What would Freud think?

This is the current issue of Adbusters. The hole in the middle represents the psychological we feel from living in a capitalistic society.

This is the current issue of Adbusters. The hole in the middle represents the psychological we feel from living in a capitalistic society.

“We are currently living through a new epidemic of insanity…one that’s far darker, more vast and troubling than anything the pioneers of psychoanalysis could have imagined.” — Stefanie Krasnow, Adbusters

This is a quote from an Adbusters  article about the collective insanity consuming our society. Krasnow questions how  Sigmund Freud would psychoanalyze Western culture in 2014. When Freud observed European society, the one word he used to describe it was “neurosis.”

By 1929, Freud’s masterwork Civilization and its Discontents was published, and he not only diagnosed individuals, but culture. He realized it was the modern world that was making everyone neurotic.

Freud thought we were sexually repressed, and it was driving us insane. What about now?

Freud thought we were sexually repressed, and it was driving us insane. What about now?

As Freud analyzed his patients, he concluded that collectively and individually repressing our sexuality has caused us to go insane. As we became more modern, humans repressed primal urges leading to sexual frustration which in turn lead to insanity. Freud no longer saw madness as individual, but a species-wide dilemma.

Krasnow brings Freudian analysis to the present United States. “What would Dr. Freud have to say now, in 2014?” she asks. If Freud were alive, he would be influenced by Marx and McLuhan rather than Nietzsche and Darwin.

Freud would no longer blame Victorian and Christian values, but the “technophilia of our capitalist empire.” Krasnow writes that capitalism constantly fails to keep its promise, therefore  “we are reduced to ‘psychical infantalism,’ crawling desperately toward the mirage-like horizon of satiety where riches, happiness and self-actualization remain forever just out of reach.”

Wow. That is powerful. Because the current economic system continues to fail us, we are constantly working, working, working to make ends meet. When all debts seem paid off, more debts arise forcing us to work more. It’s a vicious cycle. No wonder so many of us have depression, anxiety and other mental health problems.

To put this crisis into perspective, Krasnow provides mental health statistics.  Right now, 60 million people in the United States, approximately a fifth of the population, are suffering from mental illnesses ranging from mood disorders, anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, OCD, ADD, PTSD and so on.

She writes, “Though the symptoms differ, it’s no longer possible to diagnose or treat this collective insanity at the level of the individual. There is a madness in the air affecting us all.”

When I read this, all I could think was, “Yikes.”  What is this collective insanity she speaks of? Have I become mad, too? What if my depression and anxiety is a result of this mass insanity? Is our madness a hole in our psyches caused by gluttony and greed more, more material items? Going in a cycle like that rat race would drive anyone insane.

This  rat race would drive anyone insane.

I also thought about the people in my life with mental illnesses. I thought about my brother with PTSD caused by the military-industrial complex he works for.  Our military uses propaganda to persuade youth that joining a war will pay for college. The recruiters obviously leave out the “if you survive” part.

Approximately 7.7 million American adults 18 and over suffer from PTSD, and it makes me wonder why we still have faith in a system that’s only consistent in failing the people reliant on it. Our military and economy is destroying our psychological landscape . Why do we allow this to continue?

The answer is simple. Capitalism is the new opiate of the masses.

Krasnow continues,

 The DSM-V named dozens more mental illnesses into existence this year but we still don’t have a word to describe the collective insanity we’re stewing in, nor any insight into where it’s coming from, nor how to get out…Looking at America’s symptoms–obesity, hoarding, eating disorders, addictions of every kind from cigarettes to pills–it’s clear that we remain hopelessly orally fixated. Remember–everyone in Rome got fat before the empire fell…”

Chilling. If it’s not sexual repression caused dogmatic religion, it’s severe addictions caused by mental illness.  I wonder, is our empire about to fall, or has it already fallen?


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