It’s easy to miss the therapeutic-industrial complex’s role in keeping positive change in check.
Therapists tend to medicalize malaise. If modern life is making your depressed it is because the chemicals in your brain are out of whack or some bad childhood experiences. I’m not saying clinical depression isn’t real (I’m depressed probably half the time) it’s just that the way society is structured even one with perfect chemicals has to be good at playing mind games to not be depressed. When one is unable or unwilling to play these games they are seen as having a pathology. For example our culture prizes individual autonomy but without money one cannot obtain it (along with the respect and relationships that go along with it). This is an intractable problem. No amount of words or pills will make it go away. A therapist probably isn’t going to tell you to collectively bargain even if a union contained more supportive people than a support group.
The self is the end of the thread of causes; in the therapeutic-industrial complex, everything grounds to self. Because of the way American men and women are formed we (including me) are incredibly self-absorbed. When therapists got a peek inside people’s minds they found patterns, a lot of time people who were dickish had low opinions of themselves. But then they jumped the gun mixing correlation with causation saying people acted dickish because they had low self-esteem. This is understandable because most of the output of people’s minds are going to be thoughts about them self. This focus on self manifests itself in society in that the poor would just do better if they “believed in themselves” and had “higher self-esteem”. The Secret and Joel Olsteen are the most overt manifestations of this but the cultural narrative is steeped with the notion that if something is wrong in your life it is just something wrong with your thinking, often an one’s erroneous opinion of them self (as non sequitur as the reasoning often is).
Therapists teach us to soften the language we use for addressing the actions of those in power. Instead of saying, “it was unfair he passed me over for a promotion”, one must say, “I feel it was unfair he passed me over for a promotion”. This is a seemingly innocuous wording change but it is something we are trained to do unconsciously. In many places questioning and anything seen as negative is not tolerated. Speaking truth to power does not even get past the gate keepers because it’s dismissed as venting, for the domain of therapists.
The therapeutic-industrial complex propagates a hyper-individualistic message that professionalizes friendship, helping keep building blocks of empowerment from coming together. A brick wall consists of bricks and mortar just like organizing consists of people’s will cemented together towards a common goal. At first blush a therapist sounds like a great ally to have, someone who will listen to your story—your side of it. But the your never gives way to our. You may feel empowered and relieved getting these things off your chest but by opening up to a therapist instead of a friend who shares your struggle you lose out on group solidarity. Solidarity and any interdependence is demonized by the therapeutic-industrial complex. Individual happiness is its goal but a hyperindividualistic form that is such a mash of hedonic super-specific tastes and preferences that make one a poor fit for any kind of group cohesion or solidarity.