cover image ONE NATION UNDER THERAPY: Why Self-Absorption Is Eroding Self-Reliance

ONE NATION UNDER THERAPY: Why Self-Absorption Is Eroding Self-Reliance

Christina Hoff Sommers, Sally Satel, . . St. Martin's, $23.95 (310pp) ISBN 978-0-312-30443-0

"Cancer patients who talk about their ordeal in therapy groups do not live longer," write Sommers (Who Stole Feminism? ) and Satel (P.C., M.D.) in this suck-it-up polemic. For them, the pervasiveness of therapeutic thinking and practice in American life provides not healing catharsis but enervating psychic drag and evasion of responsibility. The authors marshal a litany of studies from a variety of perspectives, aiming to convince readers that taking one's lumps with as much equanimity as possible is far preferable to exploring one's feelings via an "unwholesome therapism"—or, worse, using one's "therapized" feelings as an excuse for bad behavior. Placing themselves in the tradition of Christopher Lasch and Allan Bloom, they begin with "The Myth of the Fragile Child," decrying the creeping prohibitions on dodgeball and tag (seen by some as too aggressive and competitive) on the nation's playgrounds as coddling. The next chapter, "Esteem Thyself," takes direct aim at the ideas of Abraham Maslow and self-actualization advocate Carl Rogers, while the following chapters chronicle the descent from "Sin to Syndrome" and "Pathos to Pathology," and track the enforcement of "Emotional Correctness." While basically a one-note book with little grace in its description of its foes, or in its insistent call for taking responsibility for one's own actions, Sommers and Satel's jeremiad will likely generate debate. Agent, Glen Hartley at Writers' Representatives. (Apr. 12)