In the summer of 2019, I proposed the use of the terms “psyspeak” or “ideopathological lexicon” to mean psychologized as well as medicalized lexicon used outside of the clinical context especially when applied to the wider societal and political world, during a talk at the Royal College of Psychiatrists in London.
On the 26th of March this year, just a few days ago, The New Yorker online published the following article, under Cultural Comment: “The rise of therapy-speak. How a language got off the couch and into the world” by Katy Waldman, a magazine staff writer.
“Man and his environment act upon each other. Both are altered in the process.” “Some men work upon the external world. The remolding of the earth’s crust in order to make it more congenial to human life, and the use of natural materials to satisfy physical needs are functions of men of action.” “Other men remold human nature. Their attempt is to adapt man to his environment rather than vice versa. The transmuting of the nature of man, the developing of his perceptions so that he is able to attune himself to those inner harmonies which give value to life, the digesting of phenomena so that instead of fear and disgust they give pleasure, and the interpreting of nature’s phases are the province of the artist.”
“To avoid an enormous increase in discontent and misery of the psychological variety, the consequence of multiplying the individual’s leisure, provision must be made for pleasure stimulation. The intermediate period would be particularly difficult.” “The control of anything the appeal of which is subjective, such as the theater, or painting, should not be entrusted to the state. A state may be entrusted with engineering projects, with the production of goods, to a lesser extent, with the preservation of health. Values in these fields are objective and can be tested by trial and error experimentation. Consequently skillful work is easily recognized and successful accomplishment allows of no debate. This is not so with the more subtle longings of the human soul.”
“One cannot maintain an ethic on a transient certificate of service entitling the possessor to a certain quantity of energy. Ethics requires at least the illusion of eternality. Ethics deprived of the immortal dollar might again interest itself primarily in spiritual values.” “During the period in which the nature of man was adjusting itself to economic security and a superabundance of leisure, emotional needs would doubtless be rampant.” “If technocracy should be successful, and when its success had become accepted even by the individual’s subconscious mind, religion might undergo a metamorphosis.”
“Some individuals consider periodical health examination an invasion of their private rights; but such invasions are not resented long.” “It is only the suspiciousness of the poor, whom experience teaches to expect no good of the unknown, which makes them recalcitrant to medical advice.” “With doctors assuming the intimate role of family adviser, mental defectives would inevitably be recognized. When suspected of dangerous tendencies, their habits would be watched; when necessary their actions restrained.”
“In a technocracy, the separation of private and public function is clearly defined.” “The alterations in structure are radical but simple. First the present tendency to merge the competing units in each industry must be carried to completion.”
“Corporate monopolies would be the government.” “A most undemocratic system!”
“Six thousand years have been required to harness the forces of nature. Will another six thousand years be necessary to check the forces which have impelled society to found its faith in greed? Economic competition, the free-for-all, called capitalism, is now breeding a condition which is imperiling the complicated structure and the very civilization of the Western society. Is the alternative to capitalism so dreadful that it may not even be envisaged?”
“The sole function of conventional politics would be “showmanship” to keep the public amused: “receiving distinguished guests, laying corner stones, making speeches about the rights of man, American initiative, justice. Its offices would be elective, thereby titillating the egos of those who like to think they are running things. Prominent clowns will, doubtless, be frequently elected.”
“To attribute the behavior of generals or of the imperialists to a sort of monstrous irrationality commonly accepted as normal means not allowing oneself to consider that the logic of war, or of the bomb, or of hunger, is not the result of particular psychological processes, but of a social system which is neither mad nor irrational and simply defends with maximum coherence some vested interests.”
Loin que la raison nous éclaire
Et conduise nos actions,
Nous avons trouvé l’art d’en faire
L’orateur de nos passions.
C’est un Sophiste qui nous joue,
Un vil complaisant qui se loue
A tous les fous de l’univers,
Qui s’habillant du nom de sages,
La tiennent sans cesse à leurs gages
Pour autoriser leurs travers.
The most famous novel by Aldous Leonard Huxley is opened with an epigraph by the man who described how psychiatrist Bogdanov – founder of Bolshevism with Lenin – was treating, surreptitiously, philosophical ideas he disagreed with as a form of mental illness.