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Fool's Paradise: The Unreal World of Pop…

Fool's Paradise: The Unreal World of Pop Psychology

by Stewart Justman

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"Plagued by anxiety, depression, vague discontents, a sense of inner emptiness, the 'psychological man' of the twentieth century seeks . . . peace of mind under conditions that increasingly militate against it. Therapists . . . become his principal allies in the struggle for composure; he turns to them in the hope of achieving this modern equivalent of salvation, 'mental health.'" Thus Christopher Lasch, writing in 1979 in The Culture of Narcissism. By narcissism Lasch meant not conventional self-love but an anxious craving for audience and admiration born of a void within, and maybe it is some such hunger that calls forth the flattering assurances that are pop psychology's note, as when a counselor reminds his unseen reader of "how wondrous and interesting you can be."
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"Where did pop psychology come from, and what are its promises - and delusions? How is it that we have elevated people like Phil McGraw, Theodore Rubin, Wayne Dyer, M. Scott Peek, Thomas Harris, John Gray, and many other self-help gurus to priestly status in American culture? In Fool's Paradise, the award-winning essayist Stewart Justman explores the unreal world of pop psychology and discovers its astounding contradictions." "He traces the inspiration of the pop psychology movement to the utopianism of the 1960s and argues that it consistently misuses the rhetoric that grew out of the civil rights movement. Speaking as it does in the name of our right to happiness, pop psychology promises liberation from all that interferes with our power to create the selves we want. In so doing, Mr. Justman observes, pop psychology not only defies reality but corrodes the traditions and attachments, that give depth and richness to our lives. His witty and astringent investigation of the world of pop psychology, in which he quotes liberally from the most popular sources of advice, is a social corrective as well as an entertaining and stimulating book."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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