Most helpful critical review
23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
Sub-par analysis, dumbed down solutions
on July 23, 2012
I recently entered therapy to address what I'd self describe as a minor-to-moderate lack of control over my lust in a way that conflicted with my daily life. While I do acknowledge that the psychological nature of my lust is problematic (hence why I voluntarily opted for therapy), I'm also very aware that there are much more severe cases of the issue that people deal with, leading to more extreme situations. After my initial intake, the therapist I was seeing immediately recommended that I purchase and read this book (along with another title by Carnes as well). Trusting the therapist's advice with an open mind, I did as he suggested and delved into the reading.
Within the first few pages, I took note that the reading/comprehension level of this book is fairly low. This could be considered a positive in terms of accessibility for a diverse audience. If this was Carnes' intent (accessibility), it would be understandable and mostly worth overlooking. However, as I got further into the book, I began to question whether it was in actuality a symptom of Carnes' lack of legitimacy as a genuine scholar on the subject. The majority of the book is seemingly just generic (borrowed?) theories on any generalized addiction along with some elementary logical conjecture thrown in. There's very little unique psychological insight that one couldn't gather from five minutes of any kind of introspection or average therapy session. The only redeemable factor--perhaps the strongest aspect of this book--was Carnes' diversions into generalized case studies. However, being mostly case studies of extreme scenarios, this mostly just made me feel like my issue wasn't really that bad, which didn't feel very productive.
Finally, even if you could brush all that aside and still retain some other positive take aways from the book, it gets to the point of being laughable when you get to Carnes' coup de grâce solution for sexual addiction: The Alcoholics Anonymous 12-step program (yes, almost exactly word for word). If you're not already familiar with it, let's just say the 12-step program would be a real struggle to an Atheist and a stretch (at best) for any kind of non-religious/Agnostic type. But even if you buy into the entire concept and it works for you (which would be great), you don't need to read this book at all to find out how to do it. Just do a Google search for the AA 12-step program, apply it to your sexual addiction using common reasoning and logic, and you've saved yourself the time, trouble, and money of reading Carnes' rehashed interpretations.
Conclusion: This book wasn't for me, clearly--and I can't imagine it would be for anybody with a less-than-severe case of sexual addiction or an ability to think critically for themselves. With all that said, it did still offer a few positives. Most notably, it gave me a slightly better scope of my issues by putting them in some perspective, for better or worse. However, there's a variety of ways this can be achieved without this book--therapy, talking with family or friends, support groups, discussion forums, etc. To each their own, though, and good luck to all. It's all about perspective.
Update: I'm only 30 pages through George N. Collin's "Breaking the Cycle" and it already blows Carnes' book out of the water. Collin's writing is more intelligent, more authentic, and he offers real solutions and exercises that he formulated himself (and no AA rehashing). Highly recommended, it has helped me leaps and bounds more than Out of the Shadows began to touch on.