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Macdiarmid, D. (1981). Krohn, Alan. Hysteria: The Elusive Neurosis. New York, International Universities Press, Inc., 1978. Pp. ix + 343. $20.. J. Anal. Psychol., 26(3):280-281.

(1981). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 26(3):280-281

Krohn, Alan. Hysteria: The Elusive Neurosis. New York, International Universities Press, Inc., 1978. Pp. ix + 343. $20.

Review by:
D. Macdiarmid

In the terrible Babel of modern psychodynamic vocabulary one confusion is caused by the use of common words as technical terms with specialist meanings—‘envy’, ‘splitting’, ‘self’. ‘Hysteria’ has a common meaning too, usually ‘emotions violently excited to the point of loss of control’. Even in Shakespeare's time common usage was not so stupid as to think it only happened to women (medical specialist usage took a century or two to catch up with that):

Lear [Finding Kent set in the stocks by Goneril]

O, how this mother swells up towards my heart!

Hysterica passio, down, thou climbing sorrow!

Thy element's below.

King Lear II, iv, 55.

The author of this book is naturally not interested in the vulgar meaning, and by being an American psychologist he is also protected from another set of connotations of the word, associated with a certain sceptical British medical attitude: in his very extensive list of references the name of Eliot Slater does not appear. No British psychiatrist can or should think of hysteria without being affected by Slater's famous paper of 1965. With the aid of research findings that a series of ‘hysterics’ mostly turned out to be something different on follow-up, and a very telling list of bad motives for making the diagnosis of ‘hysteria’ that are operative commonly in medical practice, Slater argued that such a diagnosis ‘is a disguise for ignorance and a fertile source of clinical error … not only a delusion but also a snare’.

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