The psycho babble of a mad world
Dr. Anthony Daniels
Manufacturing Victims by Tana Dineen
Constable 14.99 / 11.99
Shortly before the Gulf War there was a meeting of counsellors
in our hospital to work out strategies for counselling the war-wounded
who were expected to arrive in large numbers.
The counsellors talked with lugubrious satisfaction about the terrible
psychological symptoms the soldiers were likely to display in the
absence of counselling: I had the impression the counsellors needed
their putative victims more than the victims would need counsellors.
This is the point of Manufacturing Victims, a well-written, abrasive
and timely polemic by a Canadian psychologist who argues that psychology
has changed from a respectable academic discipline into an industry
eager to sell its products, almost all of them of dubious value
and many of them positively harmful.
In the opinion of the author (whose opinion I share), the psychology
industry is creating a population increasingly reliant on professional
services to cope with life's normal ups and downs. Since psychologists
are largely charlatans, and their promises of cure fraudulent, the
outcome is more misery - which, of course, requires yet more assistance
Psychologists have turned every form of discontent into a syndrome
or disease requiring treatment. They systematically underestimate
the capacity of humans to overcome adversity.
All unpleasant events - such as a burglary or the death of a pet
- are assumed to leave an emotional residue that, unless dealt with
professionally, will cripple the sufferer.
Unfortunately, they have had considerable success in peddling this
view to society. We are all victims of something, be it an alcoholic
parent, sexual harassment, prejudice or an addiction to chocolate.
Thanks to psychologists, people have become victims of their own
behaviour: for example, a man who beats his wife 'suffers' from
battering man syndrome, and is not responsible for his actions.
By definition, a victim cannot help himself; instead he needs professional
help to emerge from his predicament. It all makes work for the counsellor.
But once a person conceives of himself as a helpless victim, he
excuses both his past and future conduct.
Since, as a matter of fact, psychology is powerless to alter people's
bad behaviour, the false promise it holds out actually promotes
If a person concludes that professional psychologists cannot help
him, he certainly cannot be expected to help himself.
Psychology thus contributes to the spread of antisocial behaviour.
The situation would be laughable if it were not so serious. I have
been the victim of several minor crimes. The police have not tried
to bring the perpetrators to justice but have, without fail, offered
me victim support: as if there must, by definition, be something
wrong with me.
As the author of this splendid book points out, by concentrating
on the minor emotional fluctuations of supposed victims, instead
of on external reality, we dissipate our energies on trifles and
fail to make real improvements.
Instead of teaching children self-esteem, we should teach them
to read; instead of giving victim support, we should catch criminals.
No expansion of psychological services will ever reduce the sum
of human misery, rather the contrary: this is the message of Manufacturing
It is a message that our leaders (and we ourselves) would do well
Mail on Sunday
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