Describing as Prescribing

There is a small trend in popular works on emotional health. A healthy state, like social adjustment or self-confidence, is described by the specific elements that indicate it. So far so good, sometimes this clarification has value. But then it is suggested or implied that reading the description is in itself a means to achieve this state–that is the description is presented as a prescription. The work of John Gottmann comes to mind–the excellence and accuracy of description is indisputable, and that must have considerable value, but it is not clear how to get from ‘bad’ to ‘good.’

Generally a good thing is recognized when one sees it, but in the arena of good feelings there are usually barriers to achieving this by mere imitation.

Michael Samsel

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