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Sternbach, O. (1974). The Pursuit of Happiness and the Epidemic of Depression. Psychoanal. Rev., 61(2):283-293.

(1974). Psychoanalytic Review, 61(2):283-293

The Pursuit of Happiness and the Epidemic of Depression

Oscar Sternbach, JuR.D.

The American Declaration of Independence put a number of powerful ideas into the heads of the American people, ideas which like bees began to buzz around in the American mind, at first quite harmless and even useful. During the last half-century and particularly during the last twenty-five years they began to sting. Partially due to their influence, we are today facing enormous conflicts intellectually, emotionally, and politically.

The authors of the Declaration of Independence, in their attempt to stir up the population as well as to quiet any doubt of the world regarding the justice of the rebellion against the English king, resorted intuitively to conjuring up repressed childhood wishes, wishes like those which lie buried but are still alive in all of us, and to forming out of them a social philosophy. This was easy. Our wishes always have the astonishing gift of masking themselves as world views, as Hermann Hesse once remarked. This social philosophy is haunting us today. In spite of, or perhaps, really because of, its stimulation of regressive trends, its solemnly proclaimed tenets—unrealistic and unrealizable as they are—have become holy articles of belief in the American mind. They have helped by that stimulation of regressive trends to foster or at least to strengthen the emotional infantilism which is at the root of the epidemic of neurotic character problems, neurotic depression, and regressive violence which beset and in a very real sense pollute our civilization.

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