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Martin, J. (2008). On Being Normal and other Disorders: A Manual for Clinical Psychodiagnostics. By Paul Verhaeghe. Translated by Sigi Jottkandt. New York: Other Press, 2004, 511 pages.. Psychoanal. Rev., 95(4):693-698.
(2008). Psychoanalytic Review, 95(4):693-698
On Being Normal and other Disorders: A Manual for Clinical Psychodiagnostics. By Paul Verhaeghe. Translated by Sigi Jottkandt. New York: Other Press, 2004, 511 pages.
Review by: Jay Martin
The full title of Paul Verhaeghe's book, On Being Normal and Other Disorders: A Manual for Clinical Psychodiagnostics, hints at the divided intentions in the book. On the one hand, he is intent on exploring the faulty assumptions that have so long prevailed, with so little extended examination, in the habits and practices of clinical diagnosis. He is centrally concerned, too, with the relation between diagnosis and treatment. In this aspect of his book, he exhibits an acute understanding of the shortcomings of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) and a sharp awareness of the various shibboleths suffusing the practices of scientistic diagnosis. On the other hand, most of his critique of ineffective diagnosis is completed by the end of the first six chapters of his book. The remaining ten chapters are devoted to metaphyschological theories regarding identity formation, defenses, drives, anxiety, guilt, depression, trauma, hysteria, obsession, perversion, and psychosis. While these are among the recurrent concerns in the literature of psychoanalysis, in treating these clinical issues metapsychologically, Verhaeghe abandons the exactitude and attentiveness to detail that makes his “manual” so helpful and illuminating.
Part One is the valuable part of the book. Therein Verhaeghe shows a capacity for the kind of informed, detailed, encyclopedic thinking that we associate with Enlightenment thought. He exhibits a powerful talent for distinguishing the idols of the tribe, for assembling classifications that make sound sense, for judgment, and for an ability to build firm analytic structures.
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