Most helpful critical review
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 16 March 2014
An interesting book about empathy, the ability to connect and view the world from another, but, this starts with so many false premises, it is difficult to separate the good from the bad.
For example there is no therapeutic method detailed within the book, nothing which points to how to work with young people who have experienced early trauma. More importantly there is no sense of emotional recovery - and this colours the whole of the "research." Imported nihilism becomes a tautology - abused people do not get better and therefore we study how damaged they are. It is an ideology which permeates psychiatry and is becoming the new "faith." Psychiatry and psychology were in abuse denial for 100 years whilst they wove their eugenics/epigenetics hogwash.
What the reader gets is a description of various diagnoses used to stigmatise the other person. Some of these issues relate to early attachment trauma, such as the boy from the affluent parents who has no empathy. This was by far the best of the case histories for me, as it brought home the developmental issues inherent in a family which had money, wealth, power and status. It details how an emotional deficiency is passed on, despite being affluent. This is the key.
The case history of the East European orphans is the sounding bell for the inherent nihilism which pervades the book, ie people do not transcend their original diagnosis. This is very righteous American and filled with original sin.
So the belief goes; If you are trashed in early childhood you are inevitably going to be carrying these developmental scars into adulthood. These are going to manifest themselves as intra familial genetic codes.
To back up this voodoo - there is a great deal of speculation around voles and oxytocin, tales of rats spun in cages and a whole range of speculative psychological treatises - relentlessly deployed; triggers, neurons, chemical imbalances.
The trouble is none of this is science as it has no empirical proof ie like Gravity or Hooks Law. But it is however deployed in layperson's terminology as though it has been proved beyond certainty, and therefore has legitimacy. If anyone wants to go back to the original studies these have not.
Meanwhile there is a taken for granted view stretching from inhabiting the habitus of manners being expressed about the other; the client, that we the professionals are the white hats and they are the black ones. These people lack emotions. But what appeared to be nakedly visible to me is - the authors also suffer from the malady they describe, and so the question which arose; Is their whole treatise a psychological projection?
Has it not formed in their own psychologies first before they expressed it onto their young subjects? Certainly there is considerable insight in some of the case histories, but when they describe the travelling children, there is a rearing up of the eugenical categories; Jukes and the Kallikaks - the eternal return of eugenical ideologies of the interbred criminal types polluting the middle class gene pool.
Autism for these volk appears to be something that arises from the "bad seed," despite the young people they work with from Eastern Europe being visibly abused. Does the message become clearer?
Autism instead is reduced to "genes" but without any empirical proof, because this is convenient. The case histories therefore are based upon what Szasz would highlight - whoever gets the diagnosis in first is believed.
The book is a refreshing look at love and empathy within the USA compared to much of the other literature, relentlessly produced, but it lacks any "science" to back up its "science." Everything is based on faith and ultimately what is conveyed is another form of eugenical nihilism - except with a nicer sugared coating.
Let me explain, people do recover from the most horrendous of circumstances, but you require a special set of skills to enthuse it, plus you require belief and an ability to learn. Whilst the learning mode is apparent, the other components are not and any student who reads this is going to be indoctrinated with poor therapeutic practice from inception.
Who would want to put electrodes on children and expect them to behave naturally? The book details those who have attachment are more secure. It builds on Bowlby, Ainsworth and Spitz but then details who this has become corrupted with a new form of eugenical millenarianism -
The split now centres upon those who were treated ok in families, the elect and those who were not, the dammed. So ultimately we are led back by the nose to biblical morality and the desire to differentiate - when will these people learn it is not them but us.