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In post-World War II America and especially during the turbulent 1960s and 1970s, the psychologist Rollo May contributed profoundly to the popular and professional response to a widely felt sense of personal emptiness amid a culture in crisis. May addressed the sources of depression, powerlessness, and conformity but also mapped a path to restore authentic individuality, intimacy, creativity, and community. A psychotherapist by trade, he employed theology, philosophy, literature, and the arts to answer a central enduring question: "How, then, shall we live?" Robert Abzug's definitive biography traces May's epic life from humble origins in the Protestant heartland of the Midwest to his longtime practice in New York City and his participation in the therapeutic culture of California. May's books--Love and Will, Man's Search for Himself, The Courage to Create, and others--as well as his championing of non-medical therapeutic practice and introduction of Existential psychotherapy to America marked important contributions to the profession. Most of all, May's compelling prose reached millions of readers from all walks of life, finding their place, as Noah Adams noted in his NPR eulogy, "on a hippy's bookshelf." And May was one of the founders of the humanistic psychology movement that has shaped the very vocabulary with which many Americans describe their emotional and spiritual lives. Based on full and uncensored access to May's papers and original oral interviews, Psyche and Soul in America reveals his turbulent inner life, his religious crises, and their influence on his contribution to the world of psychotherapy and the culture beyond. It adds new and intimate dimensions to an important aspect of America's romance with therapy, as the site for the exploration of spiritual strivings and moral dilemmas unmet for many by traditional religion.
About the Author
Robert H. Abzug is Audre and Bernard Rapoport Regents Chair of Jewish Studies and Professor of History and American Studies at the University of Texas. He is the author of Cosmos Crumbling: American Reform and the Religious Imagination (OUP, 1994), Passionate Liberator: Theodore Dwight Weld and the Dilemma of Reform (OUP, 1980), and an abridged edition of William James' The Varieties of Religious Experience.