Editor's Letter


Editor's Letter

By Rich Simon

May/June 2009


For most of human history, the whole premise underlying psychotherapy—that people could somehow change their basic psychological orientation toward life—would have been thought completely preposterous. Inborn temperament was a given, as ineradicable and unalterable a part of the human condition as one's position in the social hierarchy. Born a serf, die a serf; born "phlegmatic" or "choleric," die that way. Until modern times (and even now in some parts of the world), the very idea that people could change their personalities and become happier, braver, more commanding, more appealing was as ridiculous a notion as the belief that they could vault from their God-given status in life to some position of their own choosing.

The great democratic and psychological revolutions of the last two hundred years, however, changed all that, particularly in America, and with a great boost from the field of psychotherapy. By the middle of the 20th century, creating a new self via upward mobility and personal transformation had become a virtual birthright in this country, an essential part of the American Dream. Spend time with the correct therapist, read the correct self-help books, attend the correct (and usually pricey) workshop with the correct motivational guru, and there was no reason why you couldn't trade in your old inhibited, insecure, unfulfilled, unrich, and boring personality for a much more vivacious, sparkling, successful, self-actualized model.

These days,…

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