The Politics of Normalcy

July 6, 2011 § 45 Comments

By Tai Carmen

“…if you are not like everybody else, then you are abnormal, if you are abnormal , then you are sick. These three categories, not being like everybody else, not being normal and being sick are in fact very different but have been reduced to the same thing.” Michel Foucault

Perhaps you noticed it, too. The word ‘anxiety’ appearing more and more in conversation, ads and media. People talking, not about ‘being anxious,’ (a moment that can pass) but about ‘having anxiety’ (a permanent affliction).

In “The Age of Anxiety,” a poem written in 1947, W.H. Auden links modern angst with man’s quest to find substance and identity in a shifting and increasingly industrialized world: …It is getting late / Shall we ever be asked for? Are we simply / not wanted at all?  

Writer-philosopher Albert Camus dubbed the 20th century “The Century of Fear.” One wonders what he would say about the 21st.

Writer Herman Hesse, exploring the age of angst in his novel Steppenwolf, attributes the feelings of isolation and loneliness in his protagonist to the breakdown of repressive bourgeoisie values, which let loose the wild, irrational forces within man without offering a new standard or value system for support, thereby creating an uneasy limbo, lacking guidance and direction.

Though the subject has been explored for centuries by writers and philosophers, social anxiety disorder did not officially exist until it appeared in 1980’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, the DSM-III — the psychiatrist’s bible of psychological afflictions — under the name “social phobia,” the same book which once classified homosexuality as a mental disorder.

Not that the problem didn’t exist before — it was the ancient Greeks, after all, who coined the word agoraphobic —  but during the latter half of the 20th century, anxiety seems to have shifted culturally from a covert issue to an overt one.

By the 1990’s pharmaceutical companies received F.D.A. approval to treat social anxiety and poured tens of millions of dollars into advertising its existence. In 2002,  Anxiety Disorders Association of America reported that 19.1 million (or 13%) of adults ages 18-54 were affected with a form of anxiety disorder. Now the percentage has climbed to 40 million (or 18%) of the population.

The current version of the DSM-IV describes diagnosis as warranted when anxiety “interferes significantly with work performance” (italics mine) or if the sufferer shows marked distress about it.

So in other words, according to the DSM, if you can’t adjust to your life as an employee, you may have a disorder. If it affects your productivity within the system, that’s the true indicator of a problem.

Of course, this makes sense on an individual basis — why wouldn’t job performance be an issue for individual workers? We all have bills to pay.

But on a broader level, from the perspective of analyzing cultural trends and messages, it strikes me as eerily dystopian that humans should be viewed like malfunctioning robots who need repair because their efficiency has faltered, rather then looking into possible problems with the work places themselves (environment, demands, etc).

Not “Maybe we need more breaks to maximize efficiency,” but “Maybe you have a problem. Take a pill and get back to work.”

There is a lack of humanity in the description, an emphasis on product over person.

In Madness and CivilizationMichel Foucalt notices the link between society’s labor needs and their attitude towards the socially maladjusted:

Before having the medical meaning we give it, or that at least we like to suppose it has, confinement [of the insane] was required by something quite different from any concern with curing the sick. What made it necessary was an imperative of labor. Our philanthropy prefers to recognize the signs of a benevolence towards sickness where there is only a condemnation of idleness.

I want to be clear that I am not criticizing individuals for taking anxiety medication. I am not telling anyone to stop taking their medication or saying it’s weak or wrong to do so. It’s a personal choice. We need all the help we can get, and I understand that medication is one form of help for many people.

My interrogation, rather, is aimed at our perception of anxiety as a society — our knee-jerk reaction of repression over investigation, of labeling the feeling a disorder, rather than seeing it as a potential initiation into deeper mastery of one’s will and character, or as a symptom of an imbalanced social system.

Interestingly, angst as put forth by the existential philosophers refers to the spiritual dread one experiences in the face of one’s own freedom. As Kierkegaard said in The Concept of Dread:

 “I would say that learning to know anxiety is an adventure which every man has to affront if he would not go to perdition, either by not having known anxiety or by sinking under it. He therefore who has learned rightly to be anxious has learned the most important thing.” 

In that context, there begins to appear something ominous about the medication of such a feeling, which may be uncomfortable, but also suggests the presence of our own grand possibility. If anxiety is a natural reaction to the experience of our own overwhelming freedom, what will it mean to repress that sensation?

Some might take issue with the fact that I am not drawing a distinct line between philosophical anxiety and physiological/psychological anxiety. I am aware that our society sees them as different issues — one as garden-variety-human-condition-angst, which everyone experiences to some degree, and the other as the more pathological, in-need-of-medication-chemical-imbalance anxiety. This is because I don’t believe they are different. Rather, I think they are gradations of the same experience.

I see the varying interpretations of anxiety by different fields as exactly that: interpretations. The difference between, say, a poet’s description of an elephant and a zoologist’s. The elephant remains the same.

Just because one field has identified the chemicals related to the feeling does not mean the chemicals are the beginning, or the end, of the story.

Social anxiety is often linked with introverts — incidentally, a much misunderstood personality type within our modern culture.

“The day may come,” says Susan Cain in her recent New York Times article, “Shyness: An Evolutionary Tactic?” “when we have pills that ‘cure’ shyness and turn introverts into social butterflies […] [But] the act of treating shyness as an illness obscures the value of that temperament.”

As a culture we need both the shy, sensitive introverts to ponder the deeper meanings of things and the assertive, bold extraverts to take action and get things done. Diversity in a species is an evolutionary advantage.

Case in point: evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson performed a simple but telling experiment on a school of unknowing pumpkinseed sun fish. About 15-20 % of animals display introvert characteristics of caution (interestingly, the same percentage as in humans,) called “sitters,” compared to the more curious, assertive “rover” types…

The biologist lowered a metal trap into the water and a large number of  “rover” sunfish went inside to investigate — only to be caught. While the more tentative “sitter” sunfish, who sat back and watched, remained free.


“Had Professor Wilson’s traps posed a real threat, only the sitters would have survived,” points out Cain. “But had the sitters taken Zoloft and become more like bold rovers, the entire family of pumpkinseed sunfish would have been wiped out. ‘Anxiety’ about the trap saved the fishes’ lives.”

Wilson then caught all the sunfish and took them back to his lab. The rovers acclimated faster, eating a full five days earlier than their sitter brethren. In this case, the rovers had the evolutionary advantage.

“There is no single best … personality,” Professor Wilson concludes in his book, “Evolution for Everyone,” “but rather a diversity of personalities maintained by natural selection.”

Yet we live in a culture which treats the sitter personality as freakish. “Just do it!” our slogans roar. Action is prized over contemplation, assertiveness over timidity. One way we manifest this bias as a society is by encouraging perfectly healthy shy people to see their tendencies as problematic, needing to be cured.

Studies show that introverts, who tend to digest information thoroughly, do better in school than their extroverted peers, despite having the same I.Q. The careful, sensitive temperament from which both shyness and anxiety can spring is not only rich in observational skill, insight and inner vision, it may well be essential to the survival of our species — a point well illustrated by our friends the pumpkinseed sunfish.

As science journalist Winifred Gallagher points out: “The glory of the disposition that stops to consider stimuli rather than rushing to engage with them is its long association with intellectual and artistic achievement. Neither E=mc2 nor ‘Paradise Lost’ was dashed off by a party animal.”

I’m not saying that people who take medication are doing so to “conform to the status quo,” (obviously they are doing it to feel better and to function more effectively in their life) but the increase of medication use in the Western world does suggest the possibility of an increasingly homogenized human experience.

Though some might argue that such “increased homogeny” is just fine if it entails a more well-adjusted life experience, I am suspicious of terms like “well adjusted,” because they require that we hold a yardstick up against the majority to measure the minority; it fails to account for individual temperament or the gifts that come with eccentricity.

Back to the original thought: being anxious vs having anxiety. This is a shift of language I have witnessed in my lifetime. And what a consequence the simple replacement of “having” with “being” implies: one is an emotion that passes through you, another is something you are stuck with, a state, part of your personality, even your identity.

And could it have anything to do with the multi-million dollar pharmaceutical companies filling the airwaves with the language of “having?”

What great symphonies, works of literature and philosophies would not have been created had the sensitive temperaments creating them been medicated? And what will our society look like in 100 years if it continues down its current trajectory?

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§ 45 Responses to The Politics of Normalcy

  • wdednh says:

    Great Post thank you, will re-post if u wont mind?

  • […] The Politics of Normalcy (via PARALLAX) Posted on July 6, 2011 by wdednh "…if you are not like everybody else, then you are abnormal, if you are abnormal , then you are sick. These three categories, not being like everybody else, not being normal and being sick are in fact very different but have been reduced to the same thing." Michel Foucault Perhaps you noticed it, too. The word 'anxiety' appearing more and more in conversation, ads and media. People talking, not about 'being anxious,' (a moment that can pass) bu … Read More […]

  • Raymond Fenn says:

    i highly recommend the national geographic documentary “stress: a portrait of a killer.” it outlined several studies regarding populations of humans and animals and how hierarchical arrangements of in those groups seemed to predispose them to greater stresses, as measured, for example by the cortisol levels in a baboons blood who is not an alpha male and by looking at the psychological effects of simply being a subordinate in a human group at a company office over a period of time. anyhow, it relates to what you mentioned regarding the fish. although if you take an alpha type individual from a group and remove them from social dominance and test them in as much of a vacuum as possible against what appear to be the “sitter” types, you may see clear evolutionary advantages. however, it was observed in this film and the baboon study that a blight of a disease (i believe tuberculosis) wiped out many member of a baboon society after they had discovered human refuse as a calorie source. the alpha member died. the more socially bound, group oriented, less nomadic types seemed more ideal to outlive an epidemic. i think anxiety and stress are of the same physiological realm. the fight or flight response seems non-purposive in terms of evolution, in that although subordinates, “sitters”, those “needing each other” just to make it, etc. may suffer more long term physiological damage from increased exposure to anxiety and stress, in a catastrophic situation, the number of other group members you have commensal-type bonds with may be equally, if not more, valuable than simply having the primordial qualities or cultural inheritances that distinguish one to alpha status. i think the anxiety epidemic has much to do with how marx’s idea of the alienation of the self in his view of capitalism. capitalism seems to destroy bonds rather than make them. it seems there must be a necessary have and have not society as such. without a self, how are relationships genuinely possible? without relationships, how does a self even exist? it brings to mind the scene in “cast away” where tom hanks’ character had to create a fake human out of ball (if i remember correctly) and actually have a communicative relationship with it to maintain his sanity, will to live it seems, etc. i think that is a heightened example of the existential design of anxiety, fear, etc. it seems if we were to view our country, for example, as a population, our relationships would most clearly be defined by our socio-economic status. this all basically boils down to abstractions such as profit and loss, things have nothing to do with genuine relationships between human beings. relationships must have some form dialectical pattern of communication in order for each party to establish a clear position in reference to one another. this is an identity. a self. we seem to exist amidst a world of anonymity, with false relations defined by profit and loss, and rampant existential pondering and repression for drug companies to cash in on. all of this ties in in some way i have yet to clearly prove, but am working on it. i am keenly interested in the ironies between social demands and anxiety induction and how they end up playing out in terms of survival and flourishing for the individual and the group. i highly enjoyed the read.

    • taicarmen says:

      These are fascinating topics and I think they absolutely do interweave. Thank you for sharing your stimulating thoughts. I will definitely look into Stress: A Portrait of a Killer … you’ve also reminded me that I need to read some Marx. Any particular recommendations? Keep up the good penetrating question-asking and dot-connecting. Hope to hear form you again. Dreamers unite! TC

  • natasha says:

    being an introvert myself, it’s nice to see that there’re people who not only realize this, but are also willing to speak about it publicly. thank you very much for a great post.

  • Neisha says:

    I’ve just started reading your blog! This article, in particular, is relevant to me because I have PTSD. Although I have frequent panic attacks and a consistent sense of “anxiety”, I chose not to medicate a feeling… as I know that feelings are transient. In all reality, this experience has been, for me, a growth experience that has made me more determined to live authentically. I am one of the less-than-normal people and I’ve chosen not to be afraid of my own freedom.

    Great post!

    • taicarmen says:

      Oh, that’s very interesting for me to hear. Thank you for relating your story. I think there is tremendous value in using personal hurtles like this to strengthen ones character and self-determination. I also concur that living authentically is definitely part of the solution. Here here to fearless freedom! TC

    • taicarmen says:

      “I would say that learning to know anxiety is an adventure which every man has to affront if he would not go to perdition, either by not having known anxiety or by sinking under it. He therefor who has learned rightly to be anxious has learned the most important thing.” — Kierkegaard, The Concept of Dread

  • hxia33x says:

    I really enjoyed the post, especially because it relates to questions that I think about often. I recommend watching this interesting TED video in which Ken Robinson applies this issue of “normalcy” to the school system (http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html).

    I also recommend reading “Man’s Search For Meaning” by Viktor Frankl. He touches upon this subject by observing the uniquely American social pressure of “needing to be happy,” how the question of happiness is perceived as a choice.

    • taicarmen says:

      Those sound like things I will definitely check out! I actually have “Man’s Search for Meaning” already, so thank you for reminding me to dip into it.🙂

      The idea of happiness as choice is certainly worth exploring, and does seem to be uniquely American, insomuch as I believe we are the only country where the word “happiness” is actually written into our constitution. I can see how it would have some interesting consequences psychologically for a nation. Perhaps a future post there! Thank you, my friend!

      Dreamers unite!

      TC

  • Elisa Michelle says:

    Thanks for this article. As an introverted person, I’ve struggled to prove that it wasn’t a “disorder” or a “problem.” My anxiety is something I can overcome; it’s not an affliction that requires medication, rather personal perseverance. I am being anxious, but I do not “have” an anxiety disorder. I wonder how many people actually have a legitimate anxiety disorder — as in the have some sort of chemical imbalance or something like that. It’s nice to hear for once that introverts are needed. Makes me feel less like a freak who needs to conform and change in order to be normal.

    • taicarmen says:

      “I would say that learning to know anxiety is an adventure which every man has to affront if he would not go to perdition, either by not having known anxiety or by sinking under it. He therefor who has learned rightly to be anxious has learned the most important thing.” — Kierkegaard, from “The Concept of Dread”

      Thank you for sharing your perspective, I am so deeply pleased that you found the post helpful.🙂

      I identify with your view of anxiety and have the same question as you: how many people really and truly have an issue vs how many people are just being sensitive humans in a mad world, experiencing a perfectly natural reaction to the excess of stimuli and pressures around them.

      There must be a way, as Kierkegaard says, to penetrate the issue and find something of true value in the experience of transcending ones anxiety. Because of our knee-jerk reaction of medicating as a society, I believe we are missing many great opportunities for self-growth by going straight from the symptom to a synthetic solution.

      I’m sure there are cases when medication is helpful, perhaps for some even necessary…but the fact remains: there is little to no real culture these days of turning inward and addressing the issue of anxiety from a psychological/ spiritual/ philosophical view point. It has become simply and opaquely a Disorder to be cured.

      I’d like to explore this topic further in a future post. Thank you so much for weighing in.🙂

      Dreamers unite!

      TC

      • Elisa Michelle says:

        Personally, I find it more rewarding to confront and overcome my anxiety instead of run from it through medication. I’ve seen what it does to someone, too, and it never truly fixes the problem.

        On top of that, if you’re introspective and/or more introverted, most people view you as having an anxiety disorder. This isn’t necessarily true and is a bad assumption. Outgoing, social people also have anxiety but learn to deal with it differently (namely by going forward at full speed). But yeah, I really would like for society on as whole to stop viewing introverted people negatively. Different doesn’t mean worse. Clearly the animal kingdom even has introverts!

  • Very cool stuff. I can imagine, however, that introverted individuals would find the claim that they are part of the “social diversity” of humankind a bit insufficient in light of the the barrage of temperament-altering techniques (pharmacological or otherwise). Telling the bullied kid that he will be the boss of the bullies when he grows up doesn’t help him keep his lunch money after tomorrow’s recess.🙂

    • taicarmen says:

      Fair enough. But there is some solace in solidarity, no? And just acknowledging the situation can be the beginning of a shift … or so this sometimes-idealist hopes.😉

  • nicolefilosa says:

    great notes on anxiety! reminded me of a TED talk by a guy diagnosed with bipolar disorder. He explains how he basically slept through high school after being heavily medicated but later as an adult he’s learned to harness his “uniqueness” rather than suppress it.

  • Melinda Jones says:

    This is beautifully written and illustrated. I hope your message is shared widely.
    Melinda

  • I love the way you have explained all this in simple terms. Being myself and introvert, HSP, empath or whatever other name or diagnosis for my personality I deeply relate with what you exposed.

    T H A N K Y O U !

  • Aezlith says:

    I want to start off by saying I thought this was a fantastic post.

    I’ve chosen to medicate lightly for, mostly, financial reasons – if I don’t have something other than my own logic and optimism keeping the stress and paranoia at bay from day to day, I’m not likely to be able to get or keep a job, especially not one in the corporate world I found myself suddenly thrust into a couple months ago.😦

    I realize this is addressed above – why is the indicator of a problem poor work performance? Why not? The average human spends 15-20% of their lives working (I Googled this so it’s probably off by a little bit), and a majority of people depend on their jobs, or their spouse’s or relative’s jobs, for financial support. If I was constantly anxious at work to the point that it was affecting my performance, I would consider it a problem and want to do something about it.

    As a teenager I was adamantly against the idea of medicating myself because I believed it would be suppressing who I truly was. I still believe that, and I don’t think anyone should be made to think they’re abnormal or sick when they’re not, or pressured into taking medication when they don’t need it.

    Medication is a choice, and it does change who you are, but it has changed me from a constantly nervous ball of paranoia, only able to relax when alone, into someone mostly peaceful and happy with my life.

    • taicarmen says:

      Thanks for weighing in. I am not against medication per se, and I think that it can really be a godsend in certain situations. I guess I’m just questioning the mode we’ve developed as a culture of treating anxiety, not as a part of the human condition that pretty much everyone experiences to some degree, or as the product of a dysfunctional system or unreasonable expectations, but as a pharmaceutical diagnosis alone. There is obviously a chemical/physiological aspect, but I think our society as a whole neglects the other aspects of the equation…

      The reason I emphasized the work-related aspect was because it related to my previous post, “The Mad Cult of the World,” wherein I deconstructed the viscous cycle of our current system (getting money for working at jobs that stress us out so we can afford the gadgets we use to distract us from our stressed out jobs and pay for the homes we leave empty while we go to work at jobs that stress us out). I’m not suggesting work is beside the point (obviously it’s a reality) but I am examining its true worth to us as a kind of thought experiment…and I guess that idea bled into this post as well. Perhaps I should have made my reasoning and context clearer.

      I do appreciate the necessity of being a functional employee. And it’s important to take care of oneself/loved ones…No judgment either way. My main point is simply the band-aid approach our modern society seems to have about medication. No one asks why we are anxious or puts vast sums of money into researching behavioral cures. Barely anyone thinks to critique the system causing the anxiety or put money into researching alternative systems. The money is in the medication, so that’s what we get. I’m just questioning the worth of this approach.

  • notbuyingit says:

    are you an MD? have you ever had a panic attack? you dont sound like someone who is qualified or experienced enough to claim that anxiety is just in our heads.

    • taicarmen says:

      This is a philosophy blog. I am deconstructing the cultural portrayal of anxiety, questioning our social status quo in how we regard and treat anxiety.

      No where in this post have I claimed to be a doctor or said it was all in our heads. It is simply a fact that “social anxiety disorder” did not exist as a term until the 1980’s when it appeared in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. I am not saying no one was ever anxious or experiencing social phobia before that time, I’m rather exploring the history surrounding the idea of anxiety. Before it was considered a psychological disorder, it was simply a philosophical condition of man. I think its interesting to see the different ways we have treated the idea of anxiety over the past few centuries. And while this is by no means an exhaustive history, it is an examination.

      Without sharing more personal details than I have resolved to share on this site, I will say that I am well acquainted with many facets of the phenomenon of anxiety, both in myself and others.

      This post was not intended as psychological advice. It was a musing and a perspective.

      Best,

      TC

    • Great article says:

      Within the realm of philosophy, anxiety is one thing. When you’re talking about the mentally ill, it’s something else entirely. The difference is that every human being can understand and has experienced normal, philosophical anxiety and it has long been recognized to serve an evolutionary purpose. It tells us about our environment, signals whether we are in danger, teaches us about ourselves and helps us navigate our own path to happiness and achievement. I agree, as it seems most other readers do, that this shouldn’t just be medicated away with benzodiazepines because they are an easy and convenient quick-fix.

      But, anxiety disorders certainly occur comorbidly with many other mental disorders that stem from a chemical imbalance in the brain. And I think that it’s a completely different experience. I’m bipolar and I take an anti-epileptic drug that has mood stabilizing properties and reduces the random firing of neurons in my brain. One of the main symptoms of bipolar that brought me to a psychiatrist was the paralyzing effects of social anxiety. Without medication, I wouldn’t be sitting here typing this. It wasn’t something that I could overcome, that I could sort out, that I could channel into a positive force. It was destructive and debilitating and I lost years of my life to the effects of anxiety. If people with normal brain chemistry took the drug I’m prescribed, it would merely give them a headache or make them drowsy.

      I love this article, because I think it touches on one of the most important things about anxiety – that’s it’s necessary. I still experience anxiety but as my psychiatrist says, it’s the kind that I want to feel because it will show me how to live my life and help me figure out how to respond in situations. Unfortunately, the distinction between the two forms of anxiety is a difficult one to explain if you’re only approaching it from one angle. Just wanted to offer my perspective, since I thoroughly enjoyed stumbling this page and always value a researched and well-written post on topics like these!

      • taicarmen says:

        Thanks for the thoughtful comment. For the kind words and hard questions.

        I do appreciate that our society considers psychological anxiety to be in a different category than philosophical anxiety…and perhaps should have addressed this in the post. It’s a good point.

        To continue this line of questioning, just for the “food for thought” aspect, in the spirit of discussion and deconstruction, I would question whether the two types are really so different, or simply varying degrees of the same experience…

        I do understand that more severe cases of anxiety manifest as a chemical imbalance, but then aren’t we getting into the territory of “what is normal?” Why are we holding the yardstick of acceptable behaviors/experiences up to what is “normal” when what is normal is simply an average, while it is so often confused with an ideal.

        I appreciate that you are saying medication helped you. I’m not saying it can’t be a good thing…I guess I just feel like there are enough people promoting that view, so I wanted to focus on other questions here.

        My aim in this article was not so much to redefine anxiety or offer advice to individuals on how to treat it, but rather to examine the way in which we perceive and handle it as a society — to explore anxiety as a cultural idea and what our current mode of handling and perceiving it may mean for us in the future.

        In that way I see my lens as being philosophical regardless of which type of anxiety we are talking about. I am not against individuals’ choices to handle their own emotional life in different ways…I simply question the frequency with which medication is prescribed and wonder if –even operating off the current model — more philosophical anxiety types don’t get lumped into the “disorder” category than necessary because our society enforces that view most often.

        All good questions and good thoughts. Thanks for weighing in.🙂 TC

  • Cod Piece says:

    would you take issue with my printing this in a zine ?

    • taicarmen says:

      Not at all! Circulation and inspiration is what it’s here for.🙂

      Please just make sure to credit me (Tai Carmen) and if you’re feelin it, a link to the blog site would be super-awesome, too:

      http://www.parallaxweekly.com (re-routs to this site, http://www.taicarmen.wordpress.com)

      …or even just a mention of “Parallax” with my name so it would be easy to google. I’d be interested in checking out the zine if you feel like sharing details.🙂

      Dreamers unite! TC

  • Yes, there certainly is a widespread use of medicating for a variety of psychological issues that is happening in our society. And although you raise an interesting point about the terms of being anxious as opposed to having anxiety, I do think that anxiety itself is on the increase, however it is worded. Our world is becoming more intense, fast-paced, and demanding. As well, especially perhaps in the United States, there has been a breakdown of the community interactions that are so important for psychological balance and well-being. Back to the medication problem, I think it is two fold. One aspect is the pharmaceutical companies’ eagerness in tandem with doctors’ willingness to prescribe. The other, though, is the patients’ desire to be medicated. People have to be able to think for themselves, and to find the courage to look for other answers.

    • taicarmen says:

      I completely agree that the world is getting more intense and fast paced, and that this, too, contributes to the rise in anxiety. I guess I neglected this aspect in the post and you are right to bring it up. I’m not saying it’s all in our head that anxiety is on the rise or only because of pharmaceutical business manipulation (though I was exploring those contributing factors to our perception…)

      I completely agree that a lack of community is part of this emotional breakdown that is spreading across the Western world and in fact have contemplated doing a future post on the breakdown of community in the modern world and its major consequences for us socially and psychologically. This is true and I don’t believe contradicts what I am saying (though perhaps I should have explored a wider gamut of contributing factors). In the immortal fool’s wisdom of Forrest Gump: “I think both could be happening at the same time.”😉

      Thanks for your thoughts! TC

  • E123 says:

    I loved the article but I think it is a bit reductionist with the opinions about medication and diagnose.
    I was diagnosed with Dysthymia (depression) and Generalized Anxiety when I was 16. I took medication for 2 years and I am still myself. I know the point of the article is not to diminish medication, but to question it. But I think in a way it does diminish our fight to pursuit well-being. We don’t take our pills because we want to conform with society, we take our pills because otherwise we feel like shit. And we also make a lot of work and effort by ourselves to be well, to FEEL well, regardless of the medicine.
    It is a fight we live in, and it is a hard one mostly because it is invisible, without medication it is unbearable for most people with severe mood and anxiety disorders.

    If you are interested on abnormality controversies I highly recommend you to search for the experiment published as “On being sane in insane places.” by David Rosenhan (1973) I would love to read your opinions and analysis on that.

    • taicarmen says:

      Your point is well taken. And I will definitely look into your recommendation. I guess I really bit off a big bite with this post, and it does need to be fleshed out a bit more. Thanks for your thoughts!🙂 TC

  • […] know these statements are considered controversial by some. When I suggested in The Politics of Normalcy that the dominance and commonplace usage of anti-anxiety medication in today’s culture was […]

  • Dave says:

    After reading your post on “The Love Pill”, I have been perusing your catalog, and half-way through this one I must comment…

    –“My interrogation, rather, is aimed at our perception of anxiety as a society — our knee-jerk reaction of repression over investigation, of labeling the feeling a disorder, rather than seeing it as a potential initiation into deeper mastery of ones will and character, or as a symptom of an imbalanced social system.”–

    The “mastery of ones will and character” is the(or perhaps one?) ultimate goal, is it not? I have often felt that “labels” are the response to those “anomalies” in society that threaten the status quo, which scares those in a place of comfort and complacency…those benifiting from that status quo and the “imbalanced social system”…also, I have often wondered if this common “angst” shared by the whole of Humanity is really the subconscious apprehension brought about by accepting ones individuality, and realizing what’s in store for those who do…

  • Douglas Leeber says:

    Everyone is afraid of something. This most fundamental, critical rule of human existence may be among the oldest reasons for the human need to socially interact. To a certain extent, it is arguable that all society is based on the foundation that we are playing off each other’s fears. However, while it is normal for everyone to have fears, not everyone has a phobia. The phobia, which is essentially an unreasonable fear that is firmly rooted in a person’s psychology, can sometimes be difficult to spot. In general, they don’t so much affect a person’s social and professional standing as other disorders might. Yet, there are some people that must deal with the prospect of having to face a phobia at work on a daily basis.^

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You are currently reading The Politics of Normalcy at PARALLAX:.

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