What’s So Bad About Feeling Good?

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Telling all, from Phineas Quimby to Jerry Springer. 

By Leslie Whitaker

America’s Obsession with Self-Fulfillment

By Eva S. Moskowitz C’86.
Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001. 342 pp., $34.95. 
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The search for happiness has replaced religion as the opiate of the people.
      So says Eva Moskowitz, a historian who is currently a New York City Council member, in her provocative book, In Therapy We Trust: America’s Obsession with Self-Fulfillment. “Americans turn to feeling good as reflexively as they once turned to God,” she contends. “As a nation, we have become utterly devoted to self-fulfillment. It’s our new faith, our new religion.
      What’s wrong with that? While Moskowitz is quick to acknowledge that psychological understanding offers much to individuals, she contends that on a civic level, a single-minded adherence to therapeutic tenets—that every problem has a psychological cause that can, and should, be fixed—can be disastrous. “Historically, our obsession with the psyche and quick-fix solutions has crowded out other ways of thinking,” she writes. “It has blinded us to underlying economic and political realities.” On an international level, in Moskowitz’s eyes, we look just plain silly. While the rest of the world struggles with famine and war, “we are preoccupied with anxiety, shyness and denial.” 
      Moskowitz’s book came out well before the attacks of September 11, when, it might be claimed, America was shaken out of this kind of self-absorption, but the persistent advance of the therapeutic viewpoint through the worst crises of the 20th century would argue otherwise. The former history professor carefully builds her case decade by decade, tracing the spreading influence of psychologists and psychiatrists throughout American society. In each chapter she delivers an in-depth history lesson focused around a single theme—illness, war, home, and social protest, among others. 
      It all began, Moskowitz contends, decades before Freud, when a 19th-century New England watchmaker-turned-physician, Phineas Pankhurst Quimby, began treating his patients without medicine. Instead he simply sat “down beside [the patient] and put himself in rapport with him.” Quimby believed that the psyche had curative powers. What’s more, he charged that religion spread illness by idealizing suffering and preaching that happiness was a reward earned only in the afterlife. Dismissing the notion of self-denial, Quimby saw self-knowledge as a path to inner peace and happiness, one that he believed that Jesus himself had followed.
      While Quimby’s influence was limited, 40 years later New Thought, a movement of religious medicine evolved loosely from Quimby’s teachings, caught on quickly. New Thoughters transformed the view of God as unforgiving into an ever-present Help. Rather than sins, New Thoughters, later known as Christian Scientists, railed against anxiety, worry, and fear. Their gospel, while not widely accepted by physicians, did gain an audience through self-help books and articles published in popular magazines.
      Between 1900 and 1930as academic psychology took root in the U.S., a new generation of reformers began to apply therapeutic principles to the leading problems of the day. Psychological services were introduced in prisons, courts, hospitals, and schools. Katherine Davis, the innovative superintendent of Bedford Reformatory for Women, for instance, hired psychologists and psychiatrists to treat its charges. As New York City’s Commissioner of Corrections, she abolished the traditional prison garb, insisting that a woman “always has more self-respect when she has on her best clothes.” During this period—when juvenile courts, psychopathic hospitals, and the probation system were first introduced—treatment was valued over punishment.
      Later the faltering marriages of the Depression also proved to be fertile breeding ground for therapeutic principles. The high divorce rate—it rose 2000 percent during bad economic times—prompted reformers to turn their attention from the poor to average married men and women. Marriage counselors to set up domestic relations courts with the goal of reconciling cases rather than punishing the party responsible for the dissolution of the marriage. They opened marriage clinics and offered graduate programs in marital counseling. Psychologists even developed happiness scales for the measurement of marital bliss. Most notable was the “Euphorimeter,” developed by researchers at Duke University. Among their findings were that women “who loved their fathers dearly and never quarreled with them” and who were “sexually expressive but also modest” were among the most happily married. Their advice on mate selection included recommending that members of the middle class avoid the “added stress” of choosing partners of a different race, religion, or ethnicity.
      During World War II psychologists and psychiatrists formed their own front. At the start of the war, the U.S. military included only 25 psychiatrists. But once military officials became convinced that the psychological profession could address the morale problems of the millions of soldiers being pressed into service, thousands of psychiatrists and psychologists joined their ranks. During the course of the war, there were one million psychiatric admissions to Army hospitals, 10 times that of World War I. Trained professionals assisted with the entire enterprise, from recruitment to the emotional aftermath of grueling battles.
      After the war, housewives’ inner lives moved front and center. Moskowitz examines the spread of therapeutic gospel via the housewife’s bible—women’s magazines. Although they have long been vilified by feminists for presenting a false view of domestic happiness during the 1950s and early 1960s, Moskowitz takes a slightly different view. After examining the content of the largest circulation women’s magazines of the day—McCall’s, Ladies Home Journal, and Cosmopolitan—Moskowitz quibbles with the prevailing notion that women’s magazines “represented women as blissfully happy.” She finds instead that they acknowledge the problems—in dozens of stories with titles like “I Can’t Stand it Anymore” and “Lonely Wife.” But she agrees that the solutions offered—releasing anger by beating “the daylights out of your rugs or superpolish[ing] every table in your house” was one—“were at worst antifeminist and at best unhelpful.”
      By the time the sixties rolled around, social evil was measured with a psychological yardstick, observes Moskowitz. Calling on therapeutic standards of “integrity, development, freedom, and justice,” feminists, civil rights activists and student activists critiqued gender relations, race relations and government control.
      While these were all great leaps forward, Moskowitz’s chronicle of more recent history points out how skewed things have become. The rising popularity and influence of tell-all TV talk-shows, self-help books, Internet chat rooms, and therapeutic drugs like Prozac have glorified each and every addiction and emotional affliction. “We relish disclosure and the story of recovery” above all else. 
      In sum, Moskowitz’s intriguing historical chronicle makes plain both that psychology has done a great deal to advance our thinking and that it does not always provide all the answers. Her critique of our quest for self-fulfillment casts new light on our obsession with promoting self-esteem and our preoccupation with the personal struggles of our political leaders. Maybe with increased understanding of how we got here, we can continue to move forward—in true American fashion—but this time looking both inward and outward at the same time.

Leslie Whitaker is coauthor of The Good Girl’s Guide to Negotiating: How to Get What You Want at the Bargaining Table, published by Little, Brown, and a regular contributor to the Gazette.


A selection of recent books by alumni and faculty, or otherwise of interest to the University community. Descriptions are compiled from information supplied by the authors and publishers.

The O.HENRY AWARDS: 2001 Prize Stories
Edited by Larry Dark C’81.
New York: Anchor Books/Random House, 2001. 442 pp., $13.00.
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This annual collection brings together the best short fiction published in North American magazines. From Mary Swan’s poetic narrative of World War I, “The Deep,” to Pinckney Benedict’s poignant tale of the alienation of grief and the redemption of love, “Zog-19: A Scientific Romance,” to George Saunders’s caveman fantasia, “Pastoralia,” and including masterful tales by Alice Munro, Louise Erdrich, T. Coraghessan Boyle, and others, the 2001 edition offers ample evidence that the short story is alive and thriving.

Photographs by Michael Malyszko C’73, text by Judith E. Hughes CW’73.
San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2001.84 pp., $12.95.
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Betty and Rita, two labs who love to roam, are off in search of Roman adventure in this photographic sequel to Betty and Rita Go to Paris. Malyszko a photographer and Hughes, a writer, live together in Boston.

SUGARS THAT HEAL: The New Healing Science of Glyconutrients
By Emil I. Mondoa WG’94 and Mindy Kitei C’76.
New York: Ballantine, 2001. 262 pp., $22.00.
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We’ve all heard the warnings against consuming too much sugar. But, in fact, for our bodies to function properly, we need small amounts of eight essential sugars, only two of which—glucose and galactose—are commonly found in our limited, overprocessed diets. When all eight sugars are available, this book reports, the health benefits are substantial. Dr. Emil Mondoa is a practicing pediatrician with Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center in Camden, N.J.; South Jersey Medical Center in Vineland, N.J.; and the Alfred I. DuPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Del. He is founder of the Glyconutrients Research Foundation. Kitei is an editor, writer, and instructor who works in Philadelphia.

The Life of General G.K. Warren

By David M. Jordan L’59.
Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 2001. 400 pp., $35.00. 
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A rising star in the Army of the Potomac, Gouverneur K. Warren’s fast action at Little Round Top brought Federal troops to an undefended position before the Confederates could seize it and helped to save the Battle of Gettysburg for the Union. However, Warren’s peculiarities of temperament cost him the confidence of his superiors. He was summarily relieved of his command after winning the Battle of Five Forks, just eight days before Appomattox, and his name was cleared only after his death. David Jordan, a practicing attorney, has previously published biographies of New York political boss Roscoe Conkling, Union general Winfield Scott Hancock, and pitcher Hal Newhouser, as well as a history of the Philadelphia Athletics.

By Bill Engel G’81.
Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 2001. 208 pp., $42.00.
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This book sets in motion ways of approaching the chaos which, whether we acknowledge it or not, characterizes our relation to education. One chapter shows how the ancient art of memory can be adapted for contemporary classroom use. Another encourages teachers to participate deliberately in “letting learning happen.” The book goes on to discuss how to work creatively within the limits of what can be taught and, using fencing as a metaphor for innovative pedagogy, explores the extent to which students need teachers to learn. Engel, the author of Mapping Mortality, was a visiting scholar at Harvard’s Philosophy of Education Research Center following a decade of university teaching. His work as an educator, research scholar, and humanist continues in Nashville, Tenn.

By Ronald K. Law, C’71 M’75.
Littleton, Colo: COR Books, 2001. 177 pp., $19.95.
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Dr. Ronald Law, a Colorado cardiologist and businessman, compares the critical disciplines of business to the crucial organs of the body, emphasizing the importance of balance in both these organisms. The book exposes the similarities between a successful business and a healthy body and offers analogies, stories, and insights into areas of neglect. Law assists non-profit groups through his program, Giving Voice, and has built several businesses, including a Denver real-estate company and a leading consumer-products company—and along with his brothers co-produced the feature film Warriors of Virtue.

CYBERFINANCE: Raising Capital for the E-Business
By Martin B. Robins W’77.
Chicago: CCH Incorporated, 2001. 416 pp., $79.00.

The dramatic reversals of once high-flying dot.coms, drying up of public market business-to-consumer IPOs, raising of standards for private placement venture capital, and other recent developments mandate a more measured, traditional approach for the tax, securities, and financing issues facing e-business today. Martin Robins, an attorney in Northbrook, Ill., and the author of numerous articles on finance, securities, and related business topics, addresses the major business and legal considerations affecting e-business today, providing tools for planning, decision-making, and implementation.

NO PLACE LIKE HOME: A History of Nursing and Home Care in the United States
By Karen Buhler-Wilkerson G’80 Gr’84, Faculty.
Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001. 293 pp., $45.00.
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This book sets out to determine why home care, a preferred, rational, and cost-effective alternative to institutional care, remains a marginalized experiment in care giving. Nurse-historian Karen Buhler-Wilkerson traces the history of home care from its 19th-century origins in organized visiting nurses’ associations, through a time when professional home care nearly disappeared, on to the 1960s, when a new wave of home care gathered force as physicians, hospital managers, and policy makers responded to economic mandates. Buhler-Wilkerson is a professor of community health and director of the Center for the Study of the History of Nursing at Penn’s School of Nursing.

By Laurence S. Cutler C’63 and Judy A.G. Cutler CW’63 GEd’64.
San Diego: Thunder Bay Press, 2001. 144 pp., $17.98.
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Maxfield Parrish has long been considered one of the greatest illustrators of the 20th century. His unmistakable painting, characterized by “Parrish Blue” water and skies, luminescent rocks and hills, and exquisite young women in flowing, classical robes, are infused with a romantic Eden-like quality so entrancing that today’s reproductions are as enthusiastically received as the prints when they first appeared. The authors of this book on Parrish’s life and art, Laurence and Judy Cutler, are founders of the National Museum of American Illustration in Newport, R.I., and co-founders of the American Civilization Foundation.

AQUAGENESIS: The Origin and Evolution of Life in the Sea
By Richard Ellis C’59.
New York: Viking, 2001. 304 pp., $25.95.
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For the first hundreds of millions of years, the only living creatures on earth were, in fact, underwater. Then, some 350 million years ago, for reasons unknown, a primitive vertebrate crawled out of the water and stayed out. Richard Ellis, a leading authority on marine biology and a marine-life artist, now takes on the deep mysteries of evolution in the sea, tracing the path from the first microbes to jawless, finless creatures that became the myriad species alive today, including sharks, whales, penguins—and us. Ellis is the author of 11 books, including, The Search for the Giant Squid (“Off the Shelf,” January/February 1999).

ELECTING THE PRESIDENT, 2000: The Insiders’ View
Edited by Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Faculty and Paul Waldman ASC’96 Gr’00.
University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001. 232 pp., $17.95.
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The contest to elect the 43rd president of the United States was the costliest in the nation’s history. With the outcome uncertain for 36 days after the nation voted, it was also the country’s longest general election to date. Two months after the U.S. Supreme Court put an end to the Florida recounts, key strategists from the Gore and Bush campaigns gathered in Philadelphia to analyze their successes and failures. In a frank discussion, digested in this book, they disclosed the intentions, the research, and the tactics behind their decisionmaking on matters ranging from message development to campaign advertising to debate strategy. Dr. Kathleen Hall Jamieson is dean of the Annenberg School for Communication and author of Everything You Think You Know About Politics—And Why You’re Wrong. Dr. Paul Waldman is a postdoctoral fellow at the Annenberg School.

By Joyce Eisenberg and Ellen Scolnic C’83.
Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 2001. 223 pp., $24.95 (cloth); $14.95 (paper).
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Drawn from Yiddish, Hebrew, Aramaic, and English, this dictionary of Jewish words contains over 1,000 entries for Jewish holidays and life-cycle events, culture, history, the Bible and other sacred texts, and worship. Each entry has a pronunciation guide and is cross-referenced to other related terms. The introduction serves as a primer on the history of Jewish words and their transliteration and pronunciation. Ellen Scolnic is a freelance writer and public relations consultant whose articles have appeared in magazines and Jewish newspapers nationwide.

PENNSYLVANIA SNACKS: A Guide to Food Factory Tours
By Sharon Hernes Silver C’81.
Mechanicsburg, Pa.: Stackpole Books, 2001. 128 pp., $16.95.
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Pennsylvania is the nation’s snack-food capital. The Keystone State ranks number one in production of pretzels and potato chips, and is famous for its chocolate and Lebanon bologna. This guidebook explores the industry by offering firsthand descriptions of the factory tours available throughout the state and includes histories of the companies as well as directions, hours, and other practical visitor information. Sharon Hernes Silverman is the author of several books and numerous travel articles for Pennsylvania Heritage and The Philadelphia Inquirer.

The Story of Economic Freedom in America

By Edward W. Ryan W’54.
Huntington, N.Y.: NOVA Science Publishers, 2000. 296 pp., $34.00.
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Addressed to the general reader, this book provides an historical perspective which develops the vital relationship between economic freedom in America and other liberties, and it combines economics with history, political science, philosophy, and theology. Edward W. Ryan is Ryan-Bacardi Professor of Economics (a chair that was established in his name) at Manhattanville College and director of the Economic Freedom Institute.

MARS LEARNING: The Marine Corps’ Development of Small Wars Doctrine, 1915-1940
By Keith Bickel C’86.
Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 2001.
274 pp., $29.00.
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This book challenges a host of military and strategic theories that treat particular bureaucratic structures, large organizations, and elites as the progenitors of doctrine. This study of how the military draws lessons from interventions focuses on the overlooked role that mid-level combat officers play in creating military doctrine. Keith Bickel is a military and business strategist in Washington.


By Archie Green Gr’69.
Chapel Hill, N.C.: The University of North Carolina Press, 2001. 272 pp., $18.95.
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Archie Green—shipwright, folklorist, teacher, and lobbyist—is a legendary figure in the field of American folklore and vernacular-culture studies. This book gathers 12 essays intended to represent the range of his writings over 40 years. Selections include a study of folk depictions in the art of Thomas Hart Benton, investigations of occupational and labor language, and a contemplative account of personal and political morality in the study of Appalachian musicians. In the afterword, Dr. Archie Green traces his career and reflects on the state of folklore as a discipline today. A retired professor of folklore and English at the University of Texas at Austin, Green lives in San Francisco and is the author of numerous books on labor lore, language, music, and art.

By Gloria J. McNeal GNu’75 GrEd’98.
Philadelphia: Lippincott, 2000. 560 pp., $26.95.
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Sponsored by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses, this text is the first of its kind to include, for the home-care nurses of pediatric, obstetrical, adult, and geriatric populations, a description of the nursing procedures that, until recently, were only performed in hospital intensive-care units. Given the changes in healthcare reimbursement and the long-term needs of many critically ill patients, such procedures are now being implemented in the home. Dr. Gloria McNeal is an assistant professor at Rutgers The State University of New Jersey College of Nursing, where she is director of the acute care nurse practitioner program.

Tim O’Brien and the Fiction of Vietnam

By Mark Heberle C’67.
Iowa City, Iowa: University of Iowa Press, 2001.374 pp., $19.95.
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The works of fiction writer Tim O’Brien have been traditionally studied through the lens of Vietnam. In this new study, Mark Heberle examines the representation and role of trauma as the central focus of O’Brien’s works. Heberle moves chronologically through the writer’s seven major works, including Tomcat in Love, in an attempt to pull out of them the traumatic background that, seemingly, serves as the interconnecting thread of information. Mark Heberle is an associate professor of English at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. He is the coeditor of Infant Tongues: The Voice of the Child in Literature.

By William Gefter C’35 M’39.
Danbury, Conn.: Rutledge Books, 2001. 456 pp., $24.95.
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Achieving one’s natural life span requires the elimination of hereditary imperfections and injurious environmental influences. A quality of living that defines one’s distinctive and unique character, however, requires more than mere survival. Dr. William Gefter, a physician, patient advocate, teacher of medicine, and lecturer, describes the “three tiers of living” one must ascend and addresses seven major medical subjects with ethical issues adversely affecting the quality of living, including the doctor-patient relationship, medical research, and decision making regarding late-life care. Gefter is a Diplomate, American Board of Internal Medicine, a Fellow of the American College of Physicians, and a Fellow of the American College of Cardiology.

A NEW AND UNTRIED COURSE: Women’s Medical College 
and Medical College of Pennsylvania, 1850-1998

By Steven J. Peitzman C’71.
New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2000. 322 pp., $22.00.
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In 1850, a group of reformist male Quaker physicians and allies founded the Female Medical College of Pennsylvania to offer formal medical training to women. By the 1890s, the renamed Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania had matured into a solid and progressive institution that would outlast other, younger women’s medical schools that had arisen in the United States. Dr. Steven J. Peitzman describes how WMC survived periods of instability and crisis as it became a remarkable experiment in single-sex professional education and a rare early example of female-male collaboration in science and medicine. Yielding to complex forces, it became the coeducational Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1970 and found another new course to pursue. Peitzman is a professor of medicine and former archives historian at MCP Hahnemann School of Medicine.

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