What happens to an infant when it learns that the love it craves from its parents is available only at the price of submission to their will? In paying this price, as Dr. Gruen found in many years of experience with his patients, the infant renounces its true, autonomous self and instead embarks on a search for power with which to manipulate the world around it -- a quest that will henceforth rule its life.
Dr. Gruen maps out the process by which this striving for power, once the fatal choice has been made, masks the child's inner emptiness, dulls its fears, and soothes its secret feelings of self-loathing. Its need for power soon bars all access to its real emotions, and corrupts all of its relationships into ones based on mastery and domination. The power-oriented world around it, which puts a premium on stoic "strength" and "invulnerability," further confirms the child in this pursuit of power, leading it on to a path of dehumanization which pervades our entire society. Thus human destructiveness and evil are not innate, but develop in a complex process of growth marked by the failure to attain autonomy. ("The Betrayal of the Self"/Notes from the book jacket: 1988 Edition)