There is a growing concern about what is happening not only in psychiatry and psychology but within the self-help areas, on popular talk shows and in the commercial realm regarding what I can only call designer moods and their increasing push into society. By designer moods I am meaning quick fixes for moods or psychological states which we either deem uncomfortable, and yes also painful in more extreme cases or moods that don’t live up to our expectations in terms of serenity, calm, happiness and so forth.
There is a lot of pseudo-Buddhist push to “don’t worry be happy”, “don’t get into any heavy stuff, it harshes the mellow” and Law of Attraction related phrases such as “If you think happy thoughts your life will become happy.”. It’s alarming and it’s also a lie. Magic thinking doesn’t work. Magic pills don’t work in many situations. Concrete action and increased awareness works.
In with all of this bright-siding, to lift a phrase from Barbara Ehrenreich, is also the notion that it must happen and sooner before later. It has to happen NOW. Instant happiness is becoming the expected norm rather than a psychologically questionable anomaly.
There is a growing backlash against the pharmaceutical industry’s aggressive marketing of inadequately tested chemicals to those who are in mental distress and increasingly to those who simply have a stressful lifestyle that has deleterious effects. Rather than examine the contexts, the physical health of an individual or the emotional situation holistically “happy pills” are dispensed with almost sociopathic abandon. This backlash extends beyond Big Pharma and is increasingly coming to bear on the self-help industry as well as other quick fix methods.
Many blogs and other resources are being developed in order to examine or at least balance out this aggressive marketing. A blog called The Slow Mood Movement has written up a manifesto to express their concerns on this topic. It was pointed out to me from the Beyond Meds blog who also posted it.
Because they have generously labeled their work as anti-copyright I am producing it in full here.
Read & Destroy.
(If you get it, you don’t need it anymore.)
We are aiming to cultivate new a idea of selfhood. And a new practice of selfhood as well.
Inspired by the Slow Food Movement’s rejection of fast food, we aim to resist the buying and selling of “fast moods.”
We resist drugs, saviors, and communion wafers. These “quick fixes” subject us to unwanted power relations, while robbing us of the opportunity to overcome obstacles for ourselves.
We are taking it slow. Reclaiming our lives one day at a time, one hour at a time, one breath at a time.
We are taking it slow. Slowly learning to feel our inner states. Slowly developing the cognitive tools needed to make healthy decisions for ourselves, our communities, and our world. Slowly learning to expand our emotions and connect with other people as people, not functions. These things can’t be given to us instantly. We have to build these things for ourselves, over time.
We do not fear our own thoughts or moods. We feel them out. We examine them, without guilt. We ask ourselves where they come from, why they are within us. We find friends who are good listeners, and we share.
We do not repress our desires. We flirt with them. We let ourselves feel them. And we laugh as unwanted desires drop away. And if they return (as they often do) we do not worry. We simply begin the dance again.
We resist the pressure to act happy all the time. And we do not put this kind of pressure on others. Our lives are not sitcoms for fucksake.
We evaluate our own behavior. Calmly, without guilt, we think about what we have done. And we decide for ourselves what to do next.
We do not follow strict codes that tell us which actions are “right” and which are “wrong.” And we don’t bother to write these codes for ourselves. We work to cultivate our minds and hearts, so that we are guided by our intellect and passions, not by some disembodied set of rules.
We are not afraid to do things that have already been done before. To watch the sunrise, to climb a mountain, to learn to cook, to write a novel. We have the time to seem unoriginal.
We look to history to understand where we are coming from. But history cannot tell us who are are, or who we will become.
We are trying to escape our context – the whole 2400-year mythos of Western selfhood – and get back into our bodies, into our environment, into this place and time.
We are ready to create new meaningful rituals. Social rituals, spiritual rituals. Rituals of selfhood and membership, uniting individuals and the community. Rituals that dissolve the distance between our core beings and the ends of the universe.
We are ready to work alone, in pairs, and in groups.
We know that each person has a completely unique experience of consciousness that will never be perfectly understood by another. But we also know that one of the greatest human endeavors is the attempt to share that experience with others.
We are crafting a new discourse, a way of talking about our self-work. But we understand that words are not universal, that we must take note of the way words and labels change our core experience. When someone believes they have a “soul,” a soul seems to manifest within them. When someone believes they have a “mind”…
We must learn to distinguish between labels and the raw psychic energy that is expressed through those labels.
And we will be extremely selective about the labels we use to interact with ourselves. Always conscious of the power-relations that come with labels like “soul,” “mind,” and “brain.”
But we will allow ourselves to indulge in the rituals and labels we need to express what is within us.
And we will strive to express what is within us, even if it is illogical, irrational. Even if it means howling at the moon. Striving to keep our expression safe but effective.
And if anyone ever tries to spin a web of rhetoric around our labels and claim our internality, we will shake their words off.
If anyone tries to co-opt our rituals and sell them back to us, we will abandon those rituals and create new ones. (Our boundless creativity will save us from becoming slaves to tradition.)
If anyone ever tells us they’ve found a way to make us complete, we know they’re lying. As long as we are alive, we still have work to do.
We are not seeking happiness or completeness. We are seeking freedom. We are claiming a level of liberation, agency, and free will. This means being aware of our own thoughts, even when they are unpleasant. It means feeling out our own moods, even when they are uncomfortable. It means accepting our own behavior.
We are not afraid to examine our own lives – our relationships, our environments, and our workplaces – with eyes unclouded by dreams.
We will not flinch away from the world when it needs us. And we need it.
No moment of consciousness is outside our work. No moment need go ignored.
This is slow work. Sometimes hard work. But it is the most important work of our lives.
Others might be confused by what we are trying to do. But we will not let ourselves be made slaves for the mere sake of being understood.
We are taking it slow.
Because life is too important to rush through. Because life should not to be skimmed like a cheap paperback novel. Because each moment of life is of infinite value, and we are not going to squander our moments away.
We are taking it slow.
Because the full extent of human consciousness has not yet been discovered. We are not done with ourselves yet.
In this task growing into ourselves, we are ever moving forward, and becoming, becoming, becoming…