Dr Peck, educated at Harvard and Case Western Reserve, has held government posts and is now medical director of New Milford Hospital Mental Health Clinic, Connecticut. His influences include Erich Fromm, Malachi Martin, C.S. Lewis, Martin Buber, and even J.R.R. Tolkien. In this book he shares some of his lifetime insights into human nature. He does for psychiatry and psychotherapy what few of its practitioners are able to do, and what even fewer of those who are able are prepared to do. These are the case studies and analyses of those who refuse to fit into standard psychological and psychiatric categories. (It goes almost without saying that he maintains confidentiality, and that all names and places are disguised to protect people.) These people are the small percentage of those who go beyond 'normal' problems into extreme forms. In the medical jargon, it requires a 'multiple model' to comprehend their situation. In the spirit of the physicists who no longer have a problem accepting light as a wave and a particle, he takes what is effectively a multi-disciplinary approach.
He takes a risk - he admits in the introductory chapter that unlike his six million best-seller 'The Road Less Travelled', that 'This is not a nice book.' Rather it is fundamental truth about people; necessarily his approach is scientific, but also philosophical and judgmental. It is significant that the book is promoted on the back cover not by another professional psychiatrist, but by the novelist Madeleine L'Engle. The first case study is a standard case - a salesman with obsessive-compulsive neurosis which revolves around thoughts of death. But he explains how he is on the cusp of greater difficulties. The later cases involve depression, narcissism, and – a key concept – laziness. He ends with a controversial chapter on the South Vietnam Task Force Barker MyLai massacre in 1968. All in all, a seminal and eye-opening work.
This report prepared by Michael JR Jose