Modern Life Is Insane

I’ve been meaning to discuss this for a while, and only now am getting around to it. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Underlying many of psychiatry’s nearly 400 diagnoses is the experience of helplessness, hopelessness, passivity, boredom, fear, isolation, and dehumanization—culminating in a loss of autonomy and community-connectedness. Do our societal institutions promote:

  • Enthusiasm—or passivity?
  • Respectful personal relationships—or manipulative impersonal ones?
  • Community, trust, and confidence—or isolation, fear and paranoia?
  • Empowerment—or helplessness?
  • Autonomy (self-direction)—or heteronomy (institutional-direction)?
  • Participatory democracy—or authoritarian hierarchies?
  • Diversity and stimulation—or homogeneity and boredom?

It reminds me of one of my all time favorite quotes:

“To be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society is a dubious achievement.” –R.D. Laing

It was R.D. Laing who wrote Politics of Experience, and Politics of the Family.  I would like to believe that if he was still around he would now write  Politics of Politics or something like it. Life is political. People make alliances.

When the new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM V) came out, many criticized it for pathologizing normal human experience. Grief, for example, is considered a treatable mental illness if it lasts more than four months. Many decried the shortness of the time allowed.

My clinical experience is that people are still processing normal grief two years after the loss of a family member. You have to get through the first anniversaries of the loss– all the holidays, the person’s birthday, the person’s death day. You have to get through them twice. Then you’re used to the loss, but not over it. That’s just the most glaring example. Grief– and every other part of life– takes time to happen.

For many of the people I’ve worked with, sooner or later there comes a time when the person states, “I just want to be normal,” or some similar idea. My reply is, “Would you rather be normal, or happy?” The response is universal. And of all the people I’ve talked to, I can’t remember a lot of people whose happiness resided in stuff. It’s in good relationships with other people.

We just need to remember that the one one hundredth of one percent who own America like it the way it is and will work hard to keep it that way.  They spend millions on their politics. They would rather that you march to the mall to shop  than to City Hall, Sacramento,  or Washington D.C. to demand government by  the people for the people. A reading of history will help: many people suffered and died to bring about the forty hour work week. Others suffered and died to bring about the level of racial equality and other civil freedoms that we currently experience. And the forces that don’t like us having these freedoms have not stopped working in the other direction. There was a time at the end of the 19th century and in the early 20th when there was a thing called the Progressive Movement. It battled against– get this– income inequality. But the article cited at the top points out that one of the symptoms of the American malaise is social isolation. Maybe we should all get together with a few million of our closest friends to work for change. It’ll make us feel better, and also our children and grandchildren. It may be better to take action than to take Zoloft. There are times when the best psychotherapy isn’t therapy.

What changes do you want? What changes do you think other people want– that you would work for with them?


About jamesmatter

Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) in private practice in San Francisco. I work with adults, adolescents, and couples, with focus on substance use and abuse and co-occurring disorders (having both a mental illness and an addiction).
This entry was posted in change, choices, existentialism, happiness, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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