If you think that you have it bad, if you think that America’s national mood is foul and fetid, look across the ocean to France.
Perhaps it’s not an accident that the word malaise is French. If you suspect that the French are really good at malaise you are right.
After all, a nation that still clings to psychoanalysis and that manages to consume more psychiatric medication per capita than anyone else is not likely to be in a very good mood.
The French Interior Ministry recently analyzed the French malaise:
A climate of pain and a feeling of despondency reign, which block any self-projection into a better future. It's the compost in which a possible social explosion is fermenting. Attention is called to the difficulty elected officials are having in creating a sense of proportion and inspiring confidence. This climate of pessimism and defiance is feeding extremist arguments about the impotence of the authorities.
Writing in the Wall Street Journal John Vinocur says that the French are suffering from a “self-inflicted grief.” What could that mean except that they are suffering the consequences of their votes? Or perhaps the French are discovering that socialist policies undermine initiative and deprive people of the chance to earn success.
All the world’s love and debauchery will not overcome the torpor inflicted by a socialist government.
With unemployment hovering at 11% French men and women are despondent about their socialist president, Francois Hollande, the man that they all voted for:
Seventy-four percent of the French think France is on the decline and 83% think that President François Hollande's blurry reform policies are "ineffectual," according to reputable polling organizations. Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank, says "French competitiveness remains insufficient and strengthening public finances can no longer rely on tax increases."
You might imagine that the French psychoanalytic establishment knows what it takes to improve everyone’s mental health. And yet, French analysts supported Hollande’s candidacy to a man and to a woman. Some prominent French analysts were happy to tell the world how much they detested former president Nicolas Sarkozy.
Of course, anyone who still believes that psychoanalysis shows the way to mental health needs to grow out of that illusion. It's probably not an accident that the French have lost the ability to project themselves into the future. After all, Freudian psychoanalysis teaches you primarily to focus on the past.
I do not emphasize French psychoanalysis because I know it so well. The French press did not need me to ask whether President Hollande can be cured by a few thousand hours on the couch.
I have no information about President Hollande’s experience with mental health professionals, but I would venture that he has spent some time consulting with psychoanalysts. In his world everyone does it. Why shouldn’t he?
Vinocur described the way the story is being told by French newsmagazines:
This plays into newsmagazine covers like one that portrayed Sigmund Freud staring at President Hollande across the page with a headline reading: "Hollande, as Shrinks See Him—Can He Change?"; or another with a picture of a troubled-looking Mr. Hollande and the accompanying line, "At the Edge of Chaos: From A to Z, the Inventory of His Failures."
Of course, they have gotten the story wrong. Voting for a psychoanalyst’s favorite candidate will do nothing to improve anyone’s mental health. Haven’t the French figured out that psychoanalysis neither treats nor cures?
In France psychoanalysis is not the solution; it's the problem.
What has psychoanalysis done for France? It has infected the public mood with the dysthymia that it has long since been selling.