Lasch argues that every age has its own forms of mental illness which simply mirror, in exaggerated form, the basic characteristics of that age. In Freud’s time the dominant mental illness was hysteria and obsession neurosis. These writes Lasch, ‘carried to extremes the personality traits associated with the capitalist order at an earlier stage in its development – acquisitiveness, fanatical devotion to work and a fierce repression of sexuality’. In our age, by contrast, the dominant illnesses have been schizophrenia and ‘borderline’ personality disorders. These, he writes, seem to signify a societal change from inner-direction to narcissism. According to Lasch, narcissism and its traits – pansexuality, hypochondria, corruptibility, shallowness, the inability to mourn – are simply the best way of coping with warlike social environment where friendships and family life are hard to sustain, where relationships are shallow, where there is no sense of historical continuity, and where consumption and glamour are emphasised.
Extract from Drawing Down the Moon - by Margot Adler