Comment by guardianUK commenter

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2012/feb/07/why-willpower-matters

I think the way so many people here have found it so easy to poke holes in the professor’s argument shows up the poverty of a lot of modern psychological thinking for what it is.

What the public needs to understand is that modern psychology/therapy is not actually designed to improve anybody’s mental health or happiness in absolute terms – it starts with the assumption that our current society is normal and desirable, and it is largely concerned with trying to manipulate the individual into being able to adapt to (“fit in” with) or be what is called a “success” by the current standards.

Whereas in the 1960s/70s RD Laing, a then famous psychiatrist, said that mental illness was largely an adaptation to an insane society – in other words he (rightly in my view) identified the society as the main cause of mental illness and unhappiness rather than it being the fault of or a deficiency in the individual.

The professor here is of course continuing the “social engineering” tradition of psychology by telling the individual if he or she is a failure, it is a fault in them caused by a lack of “will power.”

Obviously a lot of people here are not buying that, and hacked off with the professor and his kind, and in my view quite rightly so.

Addressing a few specific points raised by others here…

As I said in my original post, somebody who has got physical health problems – e.g. chronic pain – will have most or all their will power “diverted” into just dealing with their health problems.

No doubt a lot of people are therefore sabotaged from living an ordinary life by such problems, and the government is calling them layabouts and questioning their fitness for work, and understandably they are not very pleased about it.

That can also apply just as much to mental health problems, and the worst thing about mental health problems is that they are basically invisible to everybody else who hasn’t got them, and thus questionable in their existence – another place the government is treading into insensitively, and people need to realise, that the government quite frankly doesn’t care if it forces you into suicide – though will no doubt will claim it does and is caring.

The main point however in my original comment was that the person who does best in this society is not somebody who has “great will power” as the professor is making out, but somebody who is highly egotistical.

The good citizens who were taught or learned to restrain their desires and not walk all over everybody else in the pursuit of what they want tend to find it more difficult to “succeed”, and fare best in the public services, which of course this government is relentlessly attacking, trying to privatise everything (not as I’m saying the New Labour government was much better).

This makes it hard for good people to succeed (i.e. hold down an adequately paid job) and places lots of stress on them by having to compete for the dwindling number of public service jobs in teaching, civil service, health care, publicly funded leisure activities, etc.

So then they get put into a situation of abnormal stress, but it’s nothing to do with their will power or lack of it, it’s that the system is repressing them, just as the Nazi system repressed those who were identified as Jews.

Likewise one person here talked about being “shy” and realising that it was their fear of rejection that caused the shyness.

But that presupposes that being “shy” is a character flaw, whereas once again, it’s just an assumption of our current aggressive, competitive system that shyness is looked at as a weakness.

Whereas actually, it could be looked upon as a rationally based self-protective mechanism.

And in connection with that, someone else talked about having been abused as sabotaging one’s “will power”, because it affects one’s ability to believe one has control over one’s environment, which is probably the cause of OCD behaviours – a desire to impose order in whatever way remains on an environment which does not feel secure and controllable.

In fact our whole society almost is based on abuse, bullying, from the top downwards.

It fosters only people with a savage and abusive mentality, which explains the behaviour of most of our top politicians and business people – e.g. the bankers/directors who claim massive bonuses/pay rises while others lose their jobs and homes, and can’t see anything wrong with it.

But the people who are egotistical have focused will – they are used to getting what they want and not worrying too much about how they get it.

The only recourse for the good citizens, who currently don’t know what to do, is to focus their will power on protesting against and changing this system.

If the system was made right, fair, equitable, we’d find that the issue of “will power” would hardly arise.

Nobody should have to try that hard to be a success – it’s just a corrupt system that makes thing workout that way.

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