Friday, August 11, 2023

The immaturity of America's therapeutic culture

I  recommend reading the most recent NYTimes David Brook's piece, and pass on here ChatGPT 4's response to my request to summarize the main  its 1,472 words. It produced the following  339 words which nicely cover Brook's core points.  I think I will start using ChatGPT 4 more frequently for this purpose since  I've only recently realized that MindBlog readers who do not subscribe to the NYTimes can not read articles that I point to.  Also, I simply don't have the time to generate summaries myself, because I want to be working on other things.  

Summary of the Essay on the American Therapeutic Culture and Maturity: 

The decline of the American psyche can be linked to cultural shifts that started after World War II, leading to the rise of the therapeutic culture.

Historically, self-worth was derived from one's relationship with God or success in the marketplace. In the therapeutic culture, self-worth is gauged by subjective feelings about oneself.

This culture turned many into fragile narcissists, detached from moral traditions and relying heavily on public affirmation for self-worth.

By 2010, the US faced a mental health crisis, marked by rising rates of depression and suicide. Social media became a platform for seeking validation but often resulted in rejection.

The term “trauma” began to encompass a wider range of upsetting experiences, moving from severe physical harm to milder psychological wounds. Trauma became a dominant theme in culture, with many using it as a primary source of identity.

Safetyism emerged, advocating for protections against emotional harm. This led to concepts like “trigger warnings,” “microaggressions,” and “safe spaces.” 

The approach to trauma became counterproductive, with certain false ideas propagated, such as "what doesn't kill you makes you weaker" and the portrayal of traumatized individuals as passive victims.

An opposing perspective, led by figures like Jordan Peterson, argued for resilience and not viewing oneself as a perpetual victim. Yet, these figures too sometimes portrayed themselves as victims in a different context.

This societal focus on victimhood has led to a public culture that is impulsive and erratic. The loudest voices often dominate discussions, sidelining mature discourse.

The core issue is the therapeutic ethos itself, which disconnects people from a broader moral order and asks individuals to create an identity solely from within. 

True maturity is not self-centered but involves weaving an identity from commitments and relationships with others. It's about seeing situations from multiple perspectives and committing to concrete moral goals.

Maturity allows individuals to be calm and understanding in challenging situations, and this might be the answer to building a more resilient and connected culture in the future.

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