What is a normal personality trait and what is mental illness? Where do you cross the line from ‘individual’ into ‘abnormal’? Is everyone a little mentally ill, or are we being over-diagnosed and medicated for being who we are? These are just some of the questions that The Normal Personality seeks to answer.
Say Goodbye to Freudian Psychodynamics
Sigmund Freud, the great pioneer of psychodynamic theory, espoused the idea that personality traits arise from early childhood experience. Dr. Steven Reiss says ‘nay’ to the antiquated theories used to explain personality in psychodynamic terms, arguing that although these theories still permeate many types of counseling therapy, the claims of psychodynamic theory do not appear to be backed by a shred of scientific evidence.
Say Hello to Motivation Analysis & Personal Accountability
The psychodynamic model essentially treat many aspects of personality as mild forms of mental illness. Reiss proposes a new way of looking at personality, not as an abnormality, but rather as a collection of normal habits that individuals commonly use to satisfy their life goals. He calls this way of thinking about personality ‘motivational analysis,’ since it considers personality to be the manifestation of a person’s habitual goal-motivated behavior. This is in contrast to viewing an individual’s response to personal problems as a potential personality disorder.
Reiss writes, “People should stop blaming their troubles on their parents or on their unconscious mind; they should stop thinking about themselves as victims of their upbringing. Instead, people should learn how their unfulfilled desires, unexpressed values, and conflicts of values get them in trouble.”
The Normal Personality
This book is well organized, easy to understand and fascinating to read. Although a serious academic work, The Normal Personality is not just for serious academics. The book is accessible to anyone interested in personality, dispensing with the psychoanalytic blame game, and learning what truly motivates behavior.
Reiss’ book is very logically organized, beginning with a general overview and then a summary of each of the 10 chapters and three appendices; chapters that explore topics such as ‘the Sixteen Basic Desires’, ‘Normal Personality Types’, ‘Overcoming Personal Trouble’, and Six Reasons for Adolescent Underachievement’, to name just a few.
About the Author
Currently a member of the faculty at Ohio State University, Dr. Reiss received his training at Dartmouth College, Yale University, Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital. Reiss and Richard McNally co-developed the construct of anxiety sensitivity, a tool for assessing early risk factors for Panic Disorder. Reiss’s “Anxiety Sensitivity Index” (ASI) is now widely used to assess anxiety disorders.
Dr. Reiss has also published extensively on the mental health aspects of mental retardation, and the Reiss Screen psychometric instrument is used to assess mental health needs for people with mental retardation.
His current research focuses on the nature of intrinsic motivation; identifying general principles of motivated behavior in a wide variety of circumstances. He has authored numerous scientific articles as well as his previous book “Who Am I? The 16 basic desires that motivate our actions and define our personalities.”
More about the Book
- Title:The Normal Personality: A New Way of Thinking About People
- Author: Steven Reiss
- Publisher & Year: Cambridge University Press, 2008
- List Price: $26.00
- Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-521-88106-7
- Verdict? This book is well worth the read and price.
More Information on Psychology & Personality
For another great psychology read, see Enoch Callaway’s Asylum or Duane Dobbert’s Understanding Personality Disorders.