David Smail

How to Survive...

How to Survive Without Psychotherapy

Constable, 1996, hardback; paperback edition 1998.
Published by Robinson, 2001, in the double-volume
The Nature of Unhappiness, along with The Origins of Unhappiness

The most recent of a series of four books which put psychological suffering firmly in a social perspective.This book is written very much with the concerned 'lay' person in mind - maybe people who have themselves encountered the psychological helping industry, more or (probably) less satisfactorily. The book suggests how distress might be seen not as personal failings but as the understandable and entirely 'normal' response to environmental circumstances, past and present.

Among other questions, detailed attention is given to concerns about responsibility and guilt and to what people can reasonably expect to be able to do about their difficulties (not necessarily always a great deal). Change depends not on the exercise of 'will power' but on the extent to which people actually do have the power to act on their social environment.

Chapter headings:-

1 The treatment of distress: current approaches
2 The experience of distress
3 The tyranny of 'normality'
4 Troublesome worlds - people and power
5 What should we do? Moral demands
6 What can we do? The problem of will power
7 What could we do? Learning and change