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by Stanley W. Jackson
Yale University Press, 1999
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D. on Jul 7th 2004
Stanley Jackson is best known for
his authoritative history Melancholia and Depression. His more recent
book Care of the Psyche provides a history of broader scope, including
not just depression and melancholy but all forms of psychological healing.
"Psychological healing" here refers to attempts to help people with
their emotional troubles through listening and talking about the causes of
those problems. The chapters are organized into eight parts, which focus on
five main methods of healing: the expression of feelings through catharsis and
confession; consolation and comfort; the use of passion and imagination;
mesmerism, persuasion and conditioning; and cognitive approaches. Although the
book is over 500 pages long, each particular approach is discussed in less than
one hundred pages, and covering hundreds or even thousands of years within
that space means that each particular historical period is discussed quite
For example, in the chapter on
catharsis, a couple of pages are devoted to Aristotle and then the discussion
moves quickly to the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The next chapter, on
confession and confiding, gives a history of the use of confession as a method
of healing within the Judeo-Christian tradition and then draws links to more
modern theories of psychotherapy. There is considerable overlap between these
chapters, and one needs to read both to get a more rounded picture. Indeed,
one also needs to read the following chapter on consolation and comfort, since
one of the functions of confession is to provide comfort.
So the overall effect of reading
through Care of the Psyche is to approach the same history again and
again through a number of different perspectives. The advantage of this is
obvious: one can dip into the book and find a discussion of the history of a
particular approach to psychological healing in a reasonably concise form. The
disadvantage is that the book is rather fragmented in its form, and there is
considerable repetition and cross-reference from chapter to chapter.
This fragmentation is ameliorated
by the presence of the second section of the book, entitled "The Bedrock,"
which in three chapters covers the whole history of the healer-sufferer
relationship, the listening healer and the talking cures. These chapters,
especially the first of them, are probably the most interesting from a
conceptual point of view in helping to formulate the history of the changing
understanding of psychological healing through the centuries. Many readers
will probably be satisfied with reading this part of the book and then dipping
into a few other chapters to get more detail about particular issues.
The great value of Care of the
Psyche is in its drawing links between modern psychotherapy and practices
in medicine and religion that anticipated our current psychological theories.
Very few other books provide any similar breadth of approach, although many do
provide more detailed accounts of particular periods of history or movements
within clinical psychology. Jackson's book will be a valuable resource for
academics and could also serve as an introduction to the area for the
interested general reader.
© 2004 Christian Perring.
All rights reserved.
Ph.D., is Academic Chair of the Arts & Humanities Division and Chair of the
Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is also editor of Metapsychology Online Review.
His main research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and