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Moldawsky, S. (1974). In a Darkness., James Wechsler. New York: W. W. Norton, 1972. 160 pp.. Psychoanal. Rev., 61(2):321.

(1974). Psychoanalytic Review, 61(2):321

In a Darkness., James Wechsler. New York: W. W. Norton, 1972. 160 pp.

Review by:
Stanley Moldawsky

In this book James Wechsler, a noted journalist, chronicles his misery, anguish, and anger as he recalls his frustration in dealing with his son's various therapists and the different “psychiatric” events of his son's life. Mark took his own life at twenty-six after trying to overcome the crippling hold of schizophrenia.

The encounters the parents had with Mark's first seven doctors left the parents angry or baffled. They were kept in the dark about what was going on in Mark's therapy (which was hard for them to bear) and were included only when the doctor wanted to communicate a directive to them, e.g., buy your son a car. They acquiesced out of fear that they would do Mark further harm if they did not follow the doctor's orders. Thus, decisions about Mark's life were left to the doctor, who was apparently being maneuvered by Mark to get things for him from his parents. Mark was “working others,” and his parents were told on many occasions that there would be dire consequences for their son if they didn't go along with these wishes. They always succumbed, but not without perpetual doubts and strong anger toward the doctor. The book reads like a collection of therapist's fumblings, and one senses that a selection process has been operating in the author so that by the last chapter the reader too is angry at the doctors.

Throughout the book there are excerpts of Mark's poetry, which gives some idea of his concerns, fears, and wishes. But there is very little to help a psychoanalytic reader to understand what contributed to the development of Mark's personality and eventual suicide. Wechsler does not offer any insights into the dynamics of the family interactions that characterized Mark's life, nor does he attempt to understand the nature of his son's troubled personality. The reader is in the darkness, too.

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