Customer Review

17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the culture of self-pity gets its comeuppance, April 22, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: I'm Dysfunctional, You're Dysfunctional: The Recovery Movement and Other Self-Help (Paperback)
If, like me, you've been simultaneously fascinated and appalled by the wares of the "self-help" or "psychology" sections of your local bookstore (or ubiquitous cyberbookstore), you'll enjoy seeing it dissected and skewered by Wendy Kaminer, the rare person to have applied her brain to this stuff (and someone who has even attended a variety of [fill in this blank] Anonymous meetings and other non-events).
Nowhere does Kaminer deny that actual people get seriously screwed up by abusive parents, booze, dope, etc. What dismays her are the lack of perspective and the rejection of any use of a critical intelligence. What worries her are the tendencies of the therapists, gurus and quacks to reinforce and play on the helplessness of their paying customers.
Kaminer is surprisingly generous to people whose activities she finds generally obnoxious, for example conceding that the most moronic TV shows occasionally illuminate real problems. This is an even-handed book from a writer who refreshingly says at the start:
"I have only opinions and ideas; so although I imagine myself engaging in a dialogue with my readers, I don't imagine that we constitute a fellowship, based on shared experiences. Nor do I pretend to love my readers, any more than they love me and countless other strangers."
It's a sad state of affairs when a writer feels compelled to say something this obvious.
Many people will be dismayed by Kaminer's principled refusal to provide platitudinous or trite answers to the problems (real or imagined) of the day. They'll be happier with such opuscules as *Seven Habits of Highly Effective People*. Of this book, Kaminer asks, "what are the seven habits?" and quotes Covey:
"In harmony with the natural laws of growth, they provide an incremental, sequential, highly integrated approach to the development of personal and interpersonal effectiveness.... They become the basis of the person's character, creating an empowering center of correct maps from which an individual can effectively solve problems, maximize opportunities, and continually learn and integrate other principles in an upward spiral of growth."
-- and Kaminer comments:
"I doubt that many readers know what this means (I don't), but they know how it makes them feel. Covey seduces them with all the right buzzwords: harmony, integrate, interpersonal, maximize, effectiveness, empowering (eventually he gets around to synergy). His peroration, the 'upward spiral of growth' (a phrase he repeats often), is uplifting, if you don't mind feeling like a corkscrew. Covey has a useful talent for saying nothing inspiringly; he should write commencement speeches."
This wasn't the only point where I laughed out loud. *I'm Dysfunctional, You're Dysfunctional* is a worthy successor to Mark Twain's *Christian Science*.
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