In a hyper-capitalist world where advertising and financial pressures channel the drive for status into an obsession, no one can really win – even those who appear to have it all. Commerce infiltrates even the language we use to describe our deepest concerns: am I worth it? Am I valued? Do I count? … it is high time for an inequality therapy that doesn’t fault people for being crushed by an inhumane marketplace—but instead recognizes that it is the system, not the self, that is broken. – Maia Szalavitz, writing in The Guardian
In a recent article in The Guardian, Maia Szalavitz tells the story of Michael, a middle-aged middle-manager who was anxious about his status at work, and who sought therapy from psychologist Kalman Glanz. Glanz had him investigate whether or not he had any basis for real worry. The result? No, he didn’t: his boss and co-workers were satisfied with his work, and his job was secure. Glanz also asked Michael why he even had an opinion about his status and helped him think about whether it was useful to wonder about it.
In their book Self Evaluation and Psychotherapy, Glanz and his co-author J Gary Bernhard explain how economic inequality is changing the way we feel about ourselves and is having a negative effect on what we value. The market system values an identity based on achievement rather than belonging to a community; they conclude that inequality spurs us toward materialistic values that have an adverse effect on our mental health.
by Peggy Shafer