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Woodrow Wilson Re-Examined: The Mind-Body Controversy Redux and Other Disputations

Jerrold M. Post
Political Psychology
Vol. 4, No. 2 (Jun., 1983), pp. 289-306
DOI: 10.2307/3790939
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3790939
Page Count: 18
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Woodrow Wilson Re-Examined: The Mind-Body Controversy Redux and Other Disputations
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Abstract

The complexities of Woodrow Wilson's personality and political behavior continue to excite lively scholarly controversy. This essay focuses on the origins of Wilson's self-defeating behavior in his academic and political careers, and whether that behavior reflected psychodynamic and characterologic issues, as has been hypothesized by Alexander and Juliette George, or was instead the consequence of a series of strokes, the assertion of Dr. Edwin Weinstein, the author of a medical and psychological biography of Wilson. While the illnesses Wilson suffered in his pre-Presidential years were undoubtedly a major source of stress, the evidence does not support an unequivocal diagnosis of "strokes" but supports other plausible but less serious medical problems. The historical record should be amended to reflect this continuing uncertainty. Other matters at dispute are also considered. Weinstein has hypothesized that Wilson suffered from dyslexia as a child. If so, the author suggests, this would have led to serious tension between young Wilson and his perfectionistic father. Weinstein has called attention to impressive documentary evidence indicating that Wilson's mother was highly narcissistic and had a major influence on Wilson's emerging character. While Weinstein has critiqued the Georges for overemphasizing the role of the father and neglecting the mother, he has erred in the opposite direction in the judgment of the present author who concludes that Wilson's relationship with both parents was conflicted and that psychological qualities deriving from both parents contributed not only to Wilson's high aspirations and achievements but also to his self-defeating behavior.

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