In a culture bent on targets, we create the illusion of an objective test telling us whether we are living life well enough. It is a bit like being in an exam the whole timeby Susie Orbach / January 29, 2019 / Leave a comment
One can see the temptation of quantifying all sorts of aspects of life with apps and wearable gadgets—it speaks to order and self-improvement. Yet we psychoanalysts wonder: what do these new measurements tell us about what we fear? What could we be protecting ourselves from?
Measuring might feel like a way into addressing difficult behaviours such as being too sedentary or drinking too much. It might work—in some cases. But when so many of us are suddenly tracking so many things, it looks like a decidedly one-size-fits-all solution, which ignores the variety in what motivates our difficulties. Understanding something of what we are up to when we are doing things not in our best interest could be a wiser course.
What’s concerned me of late is post-partum mums keeping spreadsheets about how many minutes of breastfeeding, physical contact time and how much their babies are sleeping. We are losing the knack of responding to what babies need—and parents too. While this might help some women, it is a mindset that can limit what emerges from the relationship with the baby. Responding to babies is exhausting, yes. But letting them find the “breast” and the mothering person is crucial; the implications of tight scheduling are disturbing.
In a culture bent on targets, we create the illusion of an objective test telling us whether we are living life well enough. It is a bit like being in an exam the whole time. The problem, of course, is that living is not an exam nor an objective question at all.
Recent cohorts of children have not gone through school being encouraged to be critical or curious, but instead being drilled to pass particular tests, and then move on to the next one. It’s as if life were climbing a mountain, always looking to clamber to the next staging post-university, the right job, the right spouse, the right body, the right health profile. There’s a vague sense that all will be well if you can get to the top, but it’s not clear that’s right, or even where the top is—what if the job doesn’t satisfy you? What if life is still not fulfilling with the “right” spouse,…