We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
We posted Bruce Thornton's fine piece in City Journal titled Fighting at a Disadvantage a while ago. I wish to correct his use of the concept of a "therapeutic sensibility" which makes excuses for Islamist war and terror.
BT has probably never been in therapy: if he had been, he would know that finding excuses ain't part of it - nor is sympathetic hand-holding and commiseration. If you were in therapy with me, Mr. Thornton, you would find me pushing you towards your maximal degree of responsibility for your own fate and your own life. The notion that therapy entails making people feel good by the shrink allying themselves to the patient's weakest parts is way off. The best therapeutic sensibility is usually to be kind and respectful, and yet tough as nails, I believe, which is why many people cannot handle it. It can be like surgery without anesthesia.
We therapists do not charge money for hugs: it is another, older profession which does that.
Dr. Bliss chose her words very carefully when she entitled her article "Picking a nit with Bruce Thornton", for the nit appears to me after two readings and focusing on specific parts of the article to be not a nit but an apparition.
The paragraph in the article that mentions therapeutic sensibilities begins:
"The therapeutic sensibility that now dominates our public thinking reinforces this tendency to excuse Islamic terror." The remainder of the paragraph goes on to reinforce TS as an excuse, however he never endorses it as such, only points it out as a Western failure.
The very next paragraph begins:
"Such hypersensitivity compromises our fight against Islamic radicalism in a thousand ways, ranging from self-censorship—for example, the Washington Post’s recent refusal to run an innocuous installment of Berke Breathed’s comic strip Opus for fear of offending Muslims—to politically correct warfare that refuses to accept the brutality, destruction, and death that have always been the cargo of war."
The remainder of the paragraph is a jeremiad against TS. I could find in no way Bruce Thornton using TS as a cover for an excuse for Islamic behavior. The nit is non existent.
To better understand TS perhaps a look at the late Christopher Lasch's work, "The Culture of Narcissism" would be helpful (although as I have cautioned before there's always distortion by compression). Here however are some thoughts on TS mentioned in Lasch's 1979 classic.
Lasch mentions a therapeutic sensibility as the prevalent way of understanding people's feeling and actions. He suggests which has largely replaced religion as a source of language about moral and political matters. People understand themselves and others in terms of personality and emotional forces rather than character and moral choice. It is based on the idea of health and it looks for causes - or excuses - for behavior in both nature and nurture. He discusses the modern fascination with being aware of feelings and justifying actions based on feelings. He suggests that this kind of awareness is superficial and false - he devotes a chapter to the banality of pseudo-self awareness. The therapeutic sensibility subjects people to the judgments of therapeutic experts and people imitating therapeutic experts, which makes people self-conscious about how they present themselves. It encourages people to present themselves in socially conventional "healthy" ways, but it celebrates spontaneity and authenticity in personal relations. This makes it acceptable to act like a celebrity, which usually means flamboyant and theatrical behavior - life as a performance. The therapeutic sensibility is genially non-judgmental towards impulsive and selfish behavior, but harshly judgmental towards discussion of character, goals and values.*
Bruce Thornton does not come close to using TS as an excuse for Islamic behavior but rather he chides those who do so.
**several reiews and sites were used to produce this piece.
Agree that it is a cheap shot when people sneer at a "therapeutic sensibility." Probably somebody whose sole experience of therapy was a twittish social worker administering cookbook six sessions of cognitive behavioral cliches and browbeating...
Nevertheless, it's human nature to want someone on your side, or at least who can make you feel better for awhile. Men who are frustrated seek out hookers, people who are miserable or messing up their lives are sometimes lucky enough to find a good shrink....
I am fortunate to have a golden retriever my son describes as "the best psychiatrist ever".
My own witch doctor, who is the second best, would never be confused with a warm fuzzy. A holy terror, at times. Smart, tho. Good instincts. Owe my life to him. Am appropriately grateful. Nuff said on that.
One interesting phenomenon that I am sure shrinks have a way of dismissing as more pathology is the gathering of patients to commiserate with each other over the callousness or detachment or just plain cluelessness of certain shrinks. Those a little too high on their own pronouncements about "I'm not on your side because I am on THE SIDE OF HEALTH!" I have sometimes comforted a friend who has a particularly heavy handed Freudian analyst, and I try to make a virtue out of necessity "She must consider you pretty together if she is such a cold and withholding bitch to you. If she were worried you were about to fall apart, she would be kinder and gentler...."
We joke in our family that we will never be able to remodel our own 1950s kitchen, because we will be paying for several shrinks' high tech kitchens in perpetuity...
It's a dirty job, but necessary and always appreciated, like pumping out septic systems, carwashes, getting rid of vermin, exorcisms, teaching school, being someone's advocate in a court of law when you don't even like them but are scrupulous about watching out for their interests....
The problem with approaching Islamofascism with the "therapeutic sensibility" is that TS has as its underlying assumptions that people want to pursue "normal" behavior, that there is "normal" behavior, and that divergences from normality are correctable -- indeed, that the patient desires to correct divergent behavior.
The medical profession is based on the exact same assumptions -- that people want to be physically healthy, that there is such a thing as physical health, and that illnesses can be cured and the patient wants to be so restored to health.
The medical profession's approach does not work for someone who seeks to commit suicide, and the therapeutic profession's approach does not work with someone insistent on pursuing evil.