Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Happiness in a Mad World

Psychologist Oliver James, author of Affluenza and now The Selfish Capitalist, believes that the madness does not just stem from Freud's tension between the individual and civilization, or from Eliot's observation that we have to put on faces to meet faces, but from the fact that politics has gone profoundly wrong in the English-speaking world.
We have been infected by affluenza, the notion that our most profound psychological needs – for security, intimacy, autonomy – can be met by things, decisions, actions that cannot possibly meet them. The sex addict is emblematic: they long for intimacy and seek it in promiscuity, the very action that prevents intimacy. James has assembled evidence to show that the people who suffer most from mental illness are those who suffer most from status anxiety, as Alain de Botton put it – the desire or pressure to be beautiful, famous, wealthy…
Why should this result in poor mental health, that is unhappiness?
Advertising tells us this by manufacturing desire and keeping images of how the rich live in front of us… It leads to massive debt – personal and corporate – and a fear-based career as you struggle to earn to pay the mortgage. It undermines intrinsic values… It is a bleak picture, one of massive collective neurosis… The implication is that we are missing the good life even as we think we are pursuing it…  

Extract from Happiness in a Mad World by Mark Vernon