Schwartz explore the psychodynamic roots of this problem--in particular, the tragic confusion of the Greek heroic impulse and its commitment to unsatisfactory choices that are destructively rigid and harsh. The ancient Hebraic writings speak little of suicide and approach reality and freedom in vastly different terms. Historical in scope, the book explores new developments in the field of suicidology, especially with regard to family treatment of the suicidal individual.

Excerpt

In the course of the development of psychoanalytic psychotherapy Freud went through some interesting steps with respect to his dealing with history. First, he focused on the memory of the individual as the major determinant of human experience and conduct, especially its sufferings and the failures of the normal volitionary mechanisms. He allowed that most of the content of memory was unconscious and that the recall of historical events in the life of the individual comprised the essential therapeutic operation.

However, this history began with the birth of the individual. Freud's next step was to conceive of history as something that went back further. In order to truly understand and help the individual one had to look to the history that extended way back, back even before the beginning of civilization and especially the crises of the beginning. Freud thus went from individual to the group, from the short history that began with the birth of the individual to the long history of culture. He went from works such as his contributions in Studies in Hysteria and highly temporally local considerations such as those that fill the pages of The Interpretation of Dreams to the larger history as expressed in such works as Totem and Taboo, Civilization and Its Discontents, and Moses and Monotheism.

Durkheim came upon a somewhat different consideration in his Suicide, yet, in a certain way, the position of Durkheim bore a similarity to the second position of Freud noted above. A single phenomenon caught the attention of Durkheim -- the extraordinary constancy of the suicide rate over time in various groups. The finding led to his notion of the "social fact," the tram-individual characteristic of groups not identifiable in individuals. This notion would become the ground for a science of sociology for him. His reasoning was that if suicide were an individual phenomenon . . .

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