How Therapy and “Self-Care” Usurped Religion

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.

Read more at New York Times

More about: American society, Decline of religion, Psychology

Universities Are in Thrall to a Constituency That Sees Israel as an Affront to Its Identity

Commenting on the hearings of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on Tuesday about anti-Semitism on college campuses, and the dismaying testimony of three university presidents, Jonah Goldberg writes:

If some retrograde poltroon called for lynching black people or, heck, if they simply used the wrong adjective to describe black people, the all-seeing panopticon would spot it and deploy whatever resources were required to deal with the problem. If the spark of intolerance flickered even for a moment and offended the transgendered, the Muslim, the neurodivergent, or whomever, the fire-suppression systems would rain down the retardant foams of justice and enlightenment. But calls for liquidating the Jews? Those reside outside the sensory spectrum of the system.

It’s ironic that the term colorblind is “problematic” for these institutions such that the monitoring systems will spot any hint of it, in or out of the classroom (or admissions!). But actual intolerance for Jews is lathered with a kind of stealth paint that renders the same systems Jew-blind.

I can understand the predicament. The receptors on the Islamophobia sensors have been set to 11 for so long, a constituency has built up around it. This constituency—which is multi-ethnic, non-denominational, and well entrenched among students, administrators, and faculty alike—sees Israel and the non-Israeli Jews who tolerate its existence as an affront to their worldview and Muslim “identity.” . . . Blaming the Jews for all manner of evils, including the shortcomings of the people who scapegoat Jews, is protected because, at minimum, it’s a “personal truth,” and for some just the plain truth. But taking offense at such things is evidence of a mulish inability to understand the “context.”

Shocking as all that is, Goldberg goes on to argue, the anti-Semitism is merely a “symptom” of the insidious ideology that has taken over much of the universities as well as an important segment of the hard left. And Jews make the easiest targets.

Read more at Dispatch

More about: Anti-Semitism, Israel on campus, University