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The Elephant in the RoomReview - The Elephant in the Room
The Denial of the Unconscious Mind
by Gerald Alper
iBooks, 2014
Review by Leo Uzych, J.D., M.P.H.
Mar 4th 2014 (Volume 18, Issue 10)

The Elephant in the Room, by New York City psychotherapist Gerald Alper, is a book about the dynamic unconscious and psychodynamics.  The writing of Alper, quite distinctly, is penetrating cerebrally as well as beautiful intellectually.  Alper is, moreover, insatiably questioning, and, as he writes, he never stops thinking deeply.

The "dynamic unconscious", as probed with cerebral forcefulness by Alper, is the domain of wish fulfillment and impulse gratification.  The paradoxical essence of the dynamic unconscious, as evaluated by Alper, is that, although it holds in its hands the keys to unlocking a person's identity, it is surrounded by a highly protective moat of powerful defense mechanisms.

In Alper's view, the dynamic unconscious is neglected or denied consistently by those content fully with scientific quantification and experimental laboratory results.  But to understand real life, as Alper understands it, it is important to recognize that scientific quantification and laboratory measurement alone do not equal real world complexity; contextuality and subjectivity must be added to the equation.

The "psychodynamic" method, in Alper's judgment, is designed especially well to explore the dynamic unconscious, because it is contextual, and allows for quantification as well as for a first person perspective.

Over the course of the book, intellectually intrepid explorer Alper, in cerebrally unflinching manner, psychodynamically explores nooks and crannies of the edifice housing the dynamic unconscious.  The reader is enriched greatly by the intellectual treasures unearthed toilsomely by the spade of psychodynamic excavator Alper. 

Structurally, five chapters are bookended respectively by a "Preface" and by a "Conclusion".

The textual contents, overall, are populated considerably with research materials.  And indeed, a prominently defining characteristic of the book is Alper's psychodynamically charged discourse tethered to a plethora of famous inhabitants of the Pantheon of world researchers.

Following the text is a structural section ("References") comprised of citations for a multitude of textually relevant research materials, alphabetized by author last name.

The substance of the book is notable for its relative abstruseness.  Consistently showing sharply piercing acumen, Alper psychodynamically pierces the husk shielding the dynamic unconscious, and reveals in abstrusely psychodynamic manner what he observes within.

The substantive contents are styled congruently.

Snippets of substantively germane anecdotal quotes, extracted originally from real life persons, are implanted germanely, in an anecdotally enlivening and edifying way, in the textual soil.

Some autobiographical data are likewise insinuated anecdotally into crevices of the book.

These anecdotal data, in sum, contribute materially albeit anecdotally to the forming of the book's substantive body.

The powerful current of the psychodynamic perspective courses powerfully through the arteries and veins of the corpus of the five chapters of the book.

In Chapter 1, for example, Alper, operating skillfully with a psychodynamically sharp scalpel, skillfully dissects and examines the famous "gorilla" experiment devised by Chabris and Simons.  Establishing a custom that continues throughout the book, Alper, rather than cutting out a piece of the world and placing it in a laboratory, instead places the laboratory back into the real world.  The thematic message propounded with considerable and convincing psychodynamic vigor by Alper is that the design of a particular experiment may lead to experimental results at substantial variance with real life, because a particular experiment may be designed in an artificial, non real life way.  With regard particularly to the classic Chabris and Simons gorilla video, Alper opines trenchantly in minutely detailed psychodynamic fashion that, if the cunningly devised experimental gorilla video had instead been a real life video, the results may have been quite different.

As the pages of Chapter 2 unravel, death and the afterlife centric discourse form its substantive cynosure.  The science religion dichotomy broaches the plane of discussion as Alper psychodynamically navigates the interface of cosmology and religion.  As is his wont, Alper poses myriad, mind stretching questions.

Readers are held in thrall, in Chapter 3, by Alper's psychodynamically enthralling scrutiny of the mind.  Ingredients culled from an eclectic assortment of thinkers are added delectably to the cauldron of discussion.  Throughout the chapter, Alper feeds the intellectually hungry reader with much food for nourishing intellectual thought, extending abstrusely to discourse focusing on consciousness and also on artificial intelligence. 

Notably, in Chapter 3, a celebrated paper by psychologist David Rosenhan (on being sane in insane places) is placed in the powerful vise of  Alper's intellectual power.  Cutting deep to the core of the Rosenhan experiment with a psychodynamically sharpened blade, Alper observes that, akin to the use of "stooges" in the Chabris and Simons gorilla experiment, "stooges" were used likewise in the Rosenhan experiment.  In Alper's critical judgment, both experiments were dependent heavily on their respective stooges.

In a critical vein, some may inject critically that the particular cohort of experiments scrutinized by Alper may not be representative of the larger cohort of experiments.

At the start of penultimate Chapter 4, the sharp eye of Alper focuses sharply on Norman Mailer, and religion. Social scientist Elaine Howard Ecklund is also sighted, in Alper's field of vision; and again, the discourse is framed by religion.  The inscrutable physicist Paul Dirac further falls within the ken of Alper.  The otherworldliness of Dirac, as described by Alper, is fascinating.  Strands of autism are laced adeptly into the fabric of discussion.  Albert Einstein's brain as well garners cerebral attention.  As the gaze of Alper ranges afield, in the expansive area of religion,  physics and science, the psychodynamic perspective has an instructive presence.

Continuing to honor the book's custom, Alper, in concluding Chapter 5, thematically endeavors to insert the dynamic unconscious into the body of substantive discussion of cosmos centric issues.  In this enframing context, Alper proffers thoughtfully questioning commentary relating, for instance, to the idea of a "parallel universe".  "Space time" is considered similarly with much thoughtfulness.  Extending fully to the chapter's end, cosmological ideas of assorted great thinkers are examined thoughtfully by Alper.

From start to finish, Alper revealingly illumines the dynamic unconscious with the intellectual flashlight of psychodynamics.

For those in search of definitive answers, the cautionary note may be sounded that many of the questions pondered, with great deliberateness by Alper, may fall outside that realm.

It cannot be gainsaid, however, that, for intellectually curious readers,  Alper's unrelenting psychodynamic digging has uncovered an intellectually refreshing wellspring.

Scientists and mental health professionals, drawn from all strata, as well as cosmologists and theologians especially may wish to imbibe the intellectually thirst quenching contents of this book.

 

© 2014 Leo Uzych

 

Leo Uzych (based in Wallingford, PA) earned a law degree, from Temple University; and a master of public health degree, from Columbia University.  His area of special professional interest is healthcare.Twitter  @LeoUzych


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