In 1974, the sociologist Richard Sennett worried that “the more a person concentrates on feeling genuinely, rather on the objective content of what is felt, the more subjectivity becomes an end in itself, the less expressive he can be.”
This quest to understand and cope with our own feelings and desires – the current term of art is “self-care” – can lead to what the writer Christopher Lasch called “pseudo-self-awareness”. It can leave us too preoccupied with personal satisfaction to see the world clearly. “The new narcissist is haunted not by guilt but by anxiety,” Mr Lasch wrote in his 1979 book “The Culture of Narcissism.” “He seeks not to inflict his own certainties on others but to find a meaning in life.”
In her 2001 book “Race Experts,” Dr. Lasch-Quinn (who is Christopher Lasch’s daughter) argues that the vogue for therapeutic self-help has steered the American left off course, encouraging well-meaning activists to push for sensitivity training seminars instead of real gains in racial and economic equality. The phrase “I feel like” is a mundane extension of this pattern, a means of avoiding rigorous debate over structures of society that are hard to change.
From Molly Worthen’s “Stop saying ‘I feel like'” in The New York Times.
It must be said about Lasch that while he did highlight the importance of unpaid care work, he was not always so very popular with feminists for good reason. But I like the idea of pseudo-self-awareness. (And I love Richard Sennett).