Sunday, February 2, 2020

Allan V. Horwitz's "Between Sanity and Madness"

Allan V. Horwitz is Board of Governors Distinguished Professor Emeritus in the Department of Sociology at Rutgers University. He has published over 100 articles and chapters about various aspects of mental health and illness as well as nine books, including Creating Mental Illness (2002), The Loss of Sadness: How Psychiatry Transformed Normal Misery into Depressive Disorder (2007, with Jerome Wakefield), All We Have to Fear (2012. with Jerome Wakefield), A Short History of Anxiety (2013), and PTSD: A Short History (2018).

Horwitz applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Between Sanity and Madness: Mental Illness from Ancient Greece to the Neuroscientific Era, and reported the following:
Page 99 in Between Sanity and Madness discusses the second stage of psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud’s career. It highlights how The Interpretation of Dreams (1900) sharply turned away from Freud’s attempts in the 1890s to distinguish various neurotic conditions (e.g. hysteria, anxiety, neurasthenia) from each other. From this point until the end of his career, Freud emphasized the commonalities rather than the differences between normal and abnormal mental states. “But when it came to dreams,” Freud reflected, “it was no longer dealing with a pathological symptom, but with a phenomenon of normal mental life which might occur in any healthy person.” This book changed Freud’s focus from the psychopathological to a single framework that strove to understand all human behavior, not just neurotic behavior.

Page 99 is representative of my book because Freud is perhaps the best example of someone who did not sharply distinguish sanity from madness. Instead, he strove to show how both ordinary and neurotic behavior stemmed from common roots in universal childhood experiences such as unresolved oedipal complexes, parental giving and withholding of love and hostility, or toilet training practices. While the book itself does not adopt or endorse a psychoanalytic perspective, it is sympathetic to efforts – such as Freud’s – to ground the abnormal and normal alike in common psychosocial experiences.
Learn more about Between Sanity and Madness at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue