Thursday, September 23, 2010

from Job's Comforters by Adam Phillips, The Nation, May 24, 2010.

"When Alfred Adler, one of Freud's early followers, saw a patient for an initial consultation, he would take a history and ask the patient to give an account of what he was suffering from, in the traditional medical way, and then, right at the end, he would say to the patient, 'What would you do if you were cured?' The patient would answer, and Adler would say, 'Well, go and do it then.'

The patient is assumed to know what he wants, to know that his preferred life is, and his illness is the way he has inhibited himself. The problem, in this sense, is a pragmatic one: the patient knows what he wants; the only problem is how to get it, how to successfully negotiate the obstacle course of desire. The patient's symptoms are self-imposed obstacles. The patient assumes that were he to get what he wants, he would feel better, but he has made himself into an incompetent hedonist. In this deprivation model of so-called mental illness, life is about doing what you can to get whatever you feel is lacking in your life.

We are ill either when we are unable to do this, or worse, when we no longer believe in it. People who are depressed...are the casualties or critics (or both) of this modern view that life is there for the taking, if only we can find a way...that unhappiness is a form of inefficiency."

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