Revolt of the Angels by Anatole France (1914)
“I knew him. He was the most beautiful of all the Seraphim. He shone with intelligence and daring. His great heart was big with all the virtues born of pride: frankness, courage, constancy in trial, indomitable hope. Long, long ago, ere Time was, in the boreal sky where gleam the seven magnetic stars, he dwelt in a palace of diamond and gold, where the air was ever tremulous with the beating of wings and with songs of triumph. Iahveh, on his mountain, was jealous of Lucifer. You both know it: angels like unto men feel love and hatred quicken within them. Capable, at times, of generous resolves, they too often follow their own interests and yield to fear. Then, as now, they showed themselves, for the most part, incapable of lofty thoughts, and in the fear of the Lord lay their sole virtue. Lucifer, who held vile things in proud disdain, despised this rabble of commonplace spirits for ever wallowing in a life of feasts and pleasure. But to those who were possessed of a daring spirit, a restless soul, to those fired with a wild love of liberty, he proffered friendship, which we return with adoration. These latter deserted in a mass the mountain of God and yielded to the Seraph the homage which That Other would fain have kept for himself alone.”
Ultimately a meditation on the corruption of power, Anatole France’s Revolt of the Angels (1914) utilizes the theological metaphor of Satan as a force favoring free inquiry, the War in Heaven a metaphysical battle against universal tyranny.
Arcade, an angel who has strayed from Heaven to study Philosophy and History on Earth seeks to re-assemble Lucifer’s legion to overthrow the detached and intolerant God of Heaven. Finally, Satan, after contemplating His probable victory concludes:
“No, let us not conquer the heavens. It is enough to have the power to do so. War engenders war, and victory defeat. God, conquered, will become Satan; Satan, conquering, will become God. May the fates spare me this terrible lot!”
The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined by Steven Pinker
“The doctrine of the sacredness of the soul sounds vaguely uplifting, but in fact it is highly malignant. It discounts life on earth as just a temporary phase that people pass through, indeed, and infinitesimal fraction of their existence. Death becomes a mere rite of passage, like puberty or a midlife crisis.”
“Witch hunts are always vulnerable to common sense.”
Dr. Pinker’s sweeping survey of the human condition demonstrates beyond reasonable doubt the phenomenon of declining violence in the civilized world. From the contemporary vantage point we are now better able to consider what works, and what does not, in relation to effective sociopolitical models conducive to optimal liberty and happiness among populations. While not a book about Satanism specifically, this book is nonetheless indispensable to understanding the intellectual roots of the Satanic Reformation exemplified by The Satanic Temple, as it outlines the scientific refutations of crass calls to and Police State policies and counter-productive misinterpretations of Darwinism that have plagued Satanic circles through decades of inaction and unfocused ineptitude.
Romantic Satanism: Myth and the Historical Moment in Blake, Shelley and Byron, Authors: Schock, P.
Criticism has largely emphasised the private meaning of ‘Romantic Satanism’, treating it as the celebration of subjectivity through allusions to Paradise Lost that voice Satan’s solitary defiance. The first full-length treatment of its subject, Romantic Satanism explores this literary phenomenon as a socially produced myth exhibiting the response of writers to their milieu . Through contextualized readings of the major works of Blake, Shelley, and Byron, this book demonstrates that Satanism enabled Romantic writers to interpret their tempestuous age: it provided them a mythic medium for articulating the hopes and fears their age aroused, for prophesying and inducing change.
Milton, John: Paradise Lost (1667)
Blake, William: The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1790)
Blake, William: America a Prophecy (1793)
Godwin, William: An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice (1793)
Hazlitt, William: On Shakespeare and Milton (1818)
Shelley, Percy Bysshe: Essay on the Devil and Devils (1819)
Shelley, Percy Bysshe: Prometheus Unbound (1820)
Lord Byron: Cain: A Mystery (1821)
The Devil’s Party: Satanism in Modernity by Per Faxneld & Jesper Aa. Petersen
“Recent years have seen a significant shift in the study of new religious movements. In Satanism studies, interest has moved to anthropological and historical work on groups and inviduals. Self-declared Satanism, especially as a religion with cultural production and consumption, history, and organization, has largely been neglected by academia. This volume, focused on modern Satanism as a practiced religion of life-style, attempts to reverse that trend with 12 cutting-edge essays from the emerging field of Satanism studies. Topics covered range from early literary Satanists like Blake and Shelley, to the Californian Church of Satan of the 1960s, to the radical developments that have taken place in the Satanic milieu in recent decades. The contributors analyze such phenomena as conversion to Satanism, connections between Satanism and political violence, 19th-century decadent Satanism, transgression, conspiracy theory, and the construction of Satanic scripture. A wide array of methods are employed to shed light on the Devil’s disciples: statistical surveys, anthropological field studies, philological examination of The Satanic Bible, contextual analysis of literary texts, careful scrutiny of obscure historical records, and close readings of key Satanic writings. […]”
Satanic Panic, Conspiracy, Mind Control, ET Abduction
Abducted: How People Come to Believe They Were Kidnapped By Aliens by Susan Clancy (2007)
They are tiny. They are tall. They are gray. They are green. They survey our world with enormous glowing eyes. To conduct their shocking experiments, they creep in at night to carry humans off to their spaceships. Yet there is no evidence that they exist at all. So how could anyone believe he or she was abducted by aliens? Or want to believe it?
To answer these questions, psychologist Susan Clancy interviewed and evaluated “abductees”–old and young, male and female, religious and agnostic. She listened closely to their stories–how they struggled to explain something strange in their remembered experience, how abduction seemed plausible, and how, having suspected abduction, they began to recollect it, aided by suggestion and hypnosis.
Clancy argues that abductees are sane and intelligent people who have unwittingly created vivid false memories from a toxic mix of nightmares, culturally available texts (abduction reports began only after stories of extraterrestrials appeared in films and on TV), and a powerful drive for meaning that science is unable to satisfy. For them, otherworldly terror can become a transforming, even inspiring experience. “Being abducted,” writes Clancy, “may be a baptism in the new religion of this millennium.” This book is not only a subtle exploration of the workings of memory, but a sensitive inquiry into the nature of belief.
Europe’s Inner Demons: The Demonization of Christians in Medieval Christendom by Norman Cohn (2001)
Europe’s Inner Demons is a fascinating history of the irrational need to imagine witches and an investigation of how those fantasies made the persecutions of the middle ages possible. In addition, Norman Cohn’s discovery that some influential sources on European witch trials were forgeries has revolutionized the field of witchcraft, making this one of the most essential books ever written on the subject.
The Enemy Within: 2,000 Years of Witch-hunting in the Western World by John Demos (2008)
The term “witch-hunt” is used today to describe everything from political scandals to school board shake-ups. But its origins are far from trivial. Long before the Salem witch trials, women and men were rounded up by neighbors, accused of committing horrific crimes using supernatural powers, scrutinized by priests and juries, and promptly executed. The belief in witchcraft–and the deep fear of evil it instilled in communities–led to a cycle of accusation, anger, and purging that has occurred repeatedly in the West for centuries.
Award-winning historian John Demos puts this cultural paranoia in context. He takes readers from the early Christians persecuted in Rome through the Salem witch trials, McCarthy’s hunt for communists, and the hysteria around child sex-abuse cases and satanic cults in the 1980s.
An original and fascinating look at the cultural, societal, and psychological practice of witch-hunts, The Enemy Within illuminates the dark side of communities driven to rid themselves of “evil,” no matter what the cost.
Evil Incarnate: Rumors of Demonic Conspiracy and Satanic Abuse in History by David Frankfurter (2008)
In the 1980s, America was gripped by widespread panics about Satanic cults. Conspiracy theories abounded about groups who were allegedly abusing children in day-care centers, impregnating girls for infant sacrifice, brainwashing adults, and even controlling the highest levels of government. As historian of religions David Frankfurter listened to these sinister theories, it occurred to him how strikingly similar they were to those that swept parts of the early Christian world, early modern Europe, and postcolonial Africa. He began to investigate the social and psychological patterns that give rise to these myths. Thus was born Evil Incarnate, a riveting analysis of the mythology of evilconspiracy.
The first work to provide an in-depth analysis of the topic, the book uses anthropology, the history of religion, sociology, and psychoanalytic theory, to answer the questions “What causes people collectively to envision evil and seek to exterminate it?” and “Why does the representation of evil recur in such typical patterns?”
Frankfurter guides the reader through such diverse subjects as witch-hunting, the origins of demonology, cannibalism, and the rumors of Jewish ritual murder, demonstrating how societies have long expanded upon their fears of such atrocities to address a collective anxiety. Thus, he maintains, panics over modern-day infant sacrifice are really not so different from rumors about early Christians engaging in infant feasts during the second and third centuries in Rome.
In Evil Incarnate, Frankfurter deepens historical awareness that stories of Satanic atrocities are both inventions of the mind and perennial phenomena, not authentic criminal events. True evil, as he so artfully demonstrates, is not something organized and corrupting, but rather a social construction that inspires people to brutal acts in the name of moral order.
Satan’s Silence: Ritual Abuse and the Making of a Modern American Witch Hunt by Debbie Nathan and Michael Snedeker (2001)
Communities throughout the United States were convulsed in the 1980s and early 1990s by accusations, often without a shred of serious evidence, that respectable men and women in their midstmany of them trusted preschool teacherssecretly gathered in far reaching conspiracies to rape and terrorize children. In this powerful book, Debbie Nathan and Mike Snedeker examine the forces fueling this blind panic.
Brainwash: The Secret History of Mind Control by Dominic Streatfield (2008)
Behind the front lines of every war in the world, prisoners are forced to sit for interrogation: manipulated, coerced, and sometimes tortured–often without ever being touched. Brainwash is a history of the methods intended to destroy and reconstruct the minds of captives, to extract information, convert dissidents, and lead peaceful men to kill and be killed.
With access to formerly classified documentation and interviews from the CIA, U.S. Army, MI5, MI6, and British Intelligence Corps, Dominic Streatfeild traces the evolution of mind control from its origins in the Cold War to the height of today’s war on terror. Vivid and disturbing, Brainwash is essential insight into the modern practice of interrogation and torture.
Remembering Satan: A Tragic Case of Recovered Memory by Lawrence Wright (1995)
In 1988 Ericka and Julie Ingram began making a series of accusations of sexual abuse against their father, Paul Ingram, who was a respected deputy sheriff in Olympia, Washington. At first the accusations were confined to molestations in their childhood, but they grew to include torture and rape as recently as the month before. At a time when reported incidents of “recovered memories” had become widespread, these accusations were not unusual. What captured national attention in this case is that, under questioning, Ingram appeared to remember participating in bizarre satanic rites involving his whole family and other members of the sheriff’s department.
Remembering Satan is a lucid, measured, yet absolutely riveting inquest into a case that destroyed a family, engulfed a small town, and captivated an America obsessed by rumors of a satanic underground. As it follows the increasingly bizarre accusations and confessions, the claims and counterclaims of police, FBI investigators, and mental health professionals. Remembering Satan gives us what is at once a psychological detective story and a domestic tragedy about what happens when modern science is subsumed by our most archaic fears.
American Exorcism: Expelling Demons in the Land of Plenty by Michael W. Cuneo (2002)
A guided tour through the burgeoning business of exorcism and the darker side of American life.
There is no other religious ritual more fascinating, or more disturbing, than exorcism. This is particularly true in America today, where the ancient rite has a surprisingly strong hold on our imagination, and on our popular entertainment industry. We’ve all heard of exorcism, seen the movies and read the books, but few of us have ever experienced it firsthand.
Conducted by exorcists officially appointed by Catholic archdioceses and by maverick priests sidestepping Church sanctions, by evangelical ministers and Episcopal charismatics, exorcism is alive and well in the new millennium. Oprah, Diane Sawyer, and Barbara Walters have featured exorcists on their shows. The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Time, and other publications have charted the proliferation of exorcisms across the United States. Last year, the Archdiocese of Chicago appointed its first full-time exorcist in its 160-year history; in New York, four priests have officially investigated about forty cases of suspected possession every year since 1995.
American Exorcism is an inside look at this burgeoning phenomenon, written with objectivity, insight, and just the right touch of irony. Michael W. Cuneo attended more than fifty exorcisms and interviewed many of the participants–both the exorcists who performed the rituals and the people from all walks of life who believed they were possessed by the devil. He brings vividly to life the ceremonies themselves, conjuring up memories of Linda Blair’s astonishing performance in the 1973 movie The Exorcist and other bizarre (and sometimes stomach-churning) images. Cuneo dissects, as well, the arguments of such well-known exorcism advocates as Malachi Martin, author of the controversial Hostage to the Devil, self-help guru M. Scott Peck, and self-professed demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren of Amityville Horror fame.
General Delusion, Confabulation
Brain Fiction: Self-Deception and the Riddle of Confabulation (Philosophical Psychopathology) by William Hirstein (2006)
Some neurological patients exhibit a striking tendency to confabulate — to construct false answers to a question while genuinely believing that they are telling the truth. A stroke victim, for example, will describe in detail a conference he attended over the weekend when in fact he has not left the hospital. Normal people, too, sometimes have a tendency to confabulate; rather than admitting “I don’t know,” some people will make up an answer or an explanation and express it with complete conviction. In Brain Fiction, William Hirstein examines confabulation and argues that its causes are not merely technical issues in neurology or cognitive science but deeply revealing about the structure of the human intellect.Hirstein describes confabulation as the failure of a normal checking or censoring process in the brain — the failure to recognize that a false answer is fantasy, not reality. Thus, he argues, the creative ability to construct a plausible-sounding response and some ability to check that response are separate in the human brain. Hirstein sees the dialectic between the creative and checking processes — “the inner dialogue” — as an important part of our mental life. In constructing a theory of confabulation, Hirstein integrates perspectives from different fields, including philosophy, neuroscience, and psychology to achieve a natural mix of conceptual issues usually treated by philosophers with purely empirical issues; information about the distribution of certain blood vessels in the prefrontal lobes of the brain, for example, or the behavior of split-brain patients can shed light on the classic questions of philosophy of mind, including questions about the function of consciousness. This first book-length study of confabulation breaks ground in both philosophy and cognitive science.
The Folly of Fools: The Logic of Deceit and Self-Deception in Human Life by Robert Trivers (2011)
Whether it’s in a cockpit at takeoff or the planning of an offensive war, a romantic relationship or a dispute at the office, there are many opportunities to lie and self-deceive—but deceit and self-deception carry the costs of being alienated from reality and can lead to disaster. So why does deception play such a prominent role in our everyday lives? In short, why do we deceive?
In his bold new work, prominent biological theorist Robert Trivers unflinchingly argues that self-deception evolved in the service of deceit—the better to fool others. We do it for biological reasons—in order to help us survive and procreate. From viruses mimicking host behavior to humans misremembering (sometimes intentionally) the details of a quarrel, science has proven that the deceptive one can always outwit the masses. But we undertake this deception at our own peril.
Trivers has written an ambitious investigation into the evolutionary logic of lying and the costs of leaving it unchecked.
Delusional Disorder: Paranoia and Related Illnesses by Alistair Munro (2006)
Delusional disorder, once termed paranoia, was an important diagnosis in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Only in 1987 was it reintroduced into modern psychiatric diagnosis after being incorporated with schizophrenia. This book provides a comprehensive review of delusional disorder for psychiatrists and other clinicians. Beginning with the emergence of the concept of delusional disorder, the book goes on to detail its manifold presentations, differential diagnosis and treatment. The author provides many instructive case histories, illustrating manifestations of the various subtypes of delusional disorder, and related conditions in the paranoid spectrum. This is the most wide-ranging and authoritative text on the subject to have appeared for many years, and the first to suggest–based on the author’s extensive experience–that the category of delusional disorder should contain not one but several conditions. It also emphasizes that, contrary to traditional belief, delusional disorder is a treatable illness.
Trauma, “Recovered Memories”, and Multiple Personalities
Remembering Trauma by Richard J. McNally (2005)
Are horrific experiences indelibly fixed in a victim’s memory? Or does the mind protect itself by banishing traumatic memories from consciousness? How victims remember trauma is the most controversial issue in psychology today, spilling out of consulting rooms and laboratories to capture headlines, rupture families, provoke legislative change, and influence criminal trials and civil suits. This book, by a clinician who is also a laboratory researcher, is the first comprehensive, balanced analysis of the clinical and scientific evidence bearing on this issue–and the first to provide definitive answers to the urgent questions at the heart of the controversy.
Synthesizing clinical case reports and the vast research literature on the effects of stress, suggestion, and trauma on memory, Richard McNally arrives at significant conclusions, first and foremost that traumatic experiences are indeed unforgettable. Though people sometimes do not think about disturbing experiences for long periods of time, traumatic events rarely slip from awareness for very long; furthermore, McNally reminds us, failure to think about traumas–such as early sexual abuse–must not be confused with amnesia or an inability to remember them. In fact, the evidence for repressed memories of trauma–or even for repression at all–is surprisingly weak.
A magisterial work of scholarship, panoramic in scope and nonpartisan throughout, this unfailingly lucid work will prove indispensable to anyone seeking to understand how people remember trauma.
Remembering our Childhood: How Memory Betrays Us by Karl Sabbagh (2011)
In this fascinating and sometimes disturbing book, the well-known writer Karl Sabbagh looks at psychologists’ present understanding of the nature of memory, especially recollections of childhood, and how, in cases of so-called ‘recovered memories’, the unreliability and flexibility of memory has led to tragic consequences, destroying the lives of whole families.
All of us have memories of childhood – that special trip to the fair, or impressions, such as dappled sunlight through rustling leaves seen from the pram. Some people firmly believe that they can recall scenes from the time they were babies. But what does science tell us about the nature of memory, and memories of childhood? In the first part of this book, Sabbagh begins gently with examples he has collected from many interviews of earliest memories, and goes on to look at psychologists’ and neuroscientists’ understanding of memory. It becomes clear that, whatever individuals might claim, memories of the first two years or so of our lives are simply not accessible to us, while later memories are fragile, yielding to suggestion and our inclination towards a neat story. All too often, our ‘memory’ of an event arises from what we have been told by a relative. The book then turns to darker territory. A casual remark by a child at a nursery leads to detailed and suggestive questioning of a number of children, resulting in the arrest of a teacher accused of child abuse. She was subsequently released. Some patients with eating and mood disorders undergoing therapy have come to believe, or have been led to believe by the therapist, that their problems stem from being sexually abused as a child – memories allegedly repressed and only ‘recovered’ under the guidance of the therapist. Such claims have again resulted in wrongful arrest, subsequently overturned, though the damage done to the families is irreparable. Sabbagh has interviewed the distinguished psychologist Elizabeth Loftus and others involved in blowing the whistle on the ‘recovered memory’ movement. Throughout, the book is full of quotations from interviews and extracts from transcribed interviews presented at court, making this a powerful and vivid account.
While other books have been written on the dangers of the concept of recovered memory, Sabbagh here puts the story in the wider perspective of our growing scientific understanding of memory, and argues strongly for the critical role of scientific evidence in cases involving the memory of witnesses.
Multiple Identities and False Memories: A Sociocognitive Perspective by Nicholas P. Spanos (1996)
Presentation of the author’s theory on the connection between multiple personalities disorder (dissociative identity disorder) and recovery of memories of abuse, for therapists.
Try To Remember by Paul R. McHugh (2008)
In the 1990s a disturbing trend emerged in psychotherapy: patients began accusing their parents and other close relatives of sexual abuse, as a result of false “recovered memories” urged onto them by therapists practicing new methods of treatment. The subsequent loss of public confidence in psychotherapy was devastating to psychiatrist Paul R. McHugh, and with Try to Remember, he looks at what went wrong and describes what must be done to restore psychotherapy to a more honored and useful place in therapeutic treatment.
In this thought-provoking account, McHugh explains why trendy diagnoses and misguided treatments have repeatedly taken over psychotherapy. He recounts his participation in court battles that erupted over diagnoses of recovered memories and the frequent companion diagnoses of multiple-personality disorders. He also warns that diagnoses of post-traumatic stress disorder today may be perpetuating a similar misdirection, thus exacerbating the patients’ suffering. He argues that both the public and psychiatric professionals must raise their standards for psychotherapy, in order to ensure that the incorrect designation of memory as the root cause of disorders does not occur again. Psychotherapy, McHugh ultimately shows, is a valuable healing method—and at the very least an important adjunct treatment—to the numerous psychopharmaceuticals that flood the drug market today.
An urgent call to arms for patients and therapists alike, Try to Remember delineates the difference between good and bad psychiatry and challenges us to reconsider psychotherapy as the most effective way to heal troubled minds.
Sybil Exposed: The Extraordinary Story Behind the Famous Multiple Personality Case by Debbie Nathan (2012)
Sybil: a name that resonates with legions of obsessed fans who followed the nonfiction blockbuster from 1973. The book rocketed multiple personality disorder into public consciousness and played a major role in having the diagnosis added to the psychiatric bible, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. But what do we really know about how Sybil came to be? In her news-breaking book Sybil Exposed, journalist Debbie Nathan gives proof that the allegedly true story outlined in the megabestseller was largely fabricated. The actual identity of Sybil (Shirley Mason) has been available for some years, as has the idea that the book might have been exaggerated. But Nathan reveals the trio of women behind the legend: the willing patient, her ambitious shrink, and the imaginative journalist who spun their story into bestseller gold.
Sybil Exposed draws from an enormous trail of papers, records, photos, and tapes to unearth the lives and passions of these three women whose story exploded into an epic movement with consequences beyond their wildest dreams. Set across the twentieth century and rooted in a time when few professional roles were available to women, this is a story of corrosive sexism, bold but unchecked ambition, runaway greed, utter human vulnerability, duplicity and shared delusion, shaky theories of psychoanalysis exuberantly and drastically practiced, and how one modest young woman’s life turned psychiatry on its head and radically changed the course of therapy—and our culture, as well.
Each year over a million Americans are convinced by their therapists (or by misguided ‘self-help’ books) that their childhoods were not as happy as they thought – that they harboured repressed memories of horrendous abuse by their parents, other relatives, and even satanic cults. Their identities are destroyed, their pasts rewritten, and their families are torn apart. Several books have been written about this strange phenomenon, some of them very good, but Pendergrast’s has been consistently acclaimed by reviewers as the most comprehensive, balanced, and readable coverage of the topic. Originally published in 1995, the book was so highly received that a second edition came out just a year later. Among the publications that have given high praise to this book are “Scientific American”, “New York Review of Books”, “Booklist”, the “Los Angeles Times”, the “Journal of the American Medical Association”, “Psychological Reports”, and the “Montreal Gazette”.
The Myth of Repressed Memory: False Memories and Allegations of Sexual Abuse by Elizabeth Loftus & Katherine Ketchum (1996)
According to many clinical psychologists, when the mind is forced to endure a horrifying experience, it has the ability to bury the entire memory of it so deeply within the unconscious that it can only be recalled in the form of a flashback triggered by a sight, a smell, or a sound. Indeed, therapists and lawyers have created an industry based on treating and litigating the cases of people who suddenly claim to have “recovered” memories of everything from child abuse to murder.
This book reveals that despite decades of research, there is absolutely no controlled scientific support for the idea that memories of trauma are routinely banished into the unconscious and then reliably recovered years later. Since it is not actually a legitimate psychological phenomenon, the idea of “recovered memory” and the movement that has developed alongside it is thus closer to a dangerous fad or trendy witch hunt.
The Trauma Myth: The Truth About the Sexual Abuse of Children–and Its Aftermathby Susan A. Clancy (2011)
Drawing on the latest research on memory and traumatic experience, Susan Clancy, an expert in experimental psychopathology, demonstrates that children describe abuse and molestation encounters in ways that don’t fit the conventional trauma model. In fact, the most common feeling reported is not fear but confusion.
Clancy calls for an honest look at sexual abuse and its aftermath, and argues that the reactions of society and the healing professions–however well meaning–actually shackle the victims of abuse in chains of guilt, secrecy, and shame. Pathbreaking and controversial, The Trauma Myth radically reshapes our understanding of sexual abuse and its consequences.
Creating Hysteria: Women and Multiple Personality Disorder by Joan Acocella (1999)
From 1985 to 1995 an estimated 40,000 Americans, most of them women, were told they suffered from multiple personality disorder. Feminists, fundamentalists, and a substantial portion of the mental health community Andorsed this “Sybil-ing” of America. Sensation-seeking television talk shows took up the MPD rallying cry. In Creating Hysteria, Joan Acocella tells a riveting tale of therapists betraying their patients, of a psychotherapy profession at war within its own ranks, and finally of expatients rising up and putting an And to the MPD scandal.
“Creating Hysteria exposes one of the most frightening mental rollercoaster rides taken by thousands of people in modern times. Joan Acocella brilliantly illuminates how the mental health profession spearheaded, perhaps inadvertently, a fin-de-siecle hysteria, the fallout from which will take us into the next millennium. Anyone who has ever been interested in mental health should read this book.”–Elizabeth Loftus, president, American Psychological Society
Making Monsters: False Memories, Psychotherapy, And Sexual Hysteria by Richard Ofshe (1996)
In the last decade, reports of incest have exploded into the national consciousness. Magazines, talk shows, and mass market paperbacks have taken on the subject as many Americans, primarily women, have come forward with graphic memories of childhood abuse. Making Monsters examines the methods of therapists who treat patients for depression by working to draw out memories or, with the use of hypnosis, to encourage fantasies of childhood abuse the patients are told they have repressed. Since this therapy may leave the patient more depressed and alienated than before, questions are appropriately raised here about the ethics and efficacy of such treatment.
Psychology Astray: Fallacies in Studies of “Repressed Memory” and Childhood Traumaby Harrison Pope (1997)
Can individuals “repress” the memory of traumatic childhood experiences? Does childhood sexual abuse cause victims to develop psychiatric disorders years later in adulthood? Dr. Harrison Pope examines the evidence for these two hypotheses, and takes a rigorous and incisive look at the studies available. His conclusions are startling-there is presently no satisfactory evidence that people can actually “repress” memories, nor is there adequate evidence that childhood sexual abuse causes adult psychiatric disorders. The fact remains that the “evidence” cited in many of these studies can be more readily explained by more mundane processes, such as early childhood amnesia, ordinary forgetfulness, or elective non-disclosure.
Psychology Astray is written for students and scholars in the fields of psychology, mental health, medical research and law. The flaws in existing studies are exposed and illustrated, using simple and colorful analogies from ordinary life which everyone can understand.
The Bifurcation of the Self: The History and Theory of Dissociation and Its Disorders by Robert W. Rieber (2010)
For more than a hundred years, dissociative states, sometimes referred to as multiple personality disorder, have fascinated the public as well as scientists. The precise nature of this disorder is a controversial one, dividing clinicians, theorists, and researchers. Challenging the conventional wisdom on all sides, Robert Rieber’s Bifurcation of the Self traces the clinical and social history of dissociation in a provocative examination of this widely debated phenomenon. At the core of this history is a trio of related evolutions—hypnosis, concepts of identity, and dissociation—beginning with nineteenth-century “hysterics” and culminating in the modern boom in Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) diagnoses and the parallel rise in childhood abuse/repressed memory cases. Rieber does not argue the non-existence of DID; rather he asserts that it is a rare disorder exaggerated by dissociation advocates and exploited by the media. In doing so, he takes on some of the most difficult questions in the field: How crucial is memory to a person’s identity? Can two or more autonomous personalities actually exist in the same body? If trauma causes dissociation, why aren’t there more DID cases? Why are DID cases prevalent in some eras but not in others? Does dissociative disorder belong in the DSM? The book is rigorously illustrated with two centuries’ worth of famous cases including Christine Beauchamp, Ansel Bourne, Eve Black/Eve White, and most notably the woman known as “Sybil”, whose story is covered in depth with newly revealed manuscripts. And Rieber reviews the current state of DID-related controversy, from the professionals who feel that the condition is underreported to those who consider it a form of malingering, so that readers may draw their own conclusions.
My Lie: A True Story of False Memory by Meredith Maran (2010)
During the 1980s and 1990s, tens of thousands of Americans became convinced that they had repressed memories of childhood sexual abuse, and then, decades later, recovered those memories in therapy.
Journalist, mother, and daughter Meredith Maran was one of them. Her accusation and estrangement from her father caused her sons to grow up without their only grandfather, divided her family into those who believed her and those who didn’t, and led her to isolate herself on “Planet Incest,” where “survivors” devoted their lives, and life savings, to recovering memories of events that had never occurred.
Maran unveils her family’s devastation and ultimate redemption against the backdrop of the sex-abuse scandals, beginning with the infamous McMartin preschool trial, that sent hundreds of innocents to jail—several of whom remain imprisoned today.
Exploring the psychological, cultural, and neuroscientific causes of this modern American witch-hunt, My Lie asks: how could so many people come to believe the same lie at the same time? What has neuroscience discovered about the brain’s capacity to create false memories and encode false beliefs? What are the “big lies” gaining traction in American culture today—and how can we keep them from taking hold?
My Lie is a wrenchingly honest, unexpectedly witty, and profoundly human story that proves the personal is indeed political—and the political can become painfully personal.
The Memory Wars by Fredrick Crews (1997)
This volume contains two essays by Frederick Crews attacking Freudian psychoanalysis and its aftermath in the so-called “recovered memory” movement. The first essay reviews a growing body of evidence indicating that Freud doctored his data and manipulated his colleagues in an effort to consolidate a cult-life following that would neither defy nor upstage him. The second essay challenges the scientific and therapeutic claims of the rapidly growing recovered-memory movement, maintaining that its social effects have been devestating. Crews traces that movement to a Freudian precedent – not just to Freud’s abandoned “seduction theory”, but also to the most essential assumptions of psychoanalysis itself. When the essays were first published in the “New York Review of Books”, therapists, patients, scholars and philosophers responded with numerous letters. Twenty-five of these were published, with Crews’s replies. Most are gathered in the book, together with a new introduction describing the genesis of his pieces, and an epilogue considers the debate and its reverberations. Frederick Crews is the author of “Out of My System: Psychoanalysis, Ideology and Critical Method”, “Skeptical Engagements” and “The Critics Beat It Away: American Fiction and the Academy”, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award.
General Mental Health Issues
What is Mental Illness? by Richard J. McNally (2012)
According to a major health survey, nearly half of all Americans have been mentally ill at some point in their lives—more than a quarter in the last year. Can this be true? What exactly does it mean, anyway? What’s a disorder, and what’s just a struggle with real life?
This lucid and incisive book cuts through both professional jargon and polemical hot air, to describe the intense political and intellectual struggles over what counts as a “real” disorder, and what goes into the “DSM,” the psychiatric bible. Is schizophrenia a disorder? Absolutely. Is homosexuality? It was—till gay rights activists drove it out of the DSM a generation ago. What about new and controversial diagnoses? Is “social anxiety disorder” a way of saying that it’s sick to be shy, or “female sexual arousal disorder” that it’s sick to be tired?
An advisor to the DSM, but also a fierce critic of exaggerated overuse, McNally defends the careful approach of describing disorders by patterns of symptoms that can be seen, and illustrates how often the system medicalizes everyday emotional life.
Neuroscience, genetics, and evolutionary psychology may illuminate the biological bases of mental illness, but at this point, McNally argues, no science can draw a bright line between disorder and distress. In a pragmatic and humane conclusion, he offers questions for patients and professionals alike to help understand, and cope with, the sorrows and psychopathologies of everyday life.
The Empire of Trauma: An Inquiry into the Condition of Victimhood by Didier Fassin (2009)
Today we are accustomed to psychiatrists being summoned to scenes of terrorist attacks, natural disasters, war, and other tragic events to care for the psychic trauma of victims–yet it has not always been so. The very idea of psychic trauma came into being only at the end of the nineteenth century and for a long time was treated with suspicion. The Empire of Trauma tells the story of how the traumatic victim became culturally and politically respectable, and how trauma itself became an unassailable moral category.
Basing their analysis on a wide-ranging ethnography, Didier Fassin and Richard Rechtman examine the politics of reparation, testimony, and proof made possible by the recognition of trauma. They study the application of psychiatric victimology to victims of the 1995 terrorist bombings in Paris and the 2001 industrial disaster in Toulouse; the involvement of humanitarian psychiatry with both Palestinians and Israelis during the second Intifada; and the application of the psychotraumatology of exile to asylum seekers victimized by persecution and torture.
Revealing how trauma has come to authenticate the suffering of victims, The Empire of Trauma provides critical perspective on some of the moral and political issues at stake in the contemporary world.
Making Us Crazy: DSM: The Psychiatric Bible and the Creation of Mental Disorders by Herb Kutchins (2003)
Used by doctors and therapists all around the country, the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is the closest thing America has to a bible of mental illness. Currently in its fourth edition, the DSM (as it’s commonly called) classifies more than 200 disorders and their symptoms, from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder to Generalized Anxiety Disorder and everything in between. In so doing, say Herb Kutchins and Stuart Kirk, the DSM applies the language of mental illness to everyday behavior, transforming ordinary reactions to life’s vicissitudes into billable pathology. In Making Us Crazy, Kutchins and Kirk have used 15 years of studying the DSM to produce a lengthy diatribe against its ever-growing list of psychiatric disorders and their overly inclusive symptoms, including bad handwriting, impulsive shopping sprees, and reckless driving. The DSM, they contend, is most influenced by the needs of the insurance industry; every illness comes with its own diagnostic code, widely used for insurance claim forms. Moreover, its choices of which disorders to include and exclude are widely influenced by social prejudices as well as special interests. Given the DSM‘s list of diagnostic criteria, it is possible to classify almost anyone with objectionable views or behavior that deviates from social norms as “crazy.” But in doing so, any mental-health professional would be acting irresponsibly by ignoring the behavior’s context–the one factor a reference such as the DSM cannot quantify.
Making Minds and Madness: From Hysteria to Depression by Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen (2009)
Why do “maladies of the soul” such as hysteria, anxiety disorders, or depression wax and wane over time? Through a study of the history of psychiatry, Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen provocatively argues that most mental illnesses are not, in fact, diseases but the product of varying expectations shared and negotiated by therapists and patients. With a series of fascinating historical vignettes, stretching from Freud’s creation of false memories of sexual abuse in his early hysterical patients to today’s promotion and marketing of depression by drug companies, Making Minds and Madness offers a powerful critique of all the theories, such as psychoanalysis and biomedical psychiatry, that claim to discover facts about the human psyche while, in reality, producing them. Borch-Jacobsen proposes such objectivizing approaches should be abandoned in favor of a constructionist and relativist psychology that recognizes the artifactual and interactive character of psychic productions instead of attempting to deny or control it.
The Harmony of Illusions: Inventing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder by Allan Young (1997)
As far back as we know, there have been individuals incapacitated by memories that have filled them with sadness and remorse, fright and horror, or a sense of irreparable loss. Only recently, however, have people tormented with such recollections been diagnosed as suffering from “post-traumatic stress disorder.” Here Allan Young traces this malady, particularly as it is suffered by Vietnam veterans, to its beginnings in the emergence of ideas about the unconscious mind and to earlier manifestations of traumatic memory like shell shock or traumatic hysteria. In Young’s view, PTSD is not a timeless or universal phenomenon newly discovered. Rather, it is a “harmony of illusions,” a cultural product gradually put together by the practices, technologies, and narratives with which it is diagnosed, studied, and treated and by the various interests, institutions, and moral arguments mobilizing these efforts.
This book is part history and part ethnography, and it includes a detailed account of everyday life in the treatment of Vietnam veterans with PTSD. To illustrate his points, Young presents a number of fascinating transcripts of the group therapy and diagnostic sessions that he observed firsthand over a period of two years. Through his comments and the transcripts themselves, the reader becomes familiar with the individual hospital personnel and clients and their struggle to make sense of life after a tragic war. One observes that everyone on the unit is heavily invested in the PTSD diagnosis: boundaries between therapist and patient are as unclear as were the distinctions between victim and victimizer in the jungles of Southeast Asia.
Science and Pseudoscience in Clinical Psychology by Scott O. Lilienfeld Phd, Steven Jay Lynn Phd and Jeffrey M. Lohr Phd
This is the first major text designed to help professionals and students evaluate the merits of popular yet controversial practices in clinical psychology, differentiating those that can stand up to the rigors of science from those that cannot. Leading researchers review widely used therapies for alcoholism, infantile autism, ADHD, and posttraumatic stress disorder; herbal remedies for depression and anxiety; suggestive techniques for memory recovery; and self-help models. Other topics covered include issues surrounding psychological expert testimony, the uses of projective assessment techniques, and unanswered questions about dissociative identity disorder. Providing knowledge to guide truly accountable mental health practice, the volume also imparts critical skills for designing and evaluating psychological research programs. It is ideal for use in advanced undergraduate- and graduate-level courses in clinical psychology, psychotherapy, and evidence-based practice.
50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology: Shattering Widespread Misconceptions about Human Behavior by Scott O. Lilienfeld, Steven Jay Lynn, John Ruscio and Barry L. Beyerstein (2009)
Virtually every day, the news media, television shows, films, and Internet bombard us with claims regarding a host of psychological topics: psychics, out of body experiences, recovered memories, and lie detection, to name merely a few. Even a casual stroll through our neighborhood bookstore reveals dozens of self-help, relationship, recovery, and addiction books that serve up generous portions of advice for steering our paths along life’s rocky road. Yet many popular psychology sources are rife with misconceptions. Indeed, in today’s fast-paced world of information overload, misinformation about psychology is at least as widespread as accurate information. Self-help gurus, television talk show hosts, and self-proclaimed mental health experts routinely dispense psychological advice that’s a bewildering mix of truths, half-truths, and outright falsehoods. Without a dependable tour guide for sorting out psychological myth from reality, we’re at risk for becoming lost in a jungle of “psychomythology.”
In our new book, 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology: Shattering Widespread Misconceptions About Human Nature, we examine in depth 50 widespread myths in popular psychology (along with approximately 250 other myths and “mini-myths”), present research evidence demonstrating that these beliefs are fictional, explore their ramifications in popular culture and everyday life, and trace their psychological and sociological origins. Here, in David Letterman-like style, we present – in no particular order – our own candidates for five big myths of popular psychology.
Myth # 1: Most people use only 10% of their brain power
There are several reasons to doubt that 90% of our brains lie silent. At a mere 2-3% of our body weight, our brain consumes over 20% of the oxygen we breathe. It’s implausible that evolution would have permitted the squandering of resources on a scale necessary to build and maintain such a massively underutilized organ. Moreover, losing far less than 90% of the brain to accident or disease almost always has catastrophic consequences (Kolb & Whishaw, 2003).
How did the 10% myth get started? One clue leads back about a century to psychologist William James, who once wrote that he doubted that average persons achieve more than about 10% of their intellectual potential. Although James talked in terms of underdeveloped potential, a slew of positive thinking gurus transformed “10% of our capacity” into “10% of our brain” (Beyerstein, 1999).
Myth # 2:It’s better to express anger than to hold it in
If you’re like most people, you believe that releasing anger is healthier than bottling it up. In one survey, 66% of undergraduates agreed that expressing pent-up anger–sometimes called “catharsis”–is an effective means of reducing one’s risk for aggression (Brown, 1983).
Yet more than 40 years of research reveals that expressing anger directly toward another person or indirectly (such as toward an object) actually turns up the heat on aggression (Bushman, Baumeister, & Stack, 1999; Tavris, 1988). Research suggests that expressing anger is helpful only when it’s accompanied by constructive problem-solving designed to address the source of the anger (Littrell, 1998).
Why is this myth so popular? In all likelihood, people often mistakenly attribute the fact that they feel better after they express anger to catharsis, rather than to the fact that anger usually subsides on its own after awhile (Lohr, Olatunji, Baumeister, & Bushman, 2007).
Myth # 3: Low Self-Esteem is a Major Cause of Psychological Problems
Many popular psychologists have long maintained that low self-esteem is a prime culprit in generating unhealthy behaviors, including violence, depression, anxiety, and alcoholism. The self-esteem movement has found its way into mainstream educational practices. Some athletic leagues award trophies to all schoolchildren to avoid making losing competitors feel inferior (Sommers & Satel, 2005). Moreover, the Internet is chock full of educational products intended to boost children’s self-esteem.
But there’s a fly in the ointment: Research shows that low self esteem isn’t strongly associated with poor mental health. In a painstakingly – and probably painful! – review, Roy Baumeister and his colleagues (2003) canvassed over 15,000 studies linking self-esteem to just about every conceivable psychological variable. They found that self-esteem is minimally related to interpersonal success, and not consistently related to alcohol or drug abuse. Perhaps most surprising of all, they found that “low self-esteem is neither necessary nor sufficient for depression” (Baumeister et al., 2003, p. 6).
Myth # 4: Human memory works like a tape recorder or video camera, and accurately records the events we’ve experienced
Despite the sometimes all-too-obvious failings of everyday memory, surveys show that many people believe that their memories operate very much like tape recorders, video cameras, or DVDs. It’s true that we often recall extremely emotional events, sometimes called flashbulb memories because they seem to have a photographic quality (Brown & Kulik, 1977). Nevertheless, research shows that even these memories wither over time and are prone to distortions (Krackow, Lynn, & Payne, 2005-2006).
Today, there’s broad consensus among psychologists that memory isn’t reproductive—it doesn’t duplicate precisely what we’ve experienced—but reconstructive. What we recall is often a blurry mixture of accurate and inaccurate recollections, along with what jells with our beliefs and hunches. Rather than viewing our memory as a tape recorder, we can more aptly describe our memory as an ever-changing medium that highlights our ability to create fluid narratives of our experiences.
Myth # 5:Hypnosis is a unique “trance” state that differs in kind from wakefulness
Popular movies and books portray the hypnotic trance state as so powerful that otherwise normal people will commit an assassination (The Manchurian Candidate); commit suicide (The Garden Murders); perceive only a person’s internal beauty (Shallow Hal); and our favorite, fall victim to brainwashing by alien preachers who use messages embedded in sermons (Invasion of the Space Preachers).
But research shows that hypnotized people can resist and even oppose hypnotic suggestions (Lynn, Rhue, & Weekes, 1990; Nash, 2001), and won’t do things that are out of character, like harming people they dislike. In addition, hypnosis bears no more than a superficial resemblance to sleep: Brain wave studies reveal that hypnotized people are wide awake.
So there’s no reason to believe that hypnosis differs in kind from normal wakefulness. Instead, hypnosis appears to be only one procedure among many for increasing people’s responses to suggestions.
More information about each of these myths and a complete list of references are available in 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology.