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One Nation Under Therapy
How the Helping Culture is Eroding Self-Reliance
By Christina Hoff Sommers and Sally Satel
St. Martin's Press
HC, 320 pgs., US$23.95
ISBN: 0-3123-0443-9

Thank you for not sharing

By Bernard Chapin
web posted May 9, 2005

Years ago I was enrolled in a psychology class in which I happened to be the only male present. On the first day, there were about thirty students arrayed at desks around a blackboard. The professor came in and introduced herself. Then she requested that each student say their name while "telling the class some details about yourself." When the procession reached me I said my name…and nothing else. The professor eyed me carefully. She then asked, "Won’t you tell us something about yourself?"

"No," I answered. "I don’t get into all that stuff."

Such expectations of personalization and sharing are now sadly the norm in primary, secondary, and higher education classrooms across the country. Requests to emote come from one’s peers and associates and are more rule than exception. Reticence in meetings or events is viewed with suspicion. The value of being "A Quiet Man" man well have died with John Wayne.

Our nation is under the thrall of a movement that exerts its loathsome and self-righteous influence upon us whenever we tug at a dog’s leash or tell somebody that they should "toughen up." The name of this movement and belief system is therapism and its take over of America has displaced traditional values like resilience, drive, pride, and honor.

Dr. Christina Hoff-Sommers, author of the exquisite, Who Stole Feminism?: How Women Have Betrayed Women, and the equally superb, The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men, now addresses this subject in a new book co-authored by Dr. Sally Satel (PC MD: How Political Correctness Is Corrupting Medicine) which is called One Nation Under Therapy: How the Helping Culture is Eroding Self-Reliance. It explores and describes the transcendence of therapism over common sense and reason. The text is concise and brisk and, once finished, the reader will be fully informed of the inner-workings of the therapeutic culture and understand how it came about in the first place.

For this reviewer, the most intriguing sections of the book concern our public schools which have become, in many ways, a loco therapistis for the country’s children. To summarize the current situation, our primary and secondary institutions are presently expected to provide services which they are in no way qualified to offer. It is now believed by many professionals that bestowing students with a good education alone is not fulfilling our mission. They regard it as essential that we prepare pupils for every facet of life. The line between teacher and social worker is becoming increasingly blurred.

The school as one stop well-being center is now accepted by many an educator. Obsessing about feelings and processing them is the height of chic. The posture of care makes others regard you as devoted, empathic and vested. Should one appear otherwise they will look like a bat-wielding Neanderthal. Exploring moods and student vicissitudes is cutting edge. It’s right up there with using words like "modality" and "rubric."

Should a teacher desire alienation, they would be advised to bring a copy of "Exploding the Self-Esteem Myth" into their building’s faculty lounge and begin quoting from its pages extemporaneously.

Not only is the idea of teacher as emotional facilitator a complete waste of time and energy, it is also invasive and deters children from absorbing the learning that is their due during instructional time. Sommers and Satel note the futility that is emotion over education:

School officials should be leery of "feelings" exercises, and curricula that demand that students bare their souls. Indeed, they should consider dispensing with them altogether…The purpose of education is not to find yourself, but to lose yourself.

Thousands of years of history might be a good subject to lose oneself in, and the act of trying would help students realize just how much grandeur occurred before our births. However, even if a child wanted to immerse themselves in the study of past civilizations, One Nation Under Therapy showcases the fact that mambi-pambi censorship of textbooks by language police have left learning materials boiled of interest and flavor. Anything that reveals the actual nature of humans has been de-boned. Much of the curriculum is gloss and politically correct circumstance. That therapism is the inherent enemy of education is a certainty. No serious scholarship can emerge from a decade or three of self-obsession.

By practicing reticence and reserve in regards to their feelings and thoughts it seems that many of our ancestors lived unfilled lives. Yet, One Nation Under Therapy illustrates that the endlessly processing of feelings makes for pessimistic and dispirited obsessions–and little else. Through constant discussion, irritation can morph into rage. The evidence suggests that inhibition and repression can be more adaptive responses to grief and stress than blabbing your feelings to every passerby.

How did such toxic views and practices arise? Sommers and Satel, in the chapter "Esteem Thyself", point in the direction of humanistic psychology and the works of Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers. With the latter, his insistence that the quintessential question of life was, "Am I living in a way which is deeply satisfying to me, and which truly expresses me?" indicates just how shallow and narcissistic he desired his patients to be. On the left they might refer to such a solid link to therapism as "a root cause." On the right we might dismiss it with the commandment of "Get Over Thyself." Rogers saw schools as "personal growth centers" with nonjudgmentalism as their core requirement. As for Maslow, his theories were so vague and unfalsifiable that they left themselves open for misrepresentation and manipulation by thugs like Abbie Hoffman and Charles Dederich. Humanistic theory bares as close a resemblance to the truth as the fantasist political works of Noam Chomsky.

Therapism has turned criminal defense into one long chorus of "what’s your excuse?" Offenders blame internal disorders and syndromes for their every violation. They wholly expect that jurors will understand the way in which their brains became "hijacked" by impaired cortex functioning or their addiction to drugs. The therapeutic culture has made every citizen a potential victim and at no time was this more true than on 9/11 when trauma specialists and grief counselors descended upon New York City like reporters covering the Chandra Levy case. They predicted a mental health disaster and that large segments of the Big Apple (according to one source, 1 in 4 individuals) would develop psychological disturbance due to the towers falling. Happily for all concerned, their predictions were totally false. Yes, we now know that there really is life and recovery without the mandatory babbling of psychologists and social workers.

We live in days when the saying "Be Strong" is equated with insensitivity and that appeals to bravery are an embarrassment to those who make them. There is only one thing that must be done; all of us must be as judgmental as possible. We should never excuse the immoral behavior surrounding us. Rather than minimalize and rationalize pathological acts on the part of the narcissistic, violent, or drug-addicted, our nation must embrace personal responsibility without qualifications. We should follow the advice that Don Imus gives the sick children on his ranch, its time to "Cowboy Up."

Bernard Chapin is a writer living in Chicago. He can be reached at bchapafl@hotmail.com.

Buy One Nation Under Therapy : How the Helping Culture is Eroding Self-Reliance at Amazon.com for only $16.29 (32% off)

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