Are we obsessed with happiness?


The proliferation of treatments and therapies that promise well-being is the reflection of a society that increasingly demands more psychological and spiritual guidance of all kinds.

Family constellations. Positive psychology Bioresonance. Therapeutic theater Reiki Posturology Regressive therapy Neuro-Linguistic Programming. Quadrinity. Psychoneuroimmunology Acupuncture. Bach flowers. Focusing. Authentic movement. ARC system. Feng Shui. These are just some of the therapies, psychological or otherwise, up to half a hundred, through which the patient Josep Darnés traveled. “When I was 25, I struggled to face the reality of life and started going to psychologists to treat my anxiety,” he explains. “My obsessive and perfectionist character made me go from one therapist to another for years, until I became hyper-therapist. To be addicted to therapies.”

Darnés was observed constantly, and in everything that happened inside him he saw reason for investigation and dissatisfaction, he did not accept the emotional swing of the existence. Her whole life revolved around this: “I used to take vacations to go to seminars, on Sundays I celebrated cinema clubs at home to comment on films from a therapeutic point of view, I was preparing to be a coach,” she says. “People who were not on the subject of personal growth were looking over their shoulders, we were a little snobbish.”

Simple life – recipe for happiness?

Finally, Darnés discovered that it did not make him happy, quite the opposite – he became ill – and now he tries to enjoy the simple life, without the intention of perfection or transcendence. His story of disengagement of therapies relates in the book The therapeutic bubble (Harp). Paradoxically, one of the most effective ways to be happy is not to try too hard on it.

His case is extreme, but can give us clues about a society that increasingly demands more psychological and spiritual guidance of all kinds, from psychiatric or psychological therapies based on evidence to other less reliable and more esoteric: astrology, tarot or homeopathy. Also self-help books, new age currents or coaching sessions. The offer is very broad. “I came to see very strange things: regressive hypnosis, rooms with 20 uncles hitting sandbags as if they were their parents, hallucinogenic mushrooms, sectarian groups,” recalls Darnés. “Was everything going to work for me?”

The technological acceleration that leads us to an uncertain future in which we may not know how to manage is influenced by anxiety

The contemporary citizen seems lost in the darkness of the forest, looking for a light to follow, a hope to cling to. Some of the causes for which living is increasingly unsettling can be found in the greater demand of today’s society, which constantly pushes us out of our comfort zone, pursue our dreams and break our limits, because nothing is impossible. Everything depends on ourselves. We must face everything with a smile.

“Through self-help we are led to believe that it is enough to change our mind to change the world around us and be happy, that everything is within ourselves”, explains the essayist and cultural anthropologist Iñaki Domínguez in his manual of antiayuda How to be happy to hammer (Melusina), in which he proposes a philosophy of action on the material world more than that of resilience and visualization. Because all this is also very conducive to the economic dogmas of individual effort and entrepreneurship, of the uncritical acceptance of circumstances, of the dominant economic system.

The technological acceleration that leads us to an uncertain future in which we may not know how to manage (perhaps a dystopia such as the one portrayed in the Black Mirror series), the economic swings and the conflicts that are shaping on a global scale, influences the anxiety. the lack of a handle in a past world of turns. The growing disinterest in religions leaves us without spiritual guidance in life and without a balm before the fear of death. In addition, in social networks everyone seems more cheerful and successful than me. What am I doing wrong? What I can do? Visit a guru, get started in fashion therapy, try to change my internal conversation, and so on. Or go to be prescribed antidepressants.

Although there are no specific data on the demand for psychological therapies, the psychologists consulted agree that it is increasing. In addition, there are indicators that can give us some idea: the increasing consumption of psychotropic drugs, the increase in suicides (3% in 2017 according to the INE), and its importance among the youngest segment, the waiting lists in health centers mentally (although this is also due to a lack of resources). For Darnés, the continuous search for well-being became a source of suffering, while the excess of analysis generated problems where there were none. Marino Pérez, Professor of Psychology at the University of Oviedo and co-author of the book Real life in the times of happiness (Alianza Editorial), has worked on this concept: hyperreflexivity. “Individuals are focusing too much on themselves,” he explains, “we are becoming more aware and sensitive to our own discomforts, when they are often completely normal human conditions.” So we can get to pathologize what are only ways of being and phases of mood. “We live in a very individualistic society in which we are already considered more consumers than citizens,” says Pérez, “and consumers must always be satisfied, always monitoring their own well-being.”

The increase in the popularity of therapies also contributes to a certain destigmatization of their use: the new generations are less reluctant to tell their therapeutic experiences, when in the previous ones there was a certain amount of concealment, as if the user feared being identified as mentally ill (and as if that was something to be ashamed of). At the same time, the psychological culture of the population grows and the average citizen is more familiar with its concepts and methods. The therapies are, moreover, more present in the media, and not only in Woody Allen films.

It is the perfect breeding ground for the emergence of intrusive and pseudotherapies: “We are asking the Government to regulate therapies that are not regulated,” says Fernando Chacón, dean of the Psychologists College of Madrid, “has to determine what therapies are really useful and which are not, so that the user knows: Bach flowers or family constellations are not the same as relaxation techniques. You also have to make sure that whoever offers them has the right training. ”

In the lampposts of many cities there are announcements of methods of personal growth where quantum physics is mixed with esotericism, and in the metro stations are distributed lampoons of mysterious African gurus willing to finish, despite their bad spelling, with any Heart wound You have to be careful. As the dean of psychologists explains, a therapy that works, that is harmless, is not the same as one that directly harms or makes the patient move away from conventional treatments or his social circle, with the dangers that entails . “That should be considered a crime,” says Chacón. And, as the case of Josep Darnés illustrates, use is not the same as abuse.

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