Friday, May 06, 2011

Instead of Bettering Myself I'm Crawling Deeper in My Shell

Heavy rain washed away the Internet for the last couple days. On the bright side, I took advantage of the downtime to finish the last couple hundred pages of Peter Watson's mammoth The German Genius. I liked this part near the end:

Another aspect of Freud's legacy is that we are now, to use Frank Furedi's phrase, living in a "therapeutic society." In the therapeutic society, as Furedi puts it, "there is an inward turn...The quest for personal self-understanding through the act of self-reflection is one of the legacies of modernity...the self acquires meaning through the experience of the inner, emotional life..." Especially among those who are no longer religious, there is a widespread belief in an alternative self, somewhere within, and it goes with the essentially therapeutic belief that, if only we can "get in touch" with this inner, alternative (better and "higher") self, we can find happiness, contentment, fulfillment. The "soul" has been secularized.

...This new narcissism means that people are more interested in personal change than in political change, that encounter groups and other forms of awareness training have helped to abolish a meaningful inner private life—the private has become public in "an ideology of intimacy." This makes people less individualistic, less genuinely creative, and far more fad- and fashion-conscious. It follows, says Lasch, that lasting friendships, love affairs and successful marriages are much harder to achieve, in turn thrusting people back on themselves, when the whole cycle recommences. Modern man, Lasch concluded, was actually imprisoned in his self-awareness. He longs for "the lost innocence of spontaneous feeling."