Synopses & Reviews
A dramatic narrative history of the psychological movement that reshaped American culture
The expectation that our careers and personal lives should be expressions of our authentic selves, the belief that our relationships should be defined by openness and understanding, the idea that therapy can help us reach our fullest potential—these ideas have become so familiar that it's impossible to imagine our world without them.
In Encountering America, cultural historian Jessica Grogan reveals how these ideas stormed the barricades of our culture through the humanistic psychology movement—the work of a handful of maverick psychologists who revolutionized American culture in the 1960s and '70s. Profiling thought leaders including Abraham Maslow, Rollo May, and Timothy Leary, Grogan draws on untapped primary sources to explore how these minds and the changing cultural atmosphere combined to create a widely influential movement. From the group of ideas that became known as New Age to perennial American anxieties about wellness, identity, and purpose, Grogan traces how humanistic psychology continues to define the way we understand ourselves.
"Rising out of the tumultuous political and cultural climate of the 1960s, humanistic psychology, an approach centered on self-actualization, burst onto the scene in the latter part of the decade; the charge was led by psychologists Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers, and though the movement sharply declined at the end of the 1970s, Grogan, an American studies scholar, shows that it had a dynamic effect on its cultural moment. As the concept gained momentum, it broadened to include not just the individual but the community as well, culminating in Esalen, a free-thinking enclave on the Pacific coast whose ethos embraced encounter groups, an approach intended to help individuals work through issues, connect with others, and engage in productive introspection, but which soon morphed into a means to feed one's ego at the expense of others with the expectation of self-actualization in a weekend's time. Grogan insists that the era of humanistic psychology has had a profound impact on the American psyche, even as Rogers acknowledged in 1986 that 'a lot of the kooky aspects... have fallen by the wayside.' Spot-on reporting, an unbiased presentation, and an admirable attention to detail make this a valuable resource for psychologists and scholars of American counterculture movements. (Jan.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Jessica Grogan has a PhD in American Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. She has taught courses on American history, culture, and psychology at Southwestern University, the University of Texas, and Mount Holyoke College. This is her first book.