This pre-occupation with my hurts, my dreams, my entitlements—with the organizing principle that I am, and should be treated as, special—is the garden bed into which the du jour varietal ‘have regard for your mental health’ has been planted.
Woebot may sit at the outer rim of digital mental health technologies, but we can see the shape and trajectory it implies for understanding mental health, the care relation and, beyond that, the person generally. Where the CBT-AI combination sets up a relentlessly positive artificial other—an interlocutor that is never awkward or demanding, and becomes naturalised as ‘what I like’—real-world relationships are bound to be found unsatisfactory.
Feeding into this inchoate state of transgression is a cross-current of vectors: our knowledge of impending climate catastrophe, the disavowed madness of the economic system, the danger and transformative power of COVID-19, galloping I-centredness, social fragmentations, and more. This welter of concerns raises the deepest anxiety.
Didn't get that job, relationship breakdown, bad loss in the semi-final? These kinds of losses can now colloquially be described using the 'T' word. No longer unusual or noteworthy, 'trauma' has become common usage for the narration of personal distress.
Crispin tells a friend, 'I feel bad, really horrible'. A little up-ended, Ashley hesitates, then replies, 'I don't know what to say. I can't think of anything useful to tell you. One thing I do know is I feel very uncomfortable. Hey, just what do you want me to say?'