The Ideology of Happiness in Psychotherapy


There’s this amazing new group opening up at a place where I work that has this description on the flyer: It is not the problem that causes us to suffer…it is the THINKING about the problems that causes suffering. Change your thinking and experience more happiness and freedom.

Where should I begin? First off, sometimes life’s a bitch. Problems invariably arise that cause suffering and distress. If one were to pretend that there were no problems, that would actually be a sign of mental illness. Secondly, I don’t understand why there’s a collapsing of mental illness and misery. Being unhappy is a normal part of life. Also, major depression is infinitely different than normal anger and sadness. Psychoanalytic theory has never presupposed that humans are happy creatures. After all, it was Freud who brilliantly said that, “much will be gained if we succeed in transforming your hysterical misery into common unhappiness.” Freud was no idealist when it came to human nature. I’m so tired of people believing that psychotherapy is an attempt to make people feel better. Finally, since when did thinking become the problem? This is ideology at its purest. Let’s say you meet someone who has an objectively shitty life. Would it really be most useful to tell the person that s/he needs to think differently? Anyway she views her life, it’s going to be shitty because those are the actual material conditions of life. We come here to the crux of the matter, namely that the problem is the mind not the world. It’s completely meaningless to tell someone that her perception is what is causing her unhappiness when the problem might be the actual material conditions of the world the person inhabits. Now granted, sometimes people’s perceptions are responsible for their problems when the world they live in is not terrible. However, what good does it do to tell a battered partner that the real problem is perception? This is nothing but ideological bullshit. Also, the lesson of psychoanalysis is not that the problem with people is that they are not rational/optimistic enough. Rather, the problem is that they do not know why they do the things they do. Only by becoming more cognizant of the unconscious forces that determine her life can someone be truly liberated to have the freedom to be differently in the world.


4 Responses to “The Ideology of Happiness in Psychotherapy”

  1. Diana Hereld Says:

    Oh my goodness. I have but one thing to say.


  2. Tom Ryan Says:

    Well said. Thank you.

  3. Simon Lee Says:

    This view of therapy you have been describing is sadly becoming the status quo. Particularly in the UK and Ireland where I live. There is an elitism in the counselling/ psychotherapy world in relation the Cognitive therapies. The truth is however that governments/ health services like this therapy because it is cheaper, and time limited. As far as I can see CBT and related therapies completely ignore the unconscious.

  4. Jeremy Says:

    The unconscious is deliberately ignored because what matters is how we process information via cognitive schemas. These distorted cognitive patterns need to be corrected to produce change. One immediate problem is sometimes people do things that they know are simply unintelligent and damaging but they cannot help themselves (repetition compulsion). This is a hard one for those therapists to solve.

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