After 100 years of psychotherapy

There's a book co-authored by James Hillman, an analyst who studied with Jung, and Michael Ventura, a writer and newspaper columnist, which they called “ We've Had a Hundred Years of Psychotherapy — And the World's Getting Worse.” It consists of a brainstorming session in the form of a dialog, a section of essays by the two authors to each other, and a final dialog.

The authors aim to make readers aware that Western society's preoccupation with individualism comes at the expense of collective action which could make a real difference to everyone's quality of life. Our cultural emphasis on therapy as a process of change for individuals, in isolation, is disempowering. Hillman and Ventura encourage a re-evaluation of our role in society at large without offering "how to" prescriptions.

James Hillman acknowledges the reality of childhood fears, traumas and abuse, but believes that by concentrating on what we suffered as children we fail to perceive opportunities for improving our contemporary lives that are well within our reach — both in the personal sphere and more widely via political activism. He suggests that keeping our memories locked into the child-victim's view keeps us in the position of the abused child.

From a review in Library Journal:

Although traditional therapy assumes that healthy individuals make for a healthy world, Hillman and Ventura contend that therapy encourages self-preoccupation, leaving no attention or energy for the woes of the outside world.

In Hillman's words:

“We've had a hundred years of analysis, and people are getting more and more sensitive, and the world is getting worse. Maybe it's time to look at that. Therapy sees the soul as being only within, on the inside. By not recognizing that the soul is also in the world, therapy can't do its job anymore. The buildings are sick, the institutions are sick, the banking system's sick, the schools, the streets — the sickness is out there.”

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One customer summed it up as a poke at psychotherapy's habit of cloistering itself in the consulting room, and added:

“Hillman and Ventura make their rambling, imaginative, caustic, and wonderfully spontaneous case for the inefficiency of a psychology establishment that pretends to change the world one person at a time... in effect robbing them of the very symptoms that might prompt some effective action, political and otherwise.”