The Psychology of Adaptation to Absurdity: Tactics of Make-believe

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L. Erlbaum Associates, Jan 1, 1993 - Psychology - 237 pages
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The major goal of this book is to explore and integrate all that is scientifically known about the utility of magical plans and strategies for coping with life's inevitable absurdities. Make-believe has great adaptive value and helps the average individual to function better in cultures saturated with puzzling contradictions. This book traces the origins of pretending (illusion-construction) and the developmental phases of this skill. Further, it analyzes how parents depend on pretending to secure conformity and self-control from their children. It unravels the ways in which make-believe is utilized to defend against death-anxiety and feelings of fragility. It examines the relationship between pretending and the classical defense mechanisms -- and particularly weighs the evidence bearing on the potential protective power of embracing religious beliefs. Finally, it defines the diverse contributions of make-believe to the construction of the self-concept, the defensive maneuvers typifying psychopathology, and the maintenance of somatic health. In short, this book pulls together a spectrum of scientific information concerning the defensive value of illusory make-believe in coping with those aspects of life -- such as death, loss, suffering, and injustice -- that are experienced as unreasonable and beyond understanding.

The volume is unique not only in the breadth of the literature it analyzes but also in demonstrating the contribution of make-believe to both the psychological and somatic aspects of behavior. No previous work has documented in such detail and across so many domains how basic the capacity to engage in make-believe is to human adaptation.

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About the author (1993)

SEYMOUR FISHER, PhD, was, until his death in 1996, Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the State University of New York Health Science Center in Syracuse. Dr. Fisher received his doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of Chicago. His previous books include Development and Structure of the Body Image, Sexual Images of the Self, The Psychology of Adaptation to Absurdity, and (with Roger P. Greenberg) Freud Scientifically Reappraised (Wiley).

ROGER P. GREENBERG, PhD, is Professor and Head of the Division of Clinical Psychology in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the State University of New York Health Science Center, Syracuse. He also has an active private practice in clinical psychology. He is the author of more than 125 published articles and books, including The Scientific Credibility of Freud's Theories and Therapy (with Seymour Fisher), which, upon its publication, was selected by both the National Library Association and Psychology Today as one of the best books in the behavioral sciences.

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