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Symbolic Life

The author of this book has performed the grateful service of giving a comprehensive account of the chaos—one can hardly say less—that reigns in the field of psychotherapy.

I know of no book that grasps the essential problems of modern therapy and its conflicting views in just this knowledgeable, unprejudiced, and wholly impartial manner.

Unfortunately, most other books of the kind are written in the interests of some system and therefore suffer from that distressing theoretical narrow-mindedness which, on occasion, borders on sectarian bigotry.

Many of these authors appear to have forgotten that psychology, of all the sciences, demands the most constant self-criticism.

Every psychologist should realize first and foremost that his point of view is his own subjective prejudice.

This particular prejudice is certainly no worse than any other, moreover it is extremely likely to be a fundamental assumption with many other people as well.

Hence it is generally worth while pursuing one’s point of view as far as possible.

It will doubtless bear fruit that have a certain usefulness.

But under no circumstances should one indulge in the unscientific delusion that one’s own subjective prejudice represents a universal and fundamental psychological truth.

No true science can spring from this, only a faith whose shadow is intolerance and fantacism.

Contradictory views are necessary for the evolution of any science; they must not be set up in opposition to each other, but should seek the earliest possible synthesis.

Books like Heyer’s have long been wanting.

They are absolutely indispensable if we are ever to create an objective psychology, which can never be the work of a single individual but only the result of the concerted labours of many.

Heyer’s book offers a conspectus of the main contemporary doctrines of Freud, Adler, and myself.

Separate accounts of these may be known to the reader, but until now they have not, as a rule, been related to one another, so that each formed a closed system.

Heyer’s book thus fills a long-felt need.

It is written in a lively style and is richly interspersed with the author’s own practical experiences—perhaps the most commendable book I know on this subject. [Praktische Seelenheilkunde]

One is often tempted to think that it was a fatal error of medical psychology in the days of its infancy to suppose that the neuroses were quite simple things which could be explained by a single hypothesis.

This optimism was probably inevitable ; had it been otherwise, perhaps nobody would have plucked up courage to venture any theory about the psyche at all.

The difficulties and complications that beset the psychology of neuroses are nowhere more apparent than in the great variety of possible methods of treatment.

There are so many of them that the layman in psychiatry may easily be driven to despair when it comes to choosing the method which suits not only the neurosis to be treated but the doctor treating it.

We are familiar enough, nowadays, with the idea that physical illnesses derive from all sorts of causes and are subject to all sorts of conditions and therefore generally need treating from various angles; but it is still taken too much for granted that, among all these physical illnesses, a neurosis is just another illness or, at best, another category of illness.

The reason for this prejudice is that modern medicine has only recently discovered the “psychological factor” in illness, and now clings to the idea that this “factor” is a simple quantity, one of the many conditioning factors or causes of physical disease.

The psyche is thus vested with the kind of reality we concede to a toxin, a bacillus, or a cancer cell; but we are altogether disinclined to attribute to the psyche anything like the real existence with which we unthinkingly endow the body.

In this book, Heyer again presents us, as he did with such signal success in his earlier work Organismus der Seele, with a synoptic view, not of theories this time, but of the practical methods of treatment.

He offers a survey, richly documented with case histories, of all the techniques which the psychotherapist requires for his everyday medical work and which are therefore also of great interest to the general practitioner.

The latter regards his neurotic patients as being physically ill, like the other patients who are suffering from predominantly physical disturbances.

Illnesses that are psychogenic in origin are naturally, to his way of thinking, physical, and so his first thought will be of a physical cure.

The attitude of the orthodox psychotherapist who makes a sharp cut between neurosis and the pathology of the body is foreign to him.

But neuroses, too, are unorthodox things and do not always prove resistant to physical treatment.

The truth is that some neuroses are predominantly physical and others predominantly psychological.

And often it is a diagnostic feat to make out to which category a particular case belongs.

Thus psychotherapy is inevitably, at least for the time being, a curious mixture of psychological and physiological therapeutics.

On all this Heyer’s book provides a wealth of information that should be of the greatest value to the psychotherapist as well as to the general practitioner and the medical student.

It is sometimes said that when many remedies are prescribed for a certain disease, none of them can claim to be particularly efficacious.

The multitude of views in psychotherapy does not, however, arise from this source of confusion, but rather from the fact that neurosis is not so much one disease as an amalgam of several diseases which require an equal number of remedies.

It is exceedingly probable that the psyche is analogous to the body and is capable of having as many diseases.

The future has still to discover a pathology of the psyche to match that of the body.

That modest “psychological factor” will, in time, broaden out and cover a field of medical experience no whit inferior to that of the body in scope and significance.

Hence we would do well to infer, from the diversity of psychotherapeutic methods, a corresponding diversity of psychopathological states.

Every one of the types of treatment mentioned corresponds, up to a point, to one aspect of the so-called “neurosis”— in other words, to a genuine form of sickness.

But our present knowledge of psychopathology is not yet sufficiently advanced for us to specify without a doubt what particular form of psychic sickness calls for what treatment.

We are still in the position of the physicians in the Middle Ages who, lacking the requisite knowledge of anatomy, physiology, and pathological anatomy, were solely dependent on practical experience, intuition, and the physician’s art.

They were not necessarily bad doctors for that, any more than primitive medicine-men are bad doctors.

It is precisely through the various kinds of treatment, their successes and failures, that we shall get to know the various kinds of psychic pathology, psychic biology, and psychic structure.

Heyer’s book is an important milestone on the road to the discovery of the diseases of the psyche and their specific remedies.

It is written from practical experience and will be particularly valuable to the general practitioner.

In its arrangement it relies on clinical pictures of illness; thus Chapter II deals with disturbances in the respiratory and circulatory systems, Chapter III with digestive disturbances, Chapter IX with sexual disturbances, and Chapter X with insomnia.

Chapters I, IV, and V form an introduction to psychology.

Three chapters deal with the various kinds of therapy.

The book is equipped with a very readable appendix by Lucy Heyer, giving an account of the physical aids to psychotherapy, such as gymnastics, breathing, massage, etc.

I regret the absence of a similar account dealing with the artistic and spiritual remedies, for in practice these play no small part along with the purely physical ones.

Maldevelopment and inhibitedness exist in the psyche as well as in the body and are in just as much need of exercise and reeducation. ~Carl Jung, CW 18, Pages 793-796