Saving the Modern Soul: Therapy, Emotions, and the Culture of Self-Help

Saving the Modern Soul: Therapy, Emotions, and the Culture of Self-Help

Saving the Modern Soul: Therapy, Emotions, and the Culture of Self-Help

Saving the Modern Soul: Therapy, Emotions, and the Culture of Self-Help

Synopsis

The language of psychology is all-pervasive in American culture--from The Sopranos to Oprah, from the abundance of self-help books to the private consulting room, and from the support group to the magazine advice column. Saving the Modern Soul examines the profound impact of therapeutic discourse on our lives and on our contemporary notions of identity. Eva Illouz plumbs today's particular cultural moment to understand how and why psychology has secured its place at the core of modern identity. She examines a wide range of sources to show how self-help culture has transformed contemporary emotional life and how therapy complicates individuals' lives even as it claims to dissect their emotional experiences and heal trauma.

Excerpt

To be sure, the concept of enlightenment must not be too
restricted methodologically, for, as I understand it, it embraces
more than just logical deduction and empirical verification,
but rather, beyond these two, the will and the ability to
speculate phenomenologically, to empathize, to approach
the limits of reason. … Emotions? For all I care, yes. Where
is it decreed that enlightenment must be free of emotion? To
me the opposite seems to be true.

Enlightenment can properly fulfill its task only if it sets
to work with passion.

—Jean Amery

By words one person can make another blissfully happy
or drive him to despair, by words the teacher conveys his
knowledge to his pupils. Words provoke affects and are in
general the means of mutual influence among men.

—Sigmund Freud

Studies and critiques of therapy have steadily accumulated for the past three decades. Although differing in method and outlook, they agree that the therapeutic persuasion is quintessentially modern and that it is modern in what is most disquieting about modernity: bureaucratization, narcissism, the construction of a false self, the control of modern lives by the state, the collapse of cultural and moral hierarchies, the intense privatization of life caused by capitalist social organization, the emptiness of the . . .

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