Love Against Hate
Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1970 - Body, Mind & Spirit - 310 pages
One of America's leading psychiatrists analyzes the war of the emotions within each of us and shows how the power of love can shape our instinctual aggressiveness to the service of human happiness. Index.
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Q. Did you have a specific reason for reading this older book?
A. No. I had it and took it on a month-long trip with me, and then it turned out to be quite interesting. It is interesting, because it is all about me and you, humans.
Q. So it is still worth reading?
A. Yes, if for no other reason than to compare the Menninger thinking and style to that of psychoanalysts and psychologists of today. Many of these Menninger ideas, from the 1940s, seem pertinent to today. Many others seem outdated or very limited.
Q. Limited in what sense?
A. Karl tries to clarify some of his assertions by presenting case studies, people with whom he worked personally. Although he certainly worked with hundreds of people, maybe more, his sample still seems biased, not representative of the American population in general. He seems to have practiced mostly with upper class and upper middle class people, but no one in lower economic levels. This makes sense, of course, since during his time psychiatry was paid for mostly out of pocket, not by health insurance, if there was any.
Q. So what relevance does this book have today?
A. By reading it, and actually by studying the book, the reader today is given a schematic diagram of everything, from the viewpoint of a prominent psychoanalyst of mid-20th century America. This schematic, or paradigm, leaves many assumptions unverified and many generalizations unsupported, except through psychoanalytic intuition. Nonetheless, the paradigm is simpler and more direct than many of the alternatives we have today. I mean, who but the low-focus specialists can wade through even a part of the so-called scientific literature which has followed Menninger? His book is for a general reader who seeks a good idea of how psychoanalysis interprets humankind.
Q. How does psychoanalysis interpret humankind?
A. Well, it is an inductive approach rather than deductive. I mean, you develop a certain theory and then you start with the theory and use the theory to interpret the data or behavior you have. So, Menninger, of course, uses Freud, the originator of this type of psychoanalytic theory. But he goes beyond Freud and draws in many other sources. Also, he does cite several deductive experiments which bear relevance on these theoretical assertions. Basically, like Freud, he is saying that humans have a destructive drive or instinct, but they have learned in many cases, but not enough, to turn that destructive drive to love. This process can be encouraged and furthered, Karl believes, thus making the world more loving and less destructive.
Q. Are his ideas for doing this viable?
A. I have no idea, but I do think that his idea, adapted from Freud, of a death or destructive instinct may be useful today. As Karl points out, many people want to deny the destructive instinct in humans. A recent book by David Mamet on how he become politically conservative alludes constantly to a "tragic view of life," wherein human aggressiveness is acknowledged. I think David, a movie maker, is talking about the same thing as Freud and Menninger. So was Konrad Lorenz, who studied aggression in animals throughout his career. If we try to ignore this innate destructive instinct, we will not be able to channel it, or sublimate it, into constructive, or loving, activities. This is the basic point of this book
Q. So are you planning to act on this good advice?
A. Me, no, I am too old now, retired, I have never had trouble sublimating my aggressions and I am not really a teacher. I try to do the best I can within my own sphere, and I read a lot. Maybe that is my way of sublimating my aggression, what little of it is left.
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