My aunt works in the psychology field. She mentioned once how there are no words in Yiddish for the issues she deals with; I suppose when the language came into being, between bouts of persecution and starvation, there was really no time to diagnose PTSD.
I'm not trying to be flip about psychological conditions. But it is interesting how times of comfort and security unleash a host of problems that are all in, literally, the head. And now there are "professionals" to help with that.
In the late 1940s, there were 2,500 clinical psychologists licensed in the United States. By 2010, there were 77,000 — and an additional 50,000 marriage and family therapists. In the 1940s, there were no life coaches; in 2010, there were 30,000. The last time I Googled “dating coach,” 1,200,000 entries popped up. “Wedding planner” had over 25 million entries. The newest entry, Rent-a-Friend, has 190,000 entries.
The article begins with a psychologist, marketed as a "wantologist," who helps people conclude what it is they want. A client came to her craving a bigger house; it turned out all she needed was a room filled with greenery.
We are now the quintessential toddler: We don't know what we want. We could help ourselves, but believing every advertisement is more appealing.
We've put a self-perpetuating cycle in motion. The more anxious, isolated and time-deprived we are, the more likely we are to turn to paid personal services. To finance these extra services, we work longer hours. This leaves less time to spend with family, friends and neighbors; we become less likely to call on them for help, and they on us.
The more we use "them," the more we consider ourselves and those around us incompetent. "What do you know about kids? You may have had four, but this woman went to school for three months and has a laminated diploma on her wall certifying her to recommend sheer lunacy."
By farming out our responsibilities, the satisfaction that we should be getting from a job well done is being handed over to strangers.
Focusing attention on the destination, we detach ourselves from the small — potentially meaningful — aspects of experience. Confining our sense of achievement to results, to the moment of purchase, so to speak, we unwittingly lose the pleasure of accomplishment, the joy of connecting to others and possibly, in the process, our faith in ourselves.
The ends don't justify the means; that is one of the basics of Judaism. It's also about how we get there; if we took the cheaters' way, or the hard and noble way.
Individual responsibility can never be avoided.