Posts Tagged ‘Sigmund Freud’

I have it for you.  I know you’ve been looking for a thundering good novel about one or more cocaine addicts, who eviscerate their lives and die in agony, as a Christmas gift for all your grandchildren or nieces and nephews.  Order now while in stock, this will be the number one cocaine book for the holidays.

If additionally, you want to read the best treatment of the effects of cocaine upon Sigmund Freud, the Apostle Paul of psychiatry; and William Halsted, Saint Peter of modern surgery, take as your gospel Howard Markel’s An Anatomy of Addiction: Sigmund Freud, William Halsted, and the Miracle Drug Cocaine.

Thoroughly researched and wonderfully illustrated, the book is a fast read that stimulates imagination and grounds thinking.  Markel could have titled the book “The Dark of Sig & Bill: Medical Detectives,” then you could have deflected casual interest by saying, “Oh, just a little light reading.”

While few people know the importance of William Halsted to modern surgery even fewer people know of his lifelong addiction to both morphine and cocaine.  Most people know something about Freud’s contributions to good mental health and perhaps know less about his addictions.  None will have read an authoritative treatment of how drug addiction and professional achievement were in constant imbalance, sometimes aiding and often harming their work.

The suspense holds throughout the book because these two art not ragtag musicians, burnt out writers, or rogue cops, these men were great contributors to modern society, affecting everyone around the world.  Incredible and true, you can’t beat that.  Charles Marlin

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The illustration on the dust jacket of On Kindness by Adam Phillips and Barbara Taylor is an open hand reaching through a hole punched in a wall as though receiving a desperately needed random act of kindness.  A better illustration would have been a fist punching out the hole in the wall.  It seems to take force and forethought for kindness to ever occur.  This is what one calls a “little book,” only 7 1/2 x 5″ in size and 114 pages, but packed with a distilled history of the seriously confusing human experience of kindness.  It is not uplifting.  It is not devotional.  It is not a garden walk.  It is introspective.  It is challenging.  It is refreshing.

Early on the authors write, “it is not that real kindness requires people to be selfless, it is rather that real kindness changes people in the doing of it, often in unpredictable ways. . . . Kindness is a way of knowing people beyond our understanding of them. . . . By involving us with strangers . . . as well as with intimates, it is potentially far more promiscuous than sexuality.”  Once the authors bring Rousseau and Freud into the picture, they write that, “in love we are likely to be fighting a losing battle . . . love never seems to deliver exactly what we want it to.  Love never works as magic, but it can work as kindness.”

With Winnicott’s help, the authors conclude that, “if there is a kindness instinct, it is going to have to take onboard ambivalence in human relations.  It is kind to be able to bear conflict, in oneself and others; it is kind, to oneself and others, to forgo magic and sentimentality for reality.  It is kind to see individuals as they are, rather than how we might want them to be; it is kind to care for people just as we find them.”  A life lesson to keep does not get any better than that one.

And finally in the last chapter the authors write, “people think that they envy other people for their success, money, fame, when in fact it is kindness that is most envied, because it is the strongest indicator of people’s well-being, their pleasure in existence.”  Here is finally a false note.  They did not take into account my envy of those who write so well.  Charles Marlin

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