“For a man to conquer himself is the first and noblest of all victories.” Plato
Over the course of the last century, Americans have become increasingly obsessed with psychology. We have embraced a therapeutic culture which posits that everyone is a victim, consciously or not, of emotional and environmental factors which dictate the way we see the world and the way we behave within it. While Plato was famous for his description of the ideal human soul, in which the head rules the belly through the chest, American pop-psychology increasingly promotes the idea that a person’s identity – who they are and what they do – is more a product of uncontrollable forces than a result of the will operating in concert with (or against) reason and sentiment.
In the past several decades we’ve come up with sympathetic psychological explanations (i.e. excuses) for everything from shoplifting to adultery to murder. Apparently, however, this wasn’t enough for the folks at the American Psychological Association, who in an attempt to “reflect changes in our society” have newly revised their Diagnostics and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. This most recent iteration of the manual presents several new and unique mental disorders and behavioral afflictions. An article by George Will captures the absurdity of these new “diseases” thusly:
Today’s DSM defines “oppositional defiant disorder” as a pattern of “negativistic, defiant, disobedient and hostile behavior toward authority figures.” Symptoms include “often loses temper,” “often deliberately annoys people” or “is often touchy. DSM omits this symptom: “is a teenager.” This DSM defines as “personality disorders” attributes that once were considered character flaws. “Antisocial personality disorder” is “a pervasive pattern of disregard for . . . the rights of others . . . callous, cynical . . . an inflated and arrogant self-appraisal.” “Histrionic personality disorder” is “excessive emotionality and attention-seeking.” “Narcissistic personality disorder” involves “grandiosity, need for admiration . . . boastful and pretentious.” And so on.