Thursday, 8 October 2020

Mental State

Pull yourself together, pull your socks up, man up and get on with it… While not decrying all self-diagnoses of mental illness, the majority of people now openly talking about their inner wellbeing would probably benefit greatly from ‘a good talking to’. The nebulous endeavour of exploring the mental landscape struck gold when Sigmund Freud made psychology into an opportunity to make easy money by exploiting the natural human propensity towards dissatisfaction.

No tools, no heavy plant or machinery and no troublesome employees are necessary, and in many cases, it seems, little in the way of any formal objective training is insisted upon. Incline your head thoughtfully to one side, murmur the occasional non judgmental ‘I see’ and sit back as your cash cows pour out their identikit psychobabble. Repeat back to them their own assessment of their condition, reinforce the need to repeat the process at the same time next week and trouser the moolah.

Of course, this is a caricature of a part of the mindscape mining profession, but it is the most visible, most accessible and arguably the most harmful sector of the mentally-industrial complex. The Talking Cure, it strikes me, gives licence to the self-indulgent therapy culture to let the weak talk themselves ever weaker. Everybody experiences unhappiness, loneliness, occasional helplessness, grief and anguish; you wouldn’t be normal if you didn’t. But a kick up the arse would often be better medicine than prolonging the state.

Worse is the way that perfectly normal, universal, small sufferings are labelled, dressed up and sold back to the patient as some form of licence to continue demanding attention. As a result, those who can afford it (and many who can’t) spend years, decades even, engaged in a process that first validates and then exacerbates the condition for which they sought counsel in the first place.

The Covid Crisis has given people who already needed little excuse the licence to talk even more openly about their own personal mental health, a subject which was once, like religion and politics, verboten at the civilised dinner table. But if talk about it we must let’s get real. The way things are going with scarcely a day going by without some cry for ever more funding to treat the mental state of the nation, we may soon the rent-seekers in the ‘poor me’ trade competing with the burgeoning and ever-fragmenting grievance culture.

Can we really survive as a nation if the only people making money are those doing so by perpetuating the harm they undoubtedly cause. Give a man a fish and he’ll fry up some chips. Tell a man he can’t fish because his daddy didn’t love him and he’s already had his chips. It’s like taking candy from a baby – a great, big baby – and the country churns out more with each generation.

As I said, I don’t wish to decry those who genuinely need help. But to divert ever more resources to salve the self-inflicted mental wounds of those who merely seek attention looks to me like a one-way street to pitiful dependence on others; the very opposite of what you should wish for your children. So, if you have a friend who is weepy, filled with despair, anxious that the virus stalks them like a wraith… give them a slap, from me.


  1. It's little short of a miracle that the baby boomers are still going strong in such numbers. They didn't have a tablet to take for every problem in life and they were sadly deprived of all talking cures. Big pharma and the councilor hadn't been invented and they got through life without Facebook and mobile phones as well? Tough cookie your baby boomer!

  2. I never comment here because I usually agree with the posts. This time, I want to say something. May I?

    In the "old" days of my generation, and my parents, there was a "shit happens" attitude. A close knit family, the Church, the priest, the family doctor, aunts, uncles and even neighbours down the pub, listened, comforted and gave advice like "shit happens!". Tranquilisers were hugs, a beer, a hot toddy, a cigarette, an Epsom salts bath, hot soup, or walking the dog. Only rich people went to psychiatrists/psychologists, ordinary people thought such therapists needed therapy themselves. Their children turned out "weird". "Grit" was an admired trait. "Porn" was what you saw in A5 dog eared magazines from Sweden, and "sex" was something you discovered. Wolf whistles were signs of appreciation. Flirting was an art. Marriage was a solemn contract of mutual support. Children were immature adults being introduced into a world where "shit happened" and education was set to give them a support raft of history, geography and literature.

    All that has gone.

    Shit still happens. We need to allow it to nurture us, somehow, to foster "grit" rather than "helplessness".

    Thanks, I feel better now!