The Origins of Unhappiness

 
9780006377979: The Origins of Unhappiness

The normal interpretation of psychological distress - more usually labelled as "neurosis" or "mental illness" - is that it originates from within the individual. This book turns this theory on its head and examines what the author believes is the real cause of individual distress - the society we live in. Looking particularly at the workings of both visible and invisible social power and placing his theory in the context of the political backdrop of the 1980s, the author describes the psychological consequences of the interplay of political and personal power and goes on to analyze the ways in which clinical psychology and psychiatry in Britain fail to meet the needs of the people being treated.

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The normal interpretation of emotional distress – more usually labelled as 'neurosis' or 'mental illness' – is that it originates from within the individual.

Unlike others who have looked at the outside world as a cause of fear, pain and unhappiness, David Smail offers a radical account of what this view means for a therapeutic practice that still, for the most part, 'treats' people. Through his examination of how visible and invisible social power – institutions, politics, the Establishment – wields an influence over our lives often beyond our immediate control, he leads us to an understanding of distress which has never been clearer.

Taking as case studies the experience of people who suffered from the 1980s 'business culture', when failure to meet impossible demands was considered the fault of the individual, Smail illustrates the sometimes devastating effects of the interplay between personal and political power. Finally, he analyses the failings of psychiatry and psychotherapy in Britain, and offers a vision of psychology which recognizes that it is the society we live in rather that the individual that needs to be treated.

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