Thursday, February 27, 2014

Proud to be maladjusted

I am getting a bit tired of all the mental fixes peddled to keep us hapless proles pushing ourselves harder on our virtual, normally hedonic, treadmill. Two now ubiquitous pitches seem particularly irritating. The first is the prescription of “mindfulness meditation” for the purpose of developing single-minded focus and unbendable resilience – even if mental self-control may come at the expense of empathic sensitivity, intuitive associations, pattern recognition, implicit learning, touch with “reality,” justified “depressive realism,” etc. The second miracle cure is related to some research indicating that patients who received botox injections also experienced statistically “meaningful” mood improvement. This is given as an illustration that out facial grimaces – or lack thereof – affect how our brains click. The usual inference is that we should fake it until we make it – not necessarily get regularly botoxed as a cure for emotional dysregulation, but extend our facial muscles in a smile on a regular basis (in addition to bombarding ourselves with positive thoughts).

I am a bit surprised that a critical mass of Americans still need to hear such advice – it would be much more fitting for my morose fellow Bulgarians.  I am not so sure they – and I – need it, though. In fact, soon after I read a few of the botox stories I started pausing to frown each time I passed by the large mirror in the corridor at our place in Sofia (Bulgarian apartments still have corridors). I am still doing this in an attempt to keep an unbright emotional tone that would be more aptly attuned to the bleak “Matrix” in which we seem suspended. Needless to say, I would be reluctant to follow and program offering “Steps” to effective self-management either. I would rather follow Reverend Martin Luther King’s advice – as he once proclaimed, there are things (and maybe broader social settings) to which one should be proud to be maladjusted.

P.S. I just saw Evgeny Morozov's piece on "The Mindfulness Racket" posted on The New Republic a few days ago. I swear I typed my rant before I read his.