David Viscott


I Love You, Let's Work It Out
Emotional Resilience

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David Viscott is the former host of a call-in radio counseling talk-show as well as, in the opinion of this particular Editor, a very perceptive individual with a keen insight into some of the deeper issues underlying folks' psychological issues.

Viscott's fundamental message is primarily that of psychoanalysis and other schools of psychology: that once the "unconscious" is made "conscious," once the underlying dynamics that fuel conflicts in relationships are understood, couples can break the cycle and make different choices. It's essentially about understanding conflict patterns.

Yet I Love You, Let's Work It Out seems to also be joining the ranks of those good, thoughtful, very insightful self-help books that are produced, become popular for a short time, fade away, and will be eventually forgotten and lost forever. Although there is some very good material in this book, it seems to be well on it's way to going out of print.



Well, one of the reasons it is not on the bestseller lists is most likely because it really requires some heavy lifting on the part of the reader. Viscott is a depth psychologist who speaks about some heavy below-the-ground issues (ulterior motivations, etc) that can sometimes be tough to digest.

Authors such as Viscott often seem to neglect the kind of work that his material demands from the reader - for example, the task of learning yet another set of "personality types." If one takes on the Herculean duty of going through many of these types of books (as we do), they eventually grow weary of having to learn a whole new "typology" from every new author. As mentioned elsewhere, it seems that everyone in the field of psychology is practically speaking a different language - and learning a new language in every book eventually grows incredibly tiresome.

For other examples of the kind of work this material requires from the reader:
First of all, you have to learn his "types" ("dependent," "controlling," and "competitive");
figure out which "type" you are;
learn his "styles" (closed, open, analytic, emotional, affectionate);
figure out which "style" you are;
understand his recommendations for each style and type;
correctly apply them to your own life.

. . . easier said than done. Much.


Another problem this material, and others in this genre (such as Roy Masters) get into is the sheer difficulty of communicating this level of insight to another person - communicating the "unconscious" to the "conscious." In in some ways, this can be like learning another language.

Why is this so tough? Whereas Viscott himself has, in a way, spent many years swimming through psychological waters and has his "sea legs," most of the individuals in his audience have not. So his statements, can sometimes - even when they are correct - in a way, come across as nonsensical.

For example - he might say "you are (unconsciously) angry at your father."

He may be absolutely, completely correct - the person he is speaking to is angry at their father. But the person hearing this may very well be angry at his father, and not aware of it (it is "unconscious," after all). And until the person Viscott is speaking to does truly become aware of it, then he (the conscious part of himself, or his ego) can either disbelieve or believe Viscott's statement - and really, either way, until the actual feeling came to the surface - it wouldn't matter.

Further, Viscott's psychoanalytic-leaning style, while most likely accurate, can also seem to lead the reader into more complexity, complicating issues instead of simplifying and clarifying them. If Viscott's approach traces the roots of marital problems to issues that arose during childhood, the reader then finds themselves not only with marital problems, but now also emotional and childhood problems to boot. (This is a similar approach to the work of Harville Hendrix.)

This type of approach, which can sometimes swamp the reader in a maze of issues and give them the impression that they have to know, understand, and process all the events of their childhood in order to have successful marriages, is what has eventually led many to throw this whole approach overboard and go to the more shallow but simple Brief-Solution-Oriented therapies of Michele Weiner-Davis and Dr. Phil.

While few thinkers are as clear and articulate as Viscott when it comes to navigating the depths of the unconscious, other thinkers have taken a more simple, direct, and in our opinion, more effective manner than digging the the past, using the meditation approach of Barry Long, Cheri Huber or Roy Masters.

Yet overall, if one takes this all into account, Viscott's contribution to psychology is a very positive one - that hopefully won't be forgotten - and if the context and alternatives are understood (as we've so splendidly done here) - it's definitely worth checking out.

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