Dr. Sanity on “Therapeutic psychobabble”

Psychiatrist and retired NASA flight surgeon Pat Santy (who blogs as “Dr. Sanity”) is probably the one blogger that made me think seriously about the role of psychology in setting the discourse of society. (The one psychiatrist I read more religiously is Charles Krauthammer — but he, unlike her, quit the profession decades ago to become one of America’s most incisive opinion journalists.)

In today’s post she laments that “therapeutic psychobabble” is not only destroying the credibility of psychiatry as a discipline, but having an invidious effect on society at large. “This is a particular American madness, as far as I can tell, the invocation of ludicrous pop psychology to explain acts that can only properly be described as evil.” she quotes John Podhoretz. (However, I can testify that this sort of thinking, perhaps in slightly less mediatized and saccharine ways, is very much alive in Europe as well. Do not forget that the old saw: “to understand all is to forgive all” is a direct translation of a French proverb: “comprendre tout, c’est pardonner tout”. As Robert Heinlein wrily noted: ‘some things, the more you understand the more you loathe them’.)

But let’s yield the stage to Dr. Sanity:

“The therapeutic sensibility”, or what I call “therapeutic psychobabble”, is not actually therapeutic (i.e., it does not lead to healing) in the least.

In fact, this sensibility often becomes the major impediment that prevents patients with serious emotional problems from taking control over their lives. And, for individuals who aren’t patients (but soon will be, most likely) it reflects a passive world view, where a person is the helpless victim of forces outside their control.

“The key aspects of this psychobabble include an overemphasis on “self-esteem” at the expense of self-control and personal responsibility; an attitude that practically worships “feelings” at the expense of reason and truth; a fundamental misunderstanding about stress and the role of stress in life (i.e., that “all stress is bad”, for example; and failing to appreciate that stress, when it is acknowledged and dealt with in healthy ways can enhance maturity and psychological health); and finally the glorification of victimhood and the celebration of unhealthy narcissism and the narcissists who exhibit it.”

Read the whole thing, as they say.

PS: let’s leave the last word to Jonah Goldberg: “We have a real problem when much of the political and journalistic establishment is eager to jump to the conclusion that peaceful political opponents are in league with violent extremists, but is terrified to consider the possibility that violent extremists really are violent extremists if doing so means calling attention to the fact that they are Muslims.”

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