50 Psychology Classics

I just finished Tom Butler-Bowdon’s 50 Psychology Classics which summarizes fifty of the most important books written on psychology.

Tom is an amazing guy who has written multiple books along these lines including similar volumes on Self-Help, Success, Spiritual, Prosperity, and Politics Classics.

In addition, Tom makes many of the summaries from his various books available on his website. I’ll be linking out to a few below.

Front Cover of 50 Psychology ClassicsI love these books because they provide a great way to get an overview of the literature. It isn’t meant to be the end, rather it is a beginning. A place to become familiar with the “big ideas” and determine which ideas one really needs to dive into more deeply.

Here are the volumes I found most interesting in this book. I’ve marked those which I really want to read with an *.

  1. Understanding Human Nature by Alfred Adler.
  2. Games People Play by Eric Berne.*
  3. The Female Brain by Louann Brizendine.
  4. Feeling Good by David Burns.* (I’ve already read this one, see OCD Dave for my summary of its contents).
  5. A Guide to Rational Living by Albert Ellis & Robert A. Harper.
  6. My Voice Will Go With You: The Teaching Tales of Milton Erickson by Sidney Rosen.*
  7. Young Man Luther by Erik Erikson.
  8. The Will to Meaning by Viktor Frankl.
  9. Working with Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman.
  10. The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John M. Gottman.* (I’ve read this one as well)
  11. I’m OK–You’re OK by Thomas A. Harris.
  12. The True Believer by Eric Hoffer.
  13. The Farther Reaches of Human Nature by Abraham Maslow.*
  14. Brainsex by Anne Moir and David Jessel.*
  15. Gestalt Therapy by Fritz Perls.
  16. On Becoming a Person by Carl Rogers.
  17. Authentic Happiness by Martin Seligman.
  18. Beyond Freedom and Dignity by B.F. Skinner.
  19. Difficult Conversations by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen.*
  20. Darkness Visible by William Styron.* (I’ve read this one as well)
  21. The Origin of Everyday Moods by Robert E. Thayer.

Note: I did not select the most important works out of those listen in Tom’s book, rather I chose those that interested me. There were a number that would probably be considered more fundamental than some of those listed above but with which I either lack interest or else I am already familiar through other sources with.

At the end of the book Tom offers a concise list of fifty more classics, of those I am most interested in:

Eros Redeemed by John White (Book Review).

Dr. John White was a Christian physician, psychiatrist, pastor, and prolific author. In 1977 he published a groundbreaking book, Eros Defiled, which provided a straightforward, bluntly honest, and compassionate survey of sexual sins from a Christian and psychiatric perspective. I wrote a review of this book in May of 2012 which can be read here.

Cover of Dr. John White's book Eros Redeemed.
Cover of Dr. John White’s book Eros Redeemed.

In 1993 White published a second book – Eros Redeemed – which continued and refined his thoughts in Eros Defiled. In-between these dates he moved from the Christian psychiatric field more fully into pastoral work…and probably of more significance in the differences between these works – became involved with the charismatic movement.

White attended a course taught by John Wimber at Fuller Theological Seminary. I have been unable to discover when exactly White attended this course – but it must have been between 1981-1985 (as these were the years Wimber taught it at Fuller). White became a leader within the charismatic movement, was instrumental in leading Dr. Jack Deere into the charismatic movement (Deere had been a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS), a strictly cessationist seminary at the time), and became a leader within the Vineyard Church movement (a particular strain of charismatic belief. If memory serves me right, the Vineyard is the more charismatic arm which broke off of the common root from which Calvary Chapel developed).

This seems to have resulted in White moving away from his earlier positions and towards more charismatic interpretations – and this is evident in Eros Redeemed. According to some sources (I have been unable to verify) White regretted writing Eros Defiled and desired Eros Redeemed to be read in its stead. I must admit that for my money, I prefer Eros Defiled.

It is perhaps important for me to note here that I do not say this b/c of White’s embracing charismatic beliefs. I consider “book mentors” (I read their books and respect their work) Dr. Wayne Grudem, Dr. Mark Rutland, Dr. Mark Brown, and Charles Colson – among others – from a charismatic background. Rather, I have read (but again, cannot confirm) that White suffered from bipolar disorder throughout his life and feel that Eros Redeemed may have been written during a manic episode – as its connective tissue is weak and its organization haphazard. (Unfortunately, I do not know anyone who knew Dr. White, I wish that I did and I could speak with them about this and other areas of his life to understand him better – he fascinates me)

In any case, Eros Redeemed clocks in at a hefty 285 pages. The book is divided into three parts with numerous chapters in each part. I’ve included the contents below:

  • Part I: Eros Enslaved and In Chains
    • A Sin-Stained Church in a Sex-Sated Society
    • Nakedness: What Went Wrong?
    • The Uniqueness of Sexual Sin
    • Overcoming Idolatry and Sexual Sin
    • Sexual Sin and Violence
    • The Question of Satanic Ritual Abuse
    • Satanic Sex
  • Part II: Men, Women, and Sex
    • The Marriage of Sex and Love
    • Sex for the Castaway
    • Sex and Gender Confusion
    • The Roots of Inversion
    • Manliness and Womanliness
    • Christ, Model of Manliness
  • Part III: Redemption from Sexual Sin
    • Hidden Memories
    • Forgiving Family Sin
    • Facing Your Repentant Future
    • Prayer: A Means of Grace
    • Healing Hidden Wounds Through the Body
    • The Healing Session
    • Your Future

As you can see from the chapters – the book covers the gamut of human sexuality – theological underpinnings, relationship to pagan fertility worship, Satanic Ritual Abuse (which is generally seen now as a much smaller issue, if existing at all, than it was viewed as at the time), the philosophical differences between sex and love, homosexuality (“inversion” – an older psychological term from before homosexuality was removed from the APA’s DSM), the nature of manhood/womanhood, the importance of forgotten memories to healing of the past, various methods of healing (forgiveness, repentance, prayer, church community), and instructions on running a “healing session” (appears to be a time in which deliverance from an ailment or sin was expected to be immediate, or at least that significant progress would be made in overcoming it).

I found some of what White said from a theological perspective to be powerful and ingenious – but other portions had me scratching my head regarding exactly what he was trying to say and/or how he made the connections he made. White shares more about his personal life and experiences in this book – as he did in Eros Defiled – but I found some of these more disturbing than past ones (in Eros Defiled), perhaps indicative of a unresolved trauma to the psyche rather than a healthy revelation of personal trauma for self-healing and to encourage healing in others.

I was disappointed by the emphasis on Satanism (not on Satan, but on Satanism), but this may have been an appropriate emphasis at the time the book was written (I remember the Satanism hysteria of the 1990’s). His compassion for the sexual addict is admirable – as it was with Eros Defiled – and while he writes a strong call to repentance he also offers lots of mercy and understanding. This is perhaps one of the strongest aspects of the work.

White attempts to take on far too much – in addition to general sexuality issues such as masturbation, adultery, and fornication he tackles homosexuality (which in and of itself wouldn’t have been too much of an addition – he tackled it as well in Eros Defiled), the nature of manhood/womanhood (not as it relates to the act of sex, but as it defines the difference between men and women including roles/leadership), hidden memories, and so on. It may be the sheer volume of topics he covers which results in the disjointed feel. He could have written three or four books covering these topics in more detail and with more elaboration and the work may have felt more continuous, professional, and insightful.

White also tackles theological topics like the nature of sanctification and how we experience healing – Do we initiate? Does God initiate? While relevant to the discussion, the conversation is just one more tangent which distracts from the main focus of the book (human sexuality).

It took me probably a year to make it through this book…It is interesting, but I can’t really recommend it. White continues to demonstrate a broad base of knowledge – he kept himself current on psychological theories and quotes from a wide variety of Christian authors and theologians including Augustine, C.S. Lewis, Henri Nouwen, Thomas Keating, Andrew Murray, John Bunyan, Charles Colson, Charles Finney, John Owen, Clinton Arnold, and so on which demonstrates the vast breadth of his knowledge (which far surpasses my own). I’m not sure, other than the aforementioned possibility of a manic episode, what could have caused the breakdown in his writing this time. In all honesty, I’m surprised IVP published it – and wonder if this was done in part to honor a man whose legacy is significant (he has made significant and genuine contributions to contemporary Christian thought).

I will continue to read White’s works, I have enjoyed The Masks of Melancholy, Eros Defiled, and The Sword Bearer. The only disappointment thus far has been this one (Eros Redeemed) – and I suppose every author is allowed to pop out a defective one once in a while.

Book Review: Man and His Symbols (Author: Carl G. Jung, et al.)

English: Hand-colored photograph of Carl Jung
English: Hand-colored photograph of Carl Jung in USA, published in 1910. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have been fascinated for some time for Carl G. Jung. I am not sure where I was first introduced to him – but he has been a person who has repeatedly “popped up” unexpected and unsought in various diverse areas of my studies. When I saw a copy of the book Man and His Symbols at a thrift store I decided to purchase it. The book consists of chapters on Jungian (analytical) psychology not only by C.G. Jung but also by some of his followers – M.-L. von Franz, Joseph L. Henderson, Jolande Jacobi, and Aniela Jaffe.

The volume was at turns fascinating and ridiculous, intriguing and uncharacteristically verbose and dry. Understandable and foreign. I have just finished the volume – all nearly 400 pages – and I am unsure what to say or think about it. There are some ideas which clearly make sense to me, but overall I find the volume hard to believe – the interpretations of signs and dreams seeming too subjective and random. Yet at the same time I hesitate to write the book off, how is it that Jung who seems in many ways so strange and mystical has so deeply affected contemporary thought? Am I simply missing the depth?

I’ve attempted to purchase a biography of Jung twice off of Amazon and both times was sent the wrong book…I feel it may be necessary for me to try yet again, as I have not yet drawn full conclusions on Jung’s thoughts.

I would note that whatever the work may be it has numerous “jumping off” points for further research at it discusses frequently ancient mythology, literature spanning the ages, science, and the arts – mentioning repeatedly names which ring faint bells within my head, those individuals and concepts which I have said, “Someday, I will read more about x.”

What do you think of C.G. Jung? His writings? His followers? Analytical psychology? What works would you recommend reading by him? Was he crazy? A genius? Psychologist or occultist?

[I’ve decided to add below a brief explanation of Jung’s psychology after reading Man and His Symbols below. I welcome comments or corrections on my perception.]

Jung was originally a follower of Freud, but eventually branched off with his own innovations in psychology. Particularly, he did not see almost everything going back to sexual impulses as Freud did. Rather, he suggested that our minds consisted of the conscious and the unconscious – and that the unconscious, while in many sense primal was also in many senses healthier than the conscious modern mind.

Jung did not advocate a return to the primal, but rather the intertwining and interfunctioning of the conscious and the unconscious. Either by themselves was dangerous and would not allow man to function correctly and holistically – but in appropriate balance together they resulted in a whole person.

Jung believed that our dreams where our unconscious’ way of communicating to us important truths that we needed to know. Thus, the analytical psychology which resulted looked for meaning within dreams. This opposed the then common understanding that dreams were simply the random reactions of the brain – without meaning.

For me, it seems logical that dreams may carry meaning with them. As someone who works in IT and sometimes performing application development I have experienced numerous instances in which I will face an “unfixable” problem which after a night’s sleep suddenly has new solutions in my mind. It seems to me that something productive is occurring within my mind during sleep – and I don’t see any reason to believe that similar productivity might occur via the actual dream content themselves.

I know that when I can remember my dreams (not very frequently) they oftentimes relate to real crises within my life. For example, I frequently experience dreams in which I am placed against an implacable (real or imagined) foe. No matter how many times and how many ways in which I oppose the foe (e.g. violence, logic, escape, etc.) the foe always reappears. This connects significantly with multiple situations in my life in which my health (e.g. OCD) or relationships seem to be permanently and unalterably broken. No matter the methods I use to rectify the issues, they remain broken…even if I seem to “overcome” the issue temporarily.

That said, I have several problems with Jung’s psychology. First, I find his use of archetypes unconvincing. I do not doubt that Jung may have actually helped those who came to him overcome their issues in many cases…but I ponder whether his interpretation of their dreams which helped these individuals process and grow was not based upon his own intuitions about their personality and needs which he then imposed upon the dreams. Jung notes that for each individual the content of the dreams has different meaning – that one cannot expect the archetypes to carry the same meaning in different individuals dreams. If this is the case, then how is Jung determining the meaning of the dreams? It seems, imho, that he is interpreting the dreams based on an analysis of the individual…thus the dreams “mean” the solution Jung believes to the problem the individual is struggling with.

Further, I find Jung and his followers use of archetypes and various literary sources loose and disconcerting. It reminds me in many ways of the allegorical interpretation of Scripture. As a Christian there were several times within Man and His Symbols that I knew that Jung or his followers weren’t playing fair with Christianity – that is, they were undermining the actual meaning for their own meaning…

It seems to me that the archetypes exist to the extent and depth they do across cultures and religions b/c Jung forced them to exist as such. The connections between some of the archetypes were far too tenuous.

To summarize: I think it is reasonable that our dreams are productive and informative in some sense, but I think Jung’s psychology over-emphasizes the importance of the dream and warps the meaning of things by undermining the explicit truths for perceived underlying truths.