Saturday, April 23, 2005

The Therapeutic Society: Can't We All Just Get a Life?

You know the therapeutic society has progressed beyond tolerability when people demand counseling for digging up misdeeds by distant ancestors.

A London Sunday Telegraph story, reprinted in Saturday's Washington Times, reports:

Genealogists want psychotherapy to be made available for people who stumble across unpleasant discoveries while researching their family history.

Britain's Society of Genealogists is one of several organizations concerned that amateur historians are not sufficiently prepared for the secrets they might uncover in their family records and could need counseling to help them through the emotional process.

"People can be dealing with many serious things -- from discovering your ancestor was a rapist who was deported to Australia to finding out you are adopted," said Else Churchill, a genealogy officer at the society.
Has all of Western society gone daft? Or are amateur genealogists so weak-kneed that they all get the vapors when that skeleton falls out of the family's closet? ("Don't open that closet, McGee! You'll end up on a shrink's couch for years to come!")

George F. Will addressed this issue more broadly in a recent column. Noting a new book by Christina Hoff Sommers and Sally Satel called One Nation Under Therapy: How the Helping Culture Is Eroding Self-Reliance, Will writes:
Sensitivity screeners remove from texts and tests distressing references to things like rats, snakes, typhoons, blizzards and . . . birthday parties (which might distress children who do not have them). The sensitivity police favor teaching what Sommers and Satel call "no-fault history." Hence California's Department of Education stipulating that when "ethnic or cultural groups are portrayed, portrayals must not depict differences in customs or lifestyles as undesirable" — slavery? segregation? anti-Semitism? cannibalism? — "and must not reflect adversely on such differences."

Experts warn about what children are allowed to juggle: Tennis balls cause frustration, whereas "scarves are soft, non threatening, and float down slowly." In 2001 the Girl Scouts, illustrating what Sommers and Satel say is the assumption that children are "combustible bundles of frayed nerves," introduced, for girls 8 to 11, a "Stress Less Badge" adorned with an embroidered hammock. It can be earned by practicing "focused breathing," keeping a "feelings diary," burning scented candles and exchanging foot massages.
The "self-esteem" "experts" who recommend that children juggle with scarves should themselves start juggling with knives. Then, later, we can nominate them for a well-deserved Darwin Award.

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