Dorothy Rowe is undoubtedly my all-time favourite author. Dr Rowe, now retired, was born in Australia, and worked as a teacher and child psychologist prior to obtaining her Ph.D in the UK. She was head of North Lincolnshire Department of Clinical Psychology 1972-86.
Dr Rowe is a master of research and detail; her books are absolutely packed with footnotes, references, anecdotes, as well as constructive advice and exercises. These help us to understand what is important in our lives, why we act and feel the way we do, and empower us to more genuinely get to the bottom of accepting and loving ourselves for who we are, rather than accepting the myths told to us by parents, teachers, and other significant adults in our lives that we may have believed as children.
One of Dr Rowe's most fundamental contributions to the study of depression is her scathing attacks on the reductionist views of the orthodox medical establish that depression is somehow just a physical disease, which can be fixed, like a broken-down car can be fixed by a mechanic. Virtually 100 pages are devoted, towards the end of this book to Technical Footnotes, which trace the history behind and exhaustively describe the huge investment psychiatrists and pharmaceutical companies have in maintaining that depression is a genetic and physical illness which needs to be treated by drugs and regimens such as electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). This section alone is an inspiring and subversive shot-in-the-arm.
An extract from Breaking the Bonds (see page 26) describes poignant images of what it feels like to be depressed: to be trapped in a prison of our own making, utterly cut off from everybody else, yet somehow safe. Dorothy Rowe argues convincingly that we become depressed because of our life events, our reactions to these events and our inability to realize that many of our fundamental beliefs about life, our parents, God and ourselves are in grave need of updating and correction.
One of Dorothy Rowe's most amazing abilities is to cut through so much deceit and untruth prevalent in our society. Particularly the myths that we are all told when we are growing up: that if we are good, we will be rewarded, that if we are bad, we will be punished. This extends into so many realms of our society – that we will be rescued from our horrible existences by some Prince Charming, that God will punish us if we are bad, and reward us if we are good, and on and on. Life is not like that. If we are lucky, many things turn out hunky-dory. However, there are few of us who manage to escape the cruel slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, which put a nonsense to some of these fairy tales.
Reading and hearing the incredible stories of many of her clients is simply indescribably amazing. These stories often start out with their current problem – suicide attempts, drug dependency, relationship failures. Then we start to hear about these men and women who were beaten by their parents, abused, physically, mentally and sexually by their parents, put down by their families, in the most incredible ways one can imagine. We hear about terrible losses and bereavements, of physical illnesses and cruel self-sacrifices; suddenly it no longer appears so astonishing that these people have become depressed. If you have longed to be loved your entire life and have done everything possible to elicit that love, and life has dealt you cruel blows, it is no wonder that you are not insanely happy. It is entirely normal for you to be sad, angry, fearful and even depressed.
One of Dorothy Rowe's original contributions to this field is in regard to her unique concepts of the introvert and extravert, which describe two fundamentally diverse orientations of people and each of their greatest fears. Extravert defines themselves in terms of helping other people, and fear being absolutely alone with no other people; introverts define themselves in terms of individual achievement; their greatest fear is lack of control and annihilation of the self, or descent into chaos. These concepts are also expanded in many of her other books, but play a central role in how to climb out of the prison of depression and pursue a journey of self-discovery and change. I cannot recommend highly enough reading every one of Dorothy Rowe's superb books.