A Crisis of Meaning: How Gay Men Are Making Sense of AIDS [NOOK Book]

Overview

For gay men, the demands of the AIDS epidemic are enormous and unrelenting. Regardless of HIV status, all are called on to maintain vigilant safety with sex, to face down a cultural stigma greater even than homophobia, and to somehow find a way to go forward in a world heavy with loss. At long last, current medical breakthroughs offer the hope of changing the face of the epidemic, but the psychological crisis continues. New infections are on the rise among young gay men. Exhaustion and grief threaten to overwhelm...
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A Crisis of Meaning: How Gay Men Are Making Sense of AIDS

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Overview

For gay men, the demands of the AIDS epidemic are enormous and unrelenting. Regardless of HIV status, all are called on to maintain vigilant safety with sex, to face down a cultural stigma greater even than homophobia, and to somehow find a way to go forward in a world heavy with loss. At long last, current medical breakthroughs offer the hope of changing the face of the epidemic, but the psychological crisis continues. New infections are on the rise among young gay men. Exhaustion and grief threaten to overwhelm the activism and optimism of earlier years. In a world turned upside down, the challenge of finding meaning is more than an idle philosophical exercise. It is a matter of psychological and perhaps even physical survival. Dr. Steven Schwartzberg grounds his insights in his own experiences as a gay man and as a practicing psychotherapist, and in in-depth interviews with nineteen men living with HIV. Ranging in age from twenty-seven to fifty, the men include a construction foreman, a physician, an art historian, a waiter, a librarian, and a licensed massage therapist. With candor, insight, eagerness, and a remarkable ability to share of themselves, they speak eloquently about how HIV has affected their views of the world, their senses of themselves, and how they live their lives. Interweaving the men's stories with observations from his research and clinical practice, Schwartzberg bears witness to the remarkable transformations some men have accomplished, and the anguish of meaninglessness that weighs others down. He strives to uncover why some view HIV as a catalyst for change or growth, while others see it only as punishment. And though he passes no judgment on the coping strategies he describes, Schwartzberg does insist on the vital necessity of balancing somber reality with healing, life-sustaining hope. He argues that men who opt for too much illusion and too little reality risk shoddy self-care and inadequate preparation for the future, while those
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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Based on his own experience as a gay man and clinical psychologist as well as traditional research and interviews, Schwartzberg (psychology, Harvard U.) offers perspectives on how gay men in general and especially those who are HIV-positive find ways to rebuild a world of meaning amid the trauma and uncertainty of the AIDS crisis. He queries why some find personal growth and others only anguish and despair. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
Kirkus Reviews
A salutary study—slightly overwhelmed by its enthusiasm for the theoretical—of strategies for meeting the "crisis of meaning" triggered by an HIV-positive diagnosis.

Schwartzberg is a psychologist, and the book is clearly shaped by his clinical scruples and animated by the intermittent presence of 19 HIV-positive gay men he interviewed for the research component of his recent doctoral training. His study explores the search in the gay community to find some meaning in the AIDS epidemic, while concentrating on the behavior of individuals living in extremis. Schwartzberg identifies four categories of individual adaptation in those afflicted: Transformation, the optimal mode, wherein "logical somersaults" are respected as the price of maintaining meaning; Rupture, the reverse, when every element of one's life seems to fall apart; Camouflage, or self-deception, the shakiest position, marked by a desperate juggling of truth and illusion; and Impassivity, a more constitutional than situational response, of which inattention to reality is both cause and effect. The 19 subjects function as springboards and exemplars for the discussion (the profiles being too sketchy to resonate as case histories, and too few to aspire to statistical significance); Schwartzberg reports nonjudgmentally on their individual strategies and wisely recognizes that different choices reflect different thresholds of tolerance—for grief, anxiety, ambiguity. In elucidating more broadly the response of the gay community to the AIDS epidemic, Schwartzberg, who is gay, brings a proud, concerned personal perspective to bear. He defines the response as three- phased, disbelief followed first by action and then by grief overload, and ends by making a strong case for managing the cumulative grief communally.

Ultimately, a textbookish but nonetheless supportive, enlightened study.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780198025634
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 12/5/1996
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • File size: 448 KB

Meet the Author

Steven Schwartzberg is a psychologist at McLean Hospital and Instructor in Psychology in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. He has a private psychotherapy practice in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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Table of Contents

1 A Crisis of Meaning 3
2 Meaning: The Perennial Quest 18
3 Representations of HIV and AIDS: The Building Blocks of Meaning 40
4 Transformation: A Journey of Growth 71
5 Rupture: The Shattering of Meaning 101
6 Camouflage: The Fine Line of Self-Deception 125
7 Impassivity: Minimizing the Trauma 147
8 Living with Uncertainty, Ambiguity, and Questions of Mortality 173
9 Coping, Changing, Growing 190
10 Grief and Hope 208
Epilogue: The Current Moment 227
Appendix A The Men in the Study 231
Appendix B Research Data 236
Notes 241
References 253
Index 261
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