Emotional and Psychological Literacy is Essential Cultural Technology
On stability and resilience
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noun tech·nol·o·gy | \ tek-ˈnä-lə-jē\
Definition of technology
1a : the practical application of knowledge especially in a particular area
b : a capability given by the practical application of knowledge
2 : a manner of accomplishing a task especially using technical processes, methods, or knowledge
3 : the specialized aspects of a particular field of endeavor
The idea that culture is downstream of technology is one that escapes too many people.
When people think of technology, the examples they typically give are computers or other products of mechanical or electronic engineering. But technology isn't just objects. Literacy and numeracy are fundamentally (and fundamental) technical knowledge. The product of widespread literacy and numeracy is a modern society.
I’ll go further. You can spot a literate, numerate society by its modernity. Illiterate societies are primitive. The people who live in them may have the same inherent moral value as the citizens of a modern society, but their culture, which may be rich, is less valuable. It is less productive in economic terms, its standard of living is lower, and the lives of its inhabitants are shorter.
If you can spot the advances in culture that result from a particular social technology, you can use those same markers to point to analogous advances in culture as a result of the introduction of other social technologies. As such, I'd argue that emotional and psychological literacy—social skills—are essential social technology for a modern society. They are essential advances in the ways people communicate with one another.
The saving grace of social media, as far as I'm concerned, is that people share lessons in emotional and psychological literacy. In particular, people share their personal experience with psychologically unstable family members, co-workers, and members of their community. The utility of Instagram memes about dealing with trauma (which are well-intentioned but rarely practically useful as therapeutic tools), is that they serve as a marker for the spread of that social technology. The more of those memes there are, and the more sophisticated those memes become, the more emotionally and psychologically literate the population they must be aimed at, and the more sophisticated the general understanding must be of the underlying problem they attempt to address.
I realize this goes against the prevailing narrative, both that of the establishment and that of the counterculture, but my observation is that as a tribe, Americans are getting more resilient and more able to deal with psychological and emotional instability as a result of sharing those social technical skills, not less. And that distribution of the methodology of psychological stability—what it looks like and when and how it fails—leads to resilience and stability themselves being distributed as values in our culture.
People like Josh Slocum, a gay man who leverages his advanced social skills and experience with the “Cluster B-Hive” to work as a consultant, helping people with the practical aspects of evaluating and escaping toxic workplaces, relationships, and social environments, are in effect highly skilled social technicians. The capture of academia has led to an explicitly social-justice-oriented world-view being taught to therapeutic clinicians. But the vacuum left by the absence of clinicians who understand their role is to heal the afflicted rather than save souls is being filled by people who want to help others get out of the woke circus in which those clinicians have volunteered to perform. Guys like Josh give me hope for the future. All societies have certain social roles that need to be filled, and while modern people have become less overtly religious, every tribe needs priests or shamans to protect them from spiritual harm.
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I hope you are right, and I think you might be. On the whole, psychological literacy is important, just like "first aid literacy" is important.
One thing that worries me a little, and this is largely tangential to your points here mind, is that the demons in charge love mental illness because it justifies exerting control over people. So on the one hand they are happy to cause and encourage mental illnesses, but on the other they are excited to classify all sorts of things as mental illnesses that are really just versions of "normal", or versions of "doesn't agree with me." If people can't distinguish between the actual issues (whether external causes like child abuse, or internal) and entirely made up issues ( e.g. "extremism", or hysteria for earlier versions) and just accept that there are lots of mental issues to watch out for, it becomes easy to start arbitrarily limiting people's freedom based on "We think you might be suffering from X, and so we are going to get you treatment for your own good. When you prove to our doctors that you are fine you get your rights and freedoms back. For your own protection, of course."
I think the valorization of mental illness as Mike puts it is one step in this process, to make people comfortable with the label. I think redefining mental illness to be "what we think is weird or undesirable" is another step. Psychological literacy subverted by pushing the first two steps is probably the last key part. The state of the psychology/psychiatry field makes me nervous about it.
I'm flattered at your description. Thank you.