From Library Journal
Noted as the founder of cognitive psychotherapy, Beck (emeritus, Pennsylvania State Univ.) here applies his work to greater social problems, from domestic violence to bigotry, crime, and war. Focusing on involuntary and usually unnoticed thought patterns, Beck's therapy emphasizes relearning. He wants patientsAand, now, everyone from gang members to world leadersAto examine their cognitions rationally with a view to decreasing hostility. Beck's approach is so sweeping that economic, geographic, and racial issues all can be subsumed under it, and he makes a strong case. However, he oversimplifies when he argues that anger, hate, and hostility are the same whether the conflict is between spouses or nations. Unfortunately, he gives short shrift to the constructive aspects of anger and chooses to ignore the psychology of nonviolence, though his approach is consistent with Gandhi's and King's. Still, Beck's broad scope; valuable summaries on prejudice, altruism, and political psychology; and optimistic, humane, and rational treatment of a vital subject recommend this for lay and professional readers.AE. James Lieberman, George Washington Univ. Sch. of Medicine, Washington, D.C.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Kirkus Reviews
A reflective consideration of the dysfunctional thinking that results in acts ranging from verbal abuse on the personal level to mass murder on the societal level, as well as suggestions for remedying these problems. Known as the father of cognitive therapy, Beck, professor emeritus of psychology at the Univ. of Penn. School of Medicine, finds parallels between violent reactions of troubled individuals to presumed wrongs, bombings by extremist militant groups, and acts of genocide perpetrated by states. In his psychotherapeutic work with patients, he observed a pattern of thinking that he describes as ``hostile framing,'' that is, perceiving the person one is in conflict with as dangerous and evil and the self as right and good. Such thinking locks the mind in a ``prison of hate'' in which a false image is mistaken for the real person. Beck calls such cognitive distortion ``primal thinking'' because it occurs in the earliest stage of information processing and also in the early developmental stage of children. When primal thinking pigeonholes adversaries as evil, even subhuman, creatures who deserve to be punished, the moral code against killing is weakened. Beck demonstrates how such cognitive errors have led to wife-beating, group rape, the Salem witch trials, the Oklahoma City bombing, the Holocaust, and genocide in Cambodia, Turkey, and the Soviet Union. The cognitive distortions that led to WWI get special attention. There is hope, however, says Beck, who argues that war is not inevitable and asserts that humans have an innate capacity for altruistic behavior to override hostile tendencies and for rational thinking to correct cognitive distortions. He argues that an understanding of individual psychology can provide the tools for developing corrective political and social programs, and he describes how these might operate in preventing child and spousal abuse, juvenile delinquency, and ethnopolitical violence. A provocative and most timely report in this era of ethnic cleansing abroad and high school shootings at home. -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.