Victims begins with the statement:
presents itself as a concerned and caring profession working for the good of its clients,
but the effects are damaged people, divided families, distorted justice, destroyed companies,
and a weakened nation. Behind the benevolent facade is a self-serving industry that offers
'facts' which are often unfounded, provides 'therapy' which can be damaging, and exerts influence,
which is having devastating effects on the social fabric. The foundation of psychology, its
critical thinking, if not an illusion from its inception, had by the end of the 20th century
been abandoned in favor of power and profit, leaving only the guise of integrity, a show of
arrogance and a well-tuned attention to the bottom line. Psychology has become “big
| Influenced by
American values and interests, this psychological imperialism is spreading around the world
supporting corporate ideals and “a colonization of the mind.”
Davis Smail has suggested that “we need to take back our private lives, to retrieve
them from the intrusive interest of the market and of the social discipline (norms) so that
we can live them in privacy, as diversely, eccentrically, and if the occasion demands it,
as unhappily as we like.”
But, realistically, what can we do? While the suggestions that I offered earlier would have
significant impact on society and are worthy of pursuit, changing the world is not the only
reason to challenge the Psychology Industry.
I am reminded of Sheldon Kopp’s story of the “Just Man who went to Sodom, hoping
to save its people from sin and punishment. He cried out to them, preaching in the streets,
urging them to change their ways. No one listened, no one responded, and yet he went on shouting
his message of warning, his promise of redemption. Then one day a child stopped him, asking
why he went on crying out when there was no hope of being heard. And the Just Man answered:
‘When I first came I shouted my message, hoping to change these men. Now I know that
I am helpless to change them. If I continue to cry out today, it is only in hope that I can
prevent them from changing me.
When I first sat down to write Manufacturing Victims, it was with a sense of outrage; the
book was intended to give meat to arguments and to inspire social action. Naturally, I continue
to wonder what would happen if religion was to take back its role in matters of the “soul,”
science was to take back the study of body and behavior, and people could accept life as something
more profound than a quest for psychological solutions.
The psychological way of life has infiltrated our society to such an extent that it goes unseen,
accepted and undetected, affecting out thoughts and language, emotions, behaviors and beliefs.
By striving to see that which has become so common that it goes unnoticed, and by questioning
the habitual reactions that reside even within ourselves, we can stand apart, determined to
remain alert and alive.
The ancient Delphic injunction to “know thyself” refers neither to wallowing in
psychological pain nor to basking in psychological empowerment. It requires that individuals
know their character, their strengths and limitations, their needs and gifts, their desire
for truth and their tendency to avoid it. Sadly, it is deception and self-deception, rather
than these aspects of self-knowledge, which the Psychology Industry fosters.
The Just Man, in Kopps’ story, did take responsibility for his own life and, within
the confines of his society, he acted with integrity. Those of us who sense that there is
something inherently wrong with the conformity crafted by the Psychology Industry can strive
to do the same. We may not change the world but we may discover that “the way through
the world,” however difficult, painful, disappointing, unpredictable, inexplicable,
triumphant or tragic, is a priceless gift.