How Therapy and “Self-Care” Usurped Religion

Nov. 29 2022

Examining the modish “gospel of self-actualization” expressed in countless online articles and social-media feeds, Tara Isabella Burton observes that “the pursuit of private happiness has increasingly become culturally celebrated as the ultimate goal . . . at the expense of our sense of communal obligations.” Burton finds here the language of psychotherapy, often with much of its meaning gutted, transformed into a moral imperative for “self-care.”

It is easy to be cynical about the proliferation of therapy culture and the attendant self-focus it promotes. But I believe the growing popularity of therapy discourse is less about generational or cultural selfishness than it is about a cultural hunger: the shared need for a framework to talk about the questions foundational to our existence as human beings and a shared sense that the good life relies on more than just our material circumstances.

Historically, the project of making sense of our lives was often dominated by religion. Our churches, our synagogues, our mosques offered answers to life’s most wrenching questions: Why do we suffer? What is my purpose in life? Why do we keep making the same mistakes over and over? But religious institutions don’t have the cachet, or public trust, that they once did. . . . For some, the language and worldview of therapy fills that gap.

Yet it is precisely [its] rejection of our communal lives that makes therapy culture—at least the version of it on social media and in wellness advertisements—such an imperfect substitute. The idea that we are “authentic” only insofar as we cut ourselves off from one another, that the truest or most fundamental parts of our humanity can be found in our desires and not our obligations, risks cutting us off from one of the most important truths about being human: we are social animals. And while the call to cut off the “toxic” or to pursue the mantra of “live your best life,” or “you are enough” may well serve some of us in individual cases, the normalization of narratives of personal liberation threatens to weaken further our already frayed social bonds.

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Read more at New York Times

More about: American society, Decline of religion, Psychology

 

Condemning Terrorism in Jerusalem—and Efforts to Stop It

Jan. 30 2023

On Friday night, a Palestinian opened fire at a group of Israelis standing outside a Jerusalem synagogue, killing seven and wounding several others. The day before, the IDF had been drawn into a gunfight in the West Bank city of Jenin while trying to arrest members of a terrorist cell. Of the nine Palestinians killed in the raid, only one appears to have been a noncombatant. Lahav Harkov compares the responses to the two events, beginning with the more recent:

President Joe Biden called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to denounce the attack, offer his condolences, and express his commitment to Israel’s security. Other leaders released supportive statements as well. Governments across Europe condemned the attack. Turkey’s foreign ministry did the same, as did Israel’s Abraham Accords partners the UAE and Bahrain. Even Saudi Arabia released a statement against the killing of civilians in Jerusalem.

It feels wrong to criticize those statements. . . . But the condemnations should be full-throated, not spoken out of one side of the mouth while the other is wishy-washy about what it takes to stave off terrorism. These very same leaders and ministries were tsk-tsking at Israel for doing just that only a day before the attacks in Jerusalem.

The context didn’t seem to matter to some countries that are friendly to Israel. It didn’t matter that Israel was trying to stop jihadists from attacking civilians; it didn’t matter that IDF soldiers were attacked on the way.

It’s very easy for some to be sad when Jews are murdered. Yet, at the same time, so many of them are uncomfortable with Jews asserting themselves, protecting themselves, arming themselves against the bloodthirsty horde that would hand out bonbons to celebrate their deaths. It’s a reminder of how important it is that we do just that, and how essential the state of Israel is.

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Read more at Lahav’s Newsletter

More about: Jerusalem, Palestinian terror