The Ecphorizer

The Good Old Days (1975) —Gone Forever
Dale Adams

Issue #59 (October 1986)

As one who pays little attention to current events and virtually none at all to fads, for me to come across "what we all believed" just ten years ago can be a hilarious experience. Firstly I am not personally threatened, since I am such a contrary cuss that I never believed it even if I knew it. Secondly, my own biases run strongly against the naive optimism of 1975, so I can be particularly merciless here in exposing the fallacies of the Golden Age.

[quoteright'/>I'll start with a book published in 1975 which is now ludicrously out of date. William Glasser, the founder of Reality Therapy in the 1960's, wrote The Identity Society (1st Ed. 1972, Revised Ed. 1975). The text is now laughable, though the untitled "Appendix" at the end is quite intriguing and perhaps true. This section of anthropological and historical speculation lays the basis for the book itself, even though shunted aside separately from the main text. Glasser hypothesizes four main stages of: human life.

  1. The primitive survival society lasted from 4 million to, 500,000 B.C. We ate small game and were vulnerable to predators and large animals.
  2. The primitive identity society lasted from 500,000 to 10,000 years ago. We were then accomplished hunters who had the luxury of proving our worth and identity in the hunt, rather than killing or being killed or left to starve.
  3. The civilized survival society was (is) the worst of all, wherein we developed agriculture to accommodate increasing population, but became our own worst enemies as the powerful forced the lower classes into menial work or starvation.
  4. Finally, Glasser points to the civilized identity society since 1950 in certain advanced Western nations, where want has been eliminated, and now 500 million people have to turn from goal-orientation (food-production or economic or political control over the means of production) to trying to find oneself, to established one's identity and finding the meaning of life.
Well, as we all know, the Great Society is dead, Head Start aborted (this was known as early as 1966 with the Coleman Report, but at least Glasser does not explicitly refer to this form of optimism), taxpayers are in revolt, and wages as often go down as up. Most importantly of all, ever since interest rates shot up in 1979 our young people have not been able to afford to raise families. That is, we have returned to the civilized survival society without apparent hope of escape. The very poor subsist on less and less welfare, more poor are forced onto welfare after their unemployment benefits run out, more non-poor lose their jobs (or can never get to find a decent job when they become adults) and become poor, and the formerly well-off are just getting by. People in general, and the young particularly, are just worried about making a living and can't focus on job fulfillment or intrinsic fulfillment in life.

We cannot choose where we will live, what our occupations will be, or what particular company we will work for. If we are lucky we will have a job we can depend upon, but the old flexibility of choice is gone. If our job is one which requires 60 hours a week, and many do, that's the end of any meaningful life unless we happen to be among the incredibly few whose jobs themselves are ultimately meaningful. (These are mostly positions such as college professorships in certain fields in which the Old Boys entrenched themselves decades ago. Getting into the few vacancies requires even more toadying than that to which the earlier occupants lowered themselves in their turn. No one in quest of true knowledge would so prostitute his/her intellect to the prejudices of the Phoniness Doctors, so by definition no one has a job meaningful in itself.)

So much for the myths of the Identity Society. (This is not to be misunderstood as an indictment of Reality Therapy or as disparaging the search for identity, self-actualization, or any worthwhile self-improvement). Did I just stumble across one book which was obsolete (in terms of a general application to all potential readers, rather to an elite) almost before it was published? No. I also happened across a 1975 issue of Psychology Today (and the most apparently interesting of four that I scanned), April's. Let me tell you about several of the articles I read.

Lloyd de Mause (founder and editor of Childhood Quarterly: The Journal of Psychohistory) wrote "Our Forebears Made Childhood a Nightmare." I am in no way making sport of his laudable efforts to forward the trend towards human child-rearing, nor of course am I excusing in the slightest our current national epidemic of child-beating, incest, pedophilia and abortion. However, as of 1975 the upward trend of two thousand years (from the low point of mass infanticide, castration, and sexual misuse of boys under the Greeks and Romans) had reached its high point of empathy for children. De Mause analyzed the past as having passed through the Infanticide Mode (antiquity), Abandonment Mode (Medieval), Ambivalent Mode (Renaissance), Intrusive Mode (18th Century), and up to our present Socialization Mode. He himself supports the just-beginning Helping Mode, as I do. He stated that remnants of all these modes still persist, much attenuated as time passes. He attributes the improvement to each generation trying "to overcome the abuses of their own childhood by reaching out to their children on more mature levels of relating."

So, what went wrong? Some easy answers would be drugs, TV, and pornography. Conservatives and/or Christians would suggest that generations can live off the religious faith and moral convictions of their predecessors only for so long before all the capital is used up. That is, the unquestioning religiosity of one generation may be succeeded by the tolerant, lukewarmness of the next, followed in turn by morality-without-religion, until finally the logical implications of godlessness unleash the beast and the demonic within Man's heart. In the middle generations, however, the less-strict parents would be kinder to their children than were their own parents to them. Extrapolating from the upswing of the cycle, de Mause was sure that children would be better treated in the future, with his own noble ideals replacing the mere "Socializing Mode" psychologies of all contemporary models from Freud to Skinner.

Allow me to suggest yet another alternative, based on somatopsychics. The city dwellers have lived in very degrading conditions, which can explain their aberrations, from infanticide to sending their children to (incompetent) wet-nurses in the country. When  technological progress brought better food, sanitary conditions, and public education, each generation treated its children better than the one before. By the middle of the 20th century, however, chemical air pollution, processed (de-natured) foods, poisonous food additives, and perhaps just sedentariness and over-eating all combined to produce irritable adults and hyper-active children. The same genetic structure of the last two thousand years is presumably still among us, and simple (mal)nutrition and ecological factors could cause a reversion to past (mal)practices.

As an aside, let me utilize this perspective by Lloyd de Mause towards evaluating Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson's Assault on Truth (1984) expose of Freud. Freud originally shocked his fellow psychiatrists in 1896 with his theory that insanity in women was due to childhood sexual abuse. With typical M.D. responses to new ideas, Freud was completely suppressed. However, in 1905 Freud publicly retracted this theory and instead accused all the women of fantasizing molestations by their (usually) fathers. This new theory became the basis of orthodox psychoanalysis. Returning to de Mause's revelations, we realize that the sexual abuse theory no doubt has a lot of truth to it. Unfortunately, the recent public discussions by victims on radio talk shows reveals that these all-too-common cases do not always lead to classical insanity, but to all kinds of life-long problems among (especially) women. Conversely, many of Freud's cited cases of childhood rape were simply the result of Freud's use of Charcot's method of implanting ideas in his patients such that eventually both patient and therapist believed them to be true.

Next, and more in line with my usual sardonic style, I will ridicule the article by Enrici Jones in the April 1975 Psychology Today, "Psychotherapists Shortchange the Poor." His purpose is to show that lower classes can benefit as much from psychotherapy as the upper classes, but that bigoted clinical psychologists refer them instead to "electroshock, tranquilizers, and confinement." Along the way, however, Jones lets slip numbers of facts and admissions which lead to the conclusion that contrasting therapies are appropriate. One is

An assumption that middle-class membership itself indicates a lack of pathology and a hopeful prognosis... People of higher social status may be better suited for psychotherapy because their achievements in the social sphere imply that they possess the skills necessary for therapeutic success. And, in fact, several studies have found strong relationships between socio-economic achievement and success in psychotherapy.

Mental health professionals seem to have good reason to reject patients from the lower classes:

Not only are the poor less likely to be accepted for therapy, they are also less likely to accept it if offered, less likely to keep their initial appointment, and more likely to drop out of treatment...

Another explanation for the drop-out rate of lower-class patients is that....they come to the clinics with problems effectively treatable by short-term therapy. They may not have the time or motivation to explore deeper personality problems that would intrigue and motivate the middle-class patient.

Well, could rot any conservative have spotted all these flaws back in 1975 just as well as now? Perhaps, even though we now have the evidence of ten more years of Blacks getting poorer in spite of full or more-than-equal civil rights. I would like to focus, however, on Jones' final major point of attack, IQ.

IQ might be expected to be correlated with social class. However, in addition to built-in test bias against the lower class, performance on IQ and other intelligence tests depends at least in part on psychological health. Thus the fact that patients with higher intelligence tend to have more success with psychotherapy may simply mean those patients were healthier to begin with.

This flies in the face of growing evidence since 1978 that IQ and psychopathology tend to be associated together, in the face of hundreds and hundreds of years of demonstrably mad geniuses of the world's highest rank.

Nevertheless, there may be some truth here. I personally believe that institutionalized schizophrenics are confined, whereas their relatives are not, because the relatives tend to have the "bad" gene, but also have the high IQ gene (myopia, perhaps) to be able to control the problem. Nevertheless (or perhaps therefore), the schizophrenia gene (itself a component, probably, of the manic-depressive gene) is probably more prevalent among high-IQ people than among dull or normal people. The same gene that produces psychosis among people of an otherwise non-bright IQ constitution, produces neurosis (the schizoid personality) among people of high IQ. That high-IQ responds better to counseling due to being less sick to begin with, is pretty much to say that neurotics are more treatable than are psychotics. This being the case, psychotherapy is the treatment of choice for higher social classes whereas non-voluntary treatment may be best for people of lower social classes, because the latter more often have character disorders or psychoses. Therefore, there is every reason to scorn Jones for claiming that Blacks and the poor are discriminated against by psychotherapists. His whole article repeatedly makes lame excuses for the facts he cites.

1975, where are you? Gone with the wind. 

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