According to current thinking, anyone who fails to succeed must have something wrong with them. The pressure to achieve and be happy is taking a heavy toll, resulting in a warped view of the self, disorientation, and despair. People are lonelier than ever before. Today’s pay-for-performance mentality is turning institutions such as schools, universities, and hospitals into businesses, while individuals are being made to think of themselves as one-person enterprises. Love is increasingly hard to find, and we struggle to lead meaningful lives.
In What about Me?, Paul Verhaeghe’s main concern is how social change has led to this psychic crisis and altered the way we think about ourselves. He investigates the effects of thirty years’ acceptance of neo-liberalism, free-market forces, and privatisation, and the resulting relationship between our engineered society and individual identity. It turns out that who we are is, as always, determined by the context in which we live.
From his clinical experience as a psychotherapist, Verhaeghe shows the profound impact that social change is having on mental health, even to the extent of affecting the nature of the disorders from which we suffer. But his book ends on a note of cautious optimism. We can once again become masters of our fate — if we accept the challenge.
Published: 26th March 2014