Category Archives: psychobabble

The cultural triumph of psychobabble

Theresa May: the little ones shall experience distress no more

The British prime minister, Dalrymple reports, has

spotted an opportunity to demonstrate to her sentimental electorate how much she cares for even the least of them by announcing that she wants to put a mental health professional, i.e. form-filler, in every school.

There is, says Dalrymple, a new social contract:

I will listen to your shallow clichés about yourself if you will listen to mine.

Her

compassion by proxy, at taxpayers’ expense, is typical of the behaviour of modern politicians, who need to show their electorates that they are not the heartless or ruthless ambitious nonentities that they might otherwise appear to be. An uncritically sentimental population is a perfect flock to be fleeced in this way, sheep for the shearing.

May’s project, Dalrymple points out,

is also typical of the process of simultaneous work creation and work avoidance that marks the modern state, a process that turns it into a trough from which many may feed.

Fashionable psychological kitsch

Harry: unnecessary and tasteless confessions

The psychobabbling British prince, writes Dalrymple, ought to be

firmly reprehended for his emotional incontinence and exhibitionism.

All kinds of

princely personages—footballers, rock stars, actors, actresses, and the like—display their inner turmoil. They parade it as beggars in some countries display their amputated stumps. Perhaps this is to head off the envy that otherwise might attach to them. See, they seem to be saying, ‘We too suffer, despite our wealth, privilege, and fairy-tale lives, which you falsely imagine to be enviable and without blemish.’

Sufferers and victims are turned into

heroes merely on account of their suffering or victimisation, so that those celebrities who confess to misery, drug addiction, alcoholism, etc., are even more to be adulated than they already were.

Don’t mention the Muslims!

screen-shot-2016-12-18-at-10-02-55The religion we dare not name

Lying in bed late one night unable to sleep, Dalrymple resorts to a normally reliable curative: the British Journal of Psychiatry.

Two papers in particular quickly banish the insomnia,

  • one by Jeremy W. Coid, Kamaldeep Bhui, Deirdre MacManus, Constantinos Kallis, Paul Bebbington and Simone Ullrich headed Extremism, religion and psychiatric morbidity in a population-based sample of young men,
  • and one by Kamaldeep Bhui, Maria João Silva, Raluca A. Topciu and Edgar Jones on Pathways to sympathies for violent protest and terrorism.
Bognor Regis Chess Club in the great days

Bognor Regis Chess Club in the great days

Dalrymple writes that in addition to being quite unilluminating, the articles’ conclusions are

as dull as the annual accounts of a local chess club.

The authors

would make Armageddon sound boring.

They are also pusillanimous. We all know, Dalrymple notes,

what kind of terrorism and extremism the authors are thinking of, but the title of neither paper mentions it. We walk permanently on eggshells.

screen-shot-2016-12-18-at-10-33-38What religion are we talking about? The articles do not tell us. The whole subject

is dealt with in so opaque a fashion that it is difficult not to believe that the authors feared retribution—from the politically correct if not from terrorists themselves. They are like those puppies that, being curious, approach a danger, but then retreat, approach again, and retreat again.

Perhaps the authors wished to prevent readers from drawing the obvious conclusion, that

Enoch Powell had been right all along.

screen-shot-2016-12-18-at-10-36-55We should all like to know, says Dalrymple,

why some people become terrorists, other than for the most obvious reason: that to kill, maim, and destroy, supposedly for a good cause or some allegedly higher purpose, is a delight to a certain kind of person, worth even dying for. In addition, I doubt that there are many more self-important people than terrorists.

screen-shot-2016-12-18-at-10-46-45You might think that psychiatry and psychiatrists would be able to shed some light on the matter, but this, Dalrymple points out,

is a manifestation of a modern superstition, that human self-understanding has made great strides pari passu with technical advances such as brain scans and a knowledge of neurochemistry. In fact, we have not advanced beyond Pope’s description of Man as ‘the glory, jest and riddle of the world’.

screen-shot-2016-12-18-at-10-49-03screen-shot-2016-12-18-at-10-50-26

 

 

Determinate sentences unalterable by parole are a requisite of the rule of law

Screen Shot 2016-08-04 at 16.49.04

In the cant or psychobabblish modern expression, they wanted their lives back

Dalrymple writes:

The rule of law is the rule of law, not another thing. Determinate sentences are not the same as inflexible ones: mitigating (and aggravating) circumstances must always be taken into account, but they should be matters of discoverable fact about the past, not of inevitably amateurish speculations as to the future. Parole introduces avoidable arbitrariness into the criminal justice system, and while arbitrariness cannot be avoided altogether, it should be kept to a minimum.

Brezhnevian psychoanalytic xyloglottism

Much psychoanalytical writing, writes Dalrymple, has 'all the stylistic flair and intellectual excitement of a speech by Leonid Brezhnev'. Such langue de bois can  be read or heard only 'as an act of religious devotion, or even of contrition'.

Much psychoanalytical writing, writes Dalrymple, has ‘all the stylistic flair and intellectual excitement of a speech by Leonid Brezhnev’. Such langue de bois can be read or heard only ‘as an act of religious devotion, or even of contrition‘.

Cameron’s repellent utterances

Complacency and ruthlessness masked by sentimentality

Utter complacency and ruthlessness, the reverse side of the coin of sentimentality

Dalrymple points out that the language used by David Cameron, the British prime minister, is

deeply repellent.

It is

a mixture of undignified and condescending demotic and mid-Atlantic psychobabble. Just as Mr Blair was never Anthony, so for Mr Cameron dads are there for you (the kids), so that there comes a time when you (the kids) turn to them (the dads) and a light bulb suddenly flicks on inside your head. Psychobabble, the language of Rousseau’s Confessions without the confessions, does not come much shallower than this.

Screen Shot 2015-07-19 at 08.28.35The choice of language is

a transparent attempt by Mr Cameron to persuade the public that he is just a normal chap – or as he would no doubt put it, guy – who happens to have found his way into 10 Downing Street, in more or less the same way I sometimes go down to the Castle Tea Rooms for my lunch.

Screen Shot 2015-07-19 at 08.55.25Worse still is the sentimentality of what Cameron has to say, closely allied as it is, to

utter complacency and ruthlessness, both express and implied.

Screen Shot 2015-07-19 at 08.27.28

Dissatisfaction is the permanent condition of mankind

Screen Shot 2015-05-07 at 08.56.39Witch-doctoring, says Dalrymple (from 16:15),

can work for those who believe in witches and spirits.

However,

there is no total explanation of the human condition. There is no theory that will release us from dissatisfaction.

Lord, what fools these mortals be!

Screen Shot 2015-04-19 at 14.46.33Dalrymple explains (from 37:05) that a book was recently sent to him through the post by its publishers

in the hope that I would make some reference to it or even review it.

In 360 pages, the book

Screen Shot 2015-04-19 at 14.40.02sought to prove, with an immense machinery of academic references, that human beings, on the whole, are happier if they have some face-to-face and person-to-person contact.

Dalrymple’s comment:

Imagine someone going to Shakespeare and earnestly explaining to him the content of this book.

‘Well, William. Did you know that human beings need one another to be happy? I bet you didn’t, because, poor chap, you lived in the 16th century.’

Screen Shot 2015-04-19 at 14.31.50I don’t think the Bard would have been bemused, because nothing human bemused him, but he might have been amused.

Two lines of his might have run through his head: Lord, what fools these mortals be!* and O brave new world, That has such people in’t!

*A Midsummer Nights Dream, Act 3, scene 2, 110–115; †The Tempest, Act 5, scene 1, 181–184

Bureaucratic mentality

H.M. Prison Winson Green, where Dalrymple was a specialist

H.M. Prison Birmingham

Speaking grosso modo, Dalrymple writes that prison officers he worked with were more astute and kinder than staff at psychiatric hospitals.

They had not had their heads filled with psychological jargon. When they came to me to tell me that a prisoner was not himself, or was acting strangely, or that ‘he’s not your typical con’, I soon learnt to take their observations seriously.

Rampton Secure Hospital

Rampton Secure Hospital

Dalrymple says that prisoners he knew were in general

far more afraid of psychiatric hospitals than they were of prisons. One of their most plaintive cries was, ‘You’re not nutting me off, are you, doctor?’

In official reports of disastrous cases in psychiatric hospitals, salient phrases include ‘lessons have been learnt’ and ‘errors of communication’.

One could write almost all reports on disastrous cases before they have occurred. By ‘lessons have been learnt’ is meant ‘it will be exactly the same next time’.

The lesson that has been learnt

is always that a new form, longer and more complex than the old, should be introduced. The form-filling gets in the way of genuine contact with or concern for the patient. The form-filling is the work itself.

Dalrymple has little time for haruspices

Psychoanalysis doesn't do anything for Dalrymple. (Roman haruspex, from a bas-relief, Louvre)

Psychoanalysis doesn’t do anything for Dalrymple (bas-relief, Roman, Louvre)