Therapy Culture leading to Barbarism - Why we need to be Repressed


Very interesting article on the shift from a moral religious culture to Post Modern relativism or anti-culture.

" But Rieff’s point was not merely that we had come to view ourselves in therapeutic terms, supplanting older moral and religious modes of evaluation. He was making an argument about the wider implications of this shift in perspective — a shift that he considered to be, without exaggeration, the most important cultural development in the West since the Enlightenment. Indeed, Rieff saw it as nothing short of an apocalypse. Modern therapeutic culture, in his view, had become what he called in his later writings an “anti-culture”: a negation of the very idea of culture that, because it set itself in opposition to everything that had traditionally given human lives meaning, was inherently unstable. It could not reproduce itself indefinitely, and would be succeeded, Rieff predicted, by barbarism and chaos."


"Why did Rieff consider repression primary? As Antonius AW Zondervan explains in his excellent Sociology and the Sacred , Rieff came to this idea through his study of Freud. In Freud’s theory, repression is triggered when an idea is so intolerable or offensive that it would cause the conscious self — the ego — immense psychic distress to become conscious of it. But, Rieff asked, intolerable or offensive to what ? Initially, Freud might have answered: to the superego, the part of our psyche that represents internalised social morality. But, Rieff pointed out, Freud later came to believe that repression was not merely a function of superego prohibitions but could also be triggered by an unconscious part of the ego itself.

Rieff thought Freud’s admission — of the existence of an unconscious ego repressing intolerable thoughts — should revolutionise our understanding of the psyche. It meant that the “interdicts” are not merely “social morality” but are sunk so deeply into the structure of the self as to effectively constitute it; they are what shape a formless mass of instincts into a person. They represent a primal, unconscious morality whose origin Rieff traced to the sacred commandments at the heart of our culture’s religious tradition. We can obey or transgress them but never abolish them."

You could also say this is repressed amber repressing the lower stages; or amber repressing earlier shadows. It seems like in Rieff’s case it was the former because he’s so interested in that later idea of Freud and considers repression primary.

I agree with Freud that repression can be caused by an unconscious part of the ego, and that this can happen but doesn’t happen to everyone as Rieff believes, and I also think this can happen with all stages and shadows.

From this, “a small, nagging sense that there should be something more to life, some higher meaning, than earning money and consuming sensory experiences” it seems like Rieff was talking about orange, and much of early and current psychology was/is orange. Green and post-modernism in fact get back in touch with spirituality and higher meaning, as is mentioned later in the article. The writer of the article also says later that postmodernism starts thinking about morality again, but green has higher morality than amber. Green can think in terms of good and bad, if it hasn’t repressed amber, but the green versions of good and bad are far more moral. Orange also has higher morals than amber - amber accepts racism, sexism, homophobia, the list goes on. Orange is against all these things. But orange isn’t against mass inequality, poverty and many other things, so green has higher morality still.

It’s important to realise that just because people are mainly at green doesn’t mean they don’t have a lot of orange, amber, and lower stages within them still. So hippies can in fact be very orange and red, even though it seems they’re completely at green.


If thinking in terms of psychoanalysis alone, Jung was very much interested in spirituality and included it in psychotherapy e.g. including the concepts of archetypes and doing dream work. However, Jung didn’t have high morals - he slept with his patients… and caused them a lot of psychological harm by doing so.

I think it’s important to seperate out morality and religion/spirituality. They can go together, as they often do at amber within religions, but this is by no means high morality. It is only high in comparison to the morality of prior stages.


This seems to be a kind of Post hoc ergo propter hoc
We were repressed
The thing that replaced repression has faults
Therefore the solution is repression

The biggest fault I find with this is that the initial repression that postmodernism replaced was barbarism as well, but much worse. Modernism was over the top barbaric as we see from the hundreds of millions who died on the altar of modernist causes in wars during the 1700-2100 not to mention the famines caused by modernism like the great potato famine, etc. (Monoculture is a terrible Modernist economic practice) then the ones who didn’t die lived in inhumane barbaric conditions that gave us great literary works like Oliver Twist, The Jungle and so forth.

It’s like you have a watermelon and a grape and say the grape is heavy, lol. The scale of barbarism that maybe - might - could possibly arise in a “sky is falling” scenario is miniscule to the barbarism that existed previously and is historical fact.


On an individual psychological level - the healthy solution is for people to explore inwardly and accept what they see, rejoice in what they feel as a part of the cycle of life, and move forward.

Internal repression of emotions and judgements is what causes people to be unhealthy. One of the greatest repressions I see is the denial-anger-bargaining-sadness-acceptance regarding “life purpose” or some “grand cosmic scheme” that even if it exists, they could never comprehend because people are not capable of thinking on a cosmic infinite level and could not possibly intellectually understand a grand cosmic purpose for all things even if such a thing does exist.


I would posit that religion does tend to focus on development and implementation of morality more than any other structures that we have. Academics can analyze and postulate on morality and the structures that they come from, but are woefully inadequate at any kind of “have it manifest within humanity” capability.
One thing I’m asking myself is can morality even exist if it’s being legislated and enforced?
Where I’m going is let’s say we disempower or destroy our religions to replace with state managed enforcement. With religions (at least in the west) we each have a veritable buffet of choices for our call it spiritual-moral framework, with of course our secular legislated/enforced by loss of property or bodily freedoms as a Amber’ish type fail safe. If our state sponsored framework subsumes our religious/moral structures should we even consider it “morals” or “morality” at this point? Hmmm?


Religions are good at developing and implementing an external morality. We can call this organizational morality, where everyone in the organization is presumed to share the same morality. The organization tell you / provide you with their organizational morality and you usually have little or zero ability to adjust it. The military also implements an organizational morality very effectively, but with very a different flavor of morality (“thou shalt not kill” vs “kill if you are ordered to do so”). Corporations and Capitalism organizations might also implement a unique morality (selling weapons that kill is moral moral but people using those weapons to kill illegally is completely separate from the act of manufacturing and selling them)

Internal morality, in contrast, is morality that the person develops within themselves and is unique to them. This will only match an organizational morality rarely. Most obviously, there will be conflict if a person is trying to fit in two or more conflicting organizational moralities (Christianity and Military, for example or Christian and Capitalist morality). There is inevitably going to be organizational moralities bumping into each other.


Nice write-up on the complexities of multiple moralities Mr. Bennett. It ain’t easy for us human beings to sort through all the rules and shoulds/shouldn’ts. :slight_smile:

I’m wouldn’t normally use the term “morals” or “morality” in association with “laws”, “code of ethics”, or “code of conducts”. If we don’t delineate early on, we might find ourselves in another weird twister discussion like “do unto others as you would…” compared to “speeding isn’t a sin”.

There probably is an Integral mapping of laws, rules, code of ethics, code of conducts, and morals across the various quadrants and altitudes.


Here’s a quick commonly used difference between morals and ethics:
… According to this understanding, “ethics” leans towards decisions based upon individual character, and the more subjective understanding of right and wrong by individuals – whereas “morals” emphasises the widely-shared communal or societal norms about right and wrong

I see ethics in practical terms as usually some kind of professional code or standard that if breached is deemed worthy of expulsion from the profession or even referral for criminal prosecution, while a professional organization would rarely address “morals”. Code of conduct is probably more broad but might not have any morality attached to it - like you have to wear a suit to work, for example. Or political paraphernalia is against some codes of conduct. The employer isn’t saying a KISS or Metallica shirt is immoral, just contributes to an unprofessional work atmosphere.
The example of “do unto others” vs “speeding isn’t a sin” has more to do with accepted inconsistencies in the specific moral code of the organization, or the individual seeing the religious morality as a kind of law that it’s possible to get around on a technicality - the individual in this case not really bothering to think how silly he would look at the pearly gates trying to “rules lawyer” Saint Peter, lol.


When I read an article like this, I double-down in my appreciation for Integral Theory as a “sense-making” tool.

To start with, Rieff was a sociologist; the field of sociology is interested in and studies the collective in the exteriors. The field of psychology, on the other hand, has been largely interested in and studies the individual and interiors. So each field’s perspective derives from only a partial piece of “truth” or reality: psychology speaks largely from and about the UL quadrant and sociology from and about the LL. That they fail to appreciate one another adequately is unfortunate, but not surprising.

(A little interlude here to speak to the comments made about AOC revealing her history of sexual assault and the trauma being re-triggered through the Jan. 6 events: while the author of the article used her comments as illustration of “therapeutic culture”–and in using her as example, thus brought a political slant to the article–I would point out what I think most of us know, but which is still worthy of comment: trauma is a real thing, and indeed can be re-triggered; ask any war veteran with PTSD if one doesn’t want to take AOC’s word for it. Yes, some people do “milk” their victimness, for attention, sympathy, book royalties, You Tube influence, whatever; but we should not forget that victimization and trauma do occur, even for those people who wallow in eliciting public pity or whatever. And we should not forget that trauma has not just psychological but neurological elements to it as well, which can manifest physically as tics, spasms, jerks, etc.)

Back to IT, @Julia248 made some good points related to stages of development, and I would agree with what I think she was getting at: that each successive stage of development is more inclusive of who is embraced in its extending of fairness and care.

I would add that morality is a “line of development” or one of the “multiple intelligences.” The lines run through the stages, and the lines are independent of one another to a large extent. So someone at center-of-gravity Orange-rational stage for instance, could be at a high level of development in the cognitive line of development, a middle-level development in the moral line, a low-level of development in the interpersonal skills line, and etc. As individuals, we do not grow at an even pace in each of the lines. Also, the morality of the Orange stage, and this is not true for every individual at the Orange stage, but in general, is a secular moralism (e.g. the idea of equality), as opposed to the religious moralism of the previous (amber) stage (and a ‘religious moralism’ is not true for every individual at that stage either, but in general).

I do get a little suspicious when the morality in society’s “moral order” is largely spoken of in terms of sexuality, as this article did. (And I say that from a position of thinking that there is too much and too many inappropriate displays of sexuality in the public sphere today), The earliest form of the Viennese Waltz in the latter 1700s was considered sexually immoral and incredibly scandalous at that time, particularly by religious groups, because people moved in couples rather than doing circle dances, which had been the standard form of dance. So sexual mores (and forms of dance) do change. But my main point is that there are so many more moral concerns in society, as the previous posts here have pointed out, not spoken of in this article. And some of those moral concerns have been overlooked by the religions that focus a lot of attention on sexual immorality.

Overall, I thought the subject matter could be better addressed through integral concepts such as Waking Up and Growing Up (which Wilber has done), but then I recognize the author of the article most likely is not familiar with IT, so no hard feelings :slightly_smiling_face:


“I am terrified by this dark thing
That sleeps in me;
All day I feel its soft, feathery turnings, its malignity”
Sylvia Plath, Elm

The thing with repression is it doesn’t actually get of of things. They are still there, causing suffering. To really look at them means they can be made conscious.

I cant remember who said it or exactly what she said, but it was something like - your unheard emotions are like neglected children, and by embracing and listening to them you can bring them back to health.

I very much think that repression of things causes them to become unhealthy, because they’re there alone, frozen in time almost, and nothing is supposed to live that way. I think that by embracing them they can become healthy and and nourished.

I like what Carl Jung says in relation to seeing shadows and enlightenment: “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.”

@LaWanna, I would add that psychology does also include social psychology, as well as the psychology of relationships. It also includes e.g. economic psychology which would be LR. There are many fields studied within psychology now. Also, behaviorism, which was the main field of psychological study for a long time, and statistics, a major part of psychology, as well as neuroscience and neuropsucology, also included within psychology, are upper right.

I cant speak for sociology, though I would expect it’s furthered it’s field of knowledge and study.


Interesting article. Rieff’s approach seems to resonate with mine. For example, where the author suggests that “he is an atheistic defender of the social and existential necessity of religion” (though I’d consider myself leaning a little more towards agnostic than atheist). I agree that “Culture is repression.” Indeed. You cannot have thought without definitions. And with definitions, you need to establish rules (interdicts and prohibitions).

Or, putting it another way, within the context of the biosemiotic paradigm. You cannot have consciousness (mind) without a body. From the biosemiotic perspective, you need a body to define the things that matter (Peirce’s pragmatism). And the moment that you have a physical body, you need to survive, and you need to identify and define the things that matter to your survival. The defining can be subconscious or conscious, reflexive or intentional. ALL consciousness is confined by definitions that have their origins in bodily predispositions. And bodily predispositions wire neuroplastic brains. Hence the mind-body unity and the relevance of the Peirce-Uexküll synthesis.


@FermentedAgave the thing is morality develops. At the conformist stage, it’s useful to have those rules to curtail the morality of the pre-conformist stages - this can come from religious rule or secular law. The problem with following the rules set out by religions is they don’t tend to evolve, and for most religions they haven’t changed for over 2000 years. And morality has developed since then. I would much rather people at postconformist stages of morality were developing rules for orange/amber and below to follow today rather than people at those stages following rules created by people at amber which don’t incorporate as much complexity as could now be added.

However, when Christianity was created it was against a backdrop of a red/amber society, and a brutal one where people were routinely murdered in the collosseum for ‘fun’; it was seen as fine to kill or rape anyone not classed as a citizen (middle or upper class); and many of the pagan gods committed heinous crimes on a regular basis.

So I think amber religious law was fitting for the time, though it could still have been much better while still being amber. But now, many people have post-conformost morality, where one doesn’t need to follow simple rules and can grasp the complexities themselves. I think even for red and amber, better rules could be developed now by people at post-conformist stages. At the same time, I can also see the beneift of combining morality with religion for people at conformist and pre-conformist stages, because it gives more beauty and sublimity to the idea of morality, at a point when people don’t see morality as beautiful and sublime in itself.


I can see value in “really smart” postconformists refreshing our moral codes, but wouldn’t we still have the vast majority of the population interpreting and interacting with these moral codes from their red/amber/blue/orange/green levels anyway?

If we assume that religions and their morals/morality is outdated, do we even need to replace them with something else? Or could we replace by simply expanding our legal system to subsume the previous role that religions offered?
If we peer into our systematic / multisystematic crystal ball, what are possible downsides or possible unintended consequences.
One pitfall I see might be that authoritarian theocracies would then become prevalent, even if not calling themselves a religion - think Cult of Castro or some such. I’m thinking of Sharia law as an example of combined legal + religious instantiation.


To your interlude first :slight_smile: My personal viewpoint is that our leaders should “have their shit handled” well enough that it doesn’t “show up” when their trying to do their jobs. If their “shit” pops up mid-session mid-sentence, then they’re not Wake Up’ed or Clean Up’ed enough to “Show Up” as one of our 435 Reps, 100 Senators, 1 President, etc… This has absolutely nothing to do with trying to invalidate someone’s life experiences and everything to do with them having the capability to “do their job”.

I agree that morality can be viewed as a developmental line, but I’m not following that it should be considered as one of the “multiple intelligences”? Perhaps you would categorize Morality as spanning a bit of both Intrapersonal or Interpersonal domains? Personally I view Gardner’s work as a bit of a “redefining” a term (intelligence) to span characteristics that were already well defined with entire courses of study to support them. More a re-marketing effort than anything original or unique.


This has been pretty much “pie in the sky” since around 2012 when Republicans abandoned all reason or any kind of consistent policies to try and make Obama a one term President.

Yes - and our Senate, House, Presidency and Supreme court would have maybe 10% of their seats filled if we required them to be emotionally balanced.

The degree of “shit popping up” in the last 8 months is miniscule compared to the previous 4 years. From 2016-2020, every week we had drama to an astounding degree popping up - and we are still discovering new things we missed and were previously unaware of. I would be more ready to accept this kind of criticism of AOC if this criticism was not so one-sided and universally blind to the actions of those they politically support.

Honestly the more I read that article, the more I realize it’s just very bad writing. He makes conclusions and then builds flimsy arguments that only stand if even the obvious is ignored. For example, the dubious assumption that there even is an absolute right and wrong and the even more dubious assumption that sexual freedom is “wrong” and sexual repression is “good”. It’s basically the idea that we should return to the “good times” when sex with your wife is for babies - if you want to enjoy sex that’s what whores are for. That’s the society that sexual repression creates, and that is the great fault of Christianity - for 2,000 years women were categorized as virgins, mothers or whores. Entire parts of women’s identities were (are) forcibly denied to them to the point they were not even allowed to think them. “Hero” works for men but Heroine slightly misses the mark. MILF is derogatory. If anyone knows an English term for a woman who is highly regarded by society because she is caring and loving and emotional yet also dangerous, assertive and sexually fulfilled let me know. The reason the term “Nasty Woman” took hold is because I don’t think we have a term in the English language for fully actualized woman, so some women joyfully took on the closest thing that was other than virgin-mother-whore. If you speak up to a man or speak over him while he is talking - you are a nasty woman. In raction many women said “Well then, sign me up for nasty”. Of course everyone’s a complex individual and I’m sure there are many other explanations and opinions. That’s just what I gather from observing the nasty women in my life and hearing them cackle with glee when they hear the term.
Freud’s work only really applies in a sexually repressed culture. Otherwise it’s mostly irrelevant. It completely falls apart and makes zero sense in sexually liberated communities where boys are raised to not be afraid of seeing mommy’s vagina and little girls are not scarred for life if they see an adult flaccid penis.
It’s according to a circular celebration of dysfunction that the article is operating from. We behave in certain ways because of repression and don’t know what is going on without that repression - so let’s return to repression? That makes no sense.


Please re-read my post. You’ve gone hyper emotive/perception and politicization domain with, at least with you, there is no other domain of discussion. This is the perfect example of lack of emotional stability that we do not want to see in our leaders. You’ve got some “get your shit handled” work to do.

Is there any biological basis for the “moral” concepts such as monogamy, celibacy, or sex as an intimate consummation of a close female/male bond? Or just the patriarchy looking to oppress and abuse women?

I assume you’re using Christianity as a placeholder for all major religions. Do you think the worlds great religions have provided anything of value, goodness, beauty to humanity? Or is it all negative, oppressive, abusive?

Are you familiar with the story of Mary, Virgin Mother of God? Why do you think this might be one of the foundational origin stories of Christianity?


How is the article that you posted not political?
It is a very political article posted on a highly politicized website.
Why do you think I’m being emotional?
Where am I being emotional?
I’m reading my post and I don’t see where I am describing my emotions.
Did I say anything negative about you personally?
Did I make any judgement about you personally?
I did make some judgements about the writing of the author of the article you posted, but again nothing attacking him on the personal level.

I think you have this tendency to post highly politicized and partisan articles and then get upset about discussing other sides to the issue - and then in this case accuse me of getting emotional.

Once again - I am discussing the topic you brought up and the article you posted, and you have gone to the level of personal conflict and believing something is wrong with me as an individual because I describe some ideas that you disagree with and that create emotions within you.

No, there is no biological basis for monogamy. It is completely a social construct and a very recent one, historically speaking.

You’re pretty defensive here. I can discuss this without bringing my emotions into it. Can you do the same? History is history. Western cultures have had a hard time dealing with the sexuality of women outside of wedlock and generally historians avoid the topic. Did Queen Elizabeth have lovers, or was she indeed “The Virgin Queen”? Why is the issue even a controversy when her father was so promiscuous? I can go through at least a dozen similar historical figures. I discuss it with similar emotion as any other historical controversy.
Each major world religion deals with gender roles differently, so no Christianity is not a “placeholder for all major religions” when I refer to Christianity. We’d have to state which ones specifically, but since we are talking about the United States and the religion that has had the most impact on United States culture is Christianity, it would be irrelevant to talk about Hinduism, for example, because Hinduism has had a miniscule effect on United States culture. If we want to discuss social issues in the Indian subcontinent, I would bring up Hinduism.


Because those were the only two roles acceptable to women during that time period in that geographical location - virgin or mother. Adulterers were put to death by stoning.
I’m not sure what the point of your question is?


I really do see this as your own baggage you desire to externalize.
I have very little emotion in this topic.


Apologies @raybennett - It seemed like the article or my post had triggered your anti-Christianity rant.

You come across as painting Christianity (in this example) as having dealt a 2000 year blow to women through oppression and abuse. I think this viewpoint is naive and lacks any rational historical context. It’s only a valid viewpoint when you compare to 2000 years ago to today, which is completely nonsensical.

I simply asked if you thought Christianity had made any positive contributions to humanity or is it only abuse and oppression of women?

So to you the origin story for Christianity is a flat earther virgins and whores. You don’t get even a twinge of transformational possibility?