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The Mental Health of Cancel Culture

Therapy is aided self-reflection and self-improvement. However, as psychologist Maggie Mulqueen opines, cancel cultureis increasingly harmful towards mental health, and even encroaching upon the haven of the therapist’s couch. Social media’s mob mentality and hostility towards even the slightest indication of an unpopular opinion often create anxiety and conflict within a person. For example, the mother of a transgender child socially withdrew out of fear that people would negatively interpret her actions. A professor who held an unpopular viewpoint at his university started to lose sleep and fear losing his job, driving him to seek therapy. Even during therapy sessions, however, he made sure prevent potential misunderstanding about his beliefs. Only when he was able to speak openly did the healing process begin. Self-expression is important to connect to others and be happy, yet cancel culture prevents people from doing so. Moreover, therapists may themselves be vulnerable to repercussions if they aren’t careful about what they talk about, such as guns. Barriers to therapy are not just institutional – perceived difference between the therapist and patient, in identity (such as sexuality) or beliefs (such as vaccination status) often cause the patient to alienate themself out of a belief that the therapist will not understand them.

            This post is sort of a follow-up to my previous post about the mental health of politics. What is happening with cancel culture is, if you think about it, terrifying. The universality of social media and the loss of privacy invoke images of a dystopian future where the government spies on its citizens and immediately kidnaps anyone who shows a sign of subversion. Obviously, nothing as extreme as that is going on. Rather than the government, the orchestrators behind cancel culture are the forces of society itself. The way I see it, a clash between therapy and cancel culture is inevitable: more people than ever are seeking therapy in an increasingly polarized political climate. Beliefs are inextricably tied to the highly personal discussions of therapy, so controversial discussions are inevitable. However, as Mulqueen asserts, these conversations are very important, so something must be done. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not necessarily canceling cancel culture. I think it is a good thing that so many people are passionate about speaking up about difficult subjects. The issue is the way that a trend that was once benign and intellectual has been corrupted and turned into a vehicle for thoughtless mob action. Like how a neutrophil at the site of an infection may start to harm tissue cells if left unregulated, cancel culture has started attacking people indiscriminately, sometimes doing more harm than good. Thus, in trying to regulate cancel culture, we must be careful to avoid the overcompensation that dysregulated cancel culture in the first place. The key lies in the name: the goal is not to cancel, but rather to educate and inform. Thus, instead of canceling cancel culture, we should share more stories about just how much it is spiraling out of control. Maybe then, only then, can we restore the sanctity of the therapy room.

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