Monday 8 April 2024

The therapeutic perspective on life runs so deep that we don't even notice; yet points (again!) towards mass suicide

It is deeply strange to contemplate the extent to which people believe that the main purpose of life is therapeutic - by which I mean, that people believe the main purpose of life is to deal with the problems of life. 

The fact of life and living is taken for granted, and the problems of living become the dominating focus. 


It's like asking: "what is the purpose of life?"; to answer: "striving to overcome misery and suffering". 

Yet - if this really was so: Why life in the first place? 


And yet, if you ask modern, high-status, kind, compassionate, and "enlightened" people; they would very likely state that some version of "striving to overcome misery and suffering" is the highest moral and ideal activity that they can imagine.

That - indeed - is the modern idea of what a "good person" would do. 

Twenty-first century "Christians" (if you can find one) would agree - and would regard Jesus as the best Man who ever lived exactly because he went around healing people, feeding the poor, raising the dead - and eventually set up a church that (allied with government), "made the world a better place" through taking practical action to overcome misery and suffering.


Apart from the philosophical/ theological/ ideological superficiality and weirdness of adopting a double-negative conceptualization of life and living - this is strategically-feeble as a motivator compared to some actual positive goal. 

And when the double-negative understanding of life and morality collapses; it often leaves-behind (the sin of) despair; because the realization dawns that if my life is striving to overcome suffering, then the only certain answer is death and annihilation of that life. 


In a world where death is understood as utter annihilation of the self; a life-focus on the alleviation of suffering is the precursor to a culture of death attained by suicide.   

The common attitude that Men in general, Western Man specifically, and people-like-us in particular, are a "cancer on the planet", likewise feeds the implication. 


And further; if anything like social apoptosis is going-on, such that the spiritually-defective are inclined to eliminate themselves; then the predicted mass distribution of Suicide Pills becomes not just rationally defensible, but something regarded as the highest kind of altruistic morality of which modern Man can conceive. 



Stephen Macdonald said...

Mass distribution of Suicide Pills would make for a fascinating novel. I hope such a book is written, with an underlying Christian redemptive theme. Sadly what we'll probably get instead is yet another nihilistic Netflix drama intended to pre-program the masses in advance for the latest depredations of the transnational progressive elite.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Stephen - After I wrote the Suicide Pill post a few days ago, I did a web search to see whether such a phrase had been used recently; and found exactly such a "pre-programming" kind of movie from a few years ago.

The totalitarian propagandists long since discovered (certainly by the 1960s) that even scary/ horrible dystopian depictions, over the longer term actually increase mass susceptibility to dystopian policies, and the acceptability of such policies - perhaps due to an unconscious psychological sense of familiarity ("priming" of a sort).

Probably important is the modern fictional practice of having the villain's sad backstory, explaining how he became evil - and thereby making him an "understandable" and empathic character to some degree. This trope has itself become so common as to be normal - and expected.

And it cannot be combatted except by a personal metaphysical basis that evil and good are not about individuals, but reference two sides in a spiritual war.

Ron Tomlinson said...

Yes. We distribute abortion pills by post so why not suicide pills, eventually? I suppose because there would be bodies cluttering the place up and the powers that be might not like that. I know because I live close to the suspension bridge in Bristol where there are often police helicopters flying around, I think searching for the bodies of suicides. Are they mad keen on keeping up appearances, or is it that they don't want people to think about mortality? There's an official policy of silence.

Regarding therapeutic culture. When I watched Star Trek TNG as a young man my friends would tease me for expressing a strong dislike of Deanna Troi, the ships 'counsellor'. That character did annoy me very much, and I think I now know why, it's because she embodied therapeutic culture.

She was the opposite of Spock, from the earlier generation, who eschewed feelings and tried to deny his own when he had them. For her everything was about feelings and the need to discuss them openly in a healthy manner.

Yet she had a point, I now realise, otherwise it wouldn't have been so annoying. Feelings matter a great deal; they seem to be the foundation upon which the mind is built. When people go to therapists it's because they're suffering from feelings.

Whereas they ought to be turning to religion. So psychotherapy and Christianity are direct competitors, with psychotherapy, if it embraces assisted suicide, admitting defeat.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Ron - "I suppose because there would be bodies cluttering the place up and the powers that be might not like that."

There are plenty of possibilities, I think. I suppose that when this happens, people will be asked to be "responsible" and make "appropriate" arrnagements to collect and dispose of the body. Or maybe they will have government centres where you could go and have a nice cup of tea in a comfortable armchair before taking the pill - or something of that kind.

I agree about Troi - she had a cloying countenance as well. But I have long had a strong dilike of profesionnal psychotherapy - especially since I had some preliminary training in the Freudian type, while I was a medical student on an elective in Harvard. But the Freudians were just the beginning of things, and now the therapeutic imperative has permeated almost everywhere - for example the university environment where I worked for several decades.

(Of course professional therapy doesn't work by the standards of normal medical treatment - and often does significant harm (indeed in one famous, large and rigorous, study - the Freudian's outcomes were much worse than placebo), for instance by creating a kind of addiction, and by facilitating sexual exploitation - but in a broad sense that is the least of its problems!)

I would now say that the culture of therapy - and the politics of "altruism" and "suffering reduction" is just a surface symptom of the much deeper problem of the half-baked and incoherent materialist scientistic metaphysical assumptions of our civilization.

If we insist that reality is purposeless and meaningless, then therapy is a way stage en route to an inevitable suicidal nihilism.

Another way to think about this is to compare the modern West with a Hindu/ Buddhist (etc) type of religion rooten in multiple reincarnations, in which any specific life is illusion and suffering, and the religious practices are therapeutic - and devoted to making the best of an assumed-to-be miserable life in the short term.

But these religions forbid and punish suicide, which has long term sactions inflicted on future incarnations.

What we have in The West deletes reincarnation and deletes any sactions against suicide - so that sucide becomes a natural response to a life of present suffering.

Or, increasingly, suicide is conceptualized as a pre-emptive preventive of rational and foresighted people - deriving from the fear of future suffering.

We also see the furthere extention of "preventive suicide" in the moral ideal of Not conceiveing children, because their lives might be lives of suffering.

It's easy to see why all this stuff has such appeal for the demons - who can see the cmulative implications of the therapeutic persepctive - even if human cannot or will not.

Crosbie said...

The claim that life is about overcoming suffering leads quickly to the idea of suicide. (Or, at the very least, to having few or no children. Which we do see)

Few people actually commit suicide (which is good). Based on frenetic social status-seeking behavior, what most people appear actually to treat as the purpose of life is social status. (Suicide being reserved for the socially defeated)

An interesting question is why 'avoidance of suffering' is seen as a socially acceptable answer. I suppose a frank confession of the desire to best one's neighbor is socially unwise. So then, any old lie will do, I suppose. 'avoidance of suffering' is as good as any. No-one needs to think through the logical implications of that lie as no-one takes it seriously.

Crosbie said...

(also, it's very hard to pursue social status while suffering. So, to that extent, avoidance of suffering is a genuine means to an [undeclared] end)

Bruce Charlton said...

@Crosbie "Few people actually commit suicide"

So far - My *prediction* is that this will change. Suicide en masse requires a high degree of materialism and value-inversion; which has not been present before now - but is now present (see today's post).

Bruce Charlton said...

Epimetheus has left a comment:

I agree with your thesis that the calamity facing the West isn't the imminent triumph of dystopian totalitarianism - it's already here - or variations of genocide, world war, or famine. The crisis is mass suicide, like that M. Night Shyamalan movie "The Happening" come to life.

I don't want to darken the atmosphere around here too, but I had a job once in a remote town where I often flew into even more remote communities, and the amount of suicide among the whites and indigenous was astounding. I worked with a white fellow my age with a gigantic skull tattoo on his shoulder; he got it to symbolize six friends who'd taken their lives, one of which he'd recently had to cut down from the rafters himself. I'll spare you the even worse details of the indigenous situation, but suffice to say it was so apocalyptic that I fled the whole town and career entirely and I will never go back in this lifetime.