September Can Be A Life Saver for Psychological Health
You might have read in the papers that the people of Amsterdam are fed up with tourists. The British come, urinate, fornicate, desecrate, and then leave. They want the most pleasure possible with the least financial outlay. Long standing businesses have to shut, because fast food shops, cheap hotels, drug cafes and sex work are more profitable.
No wonder the locals have had enough.
The plain-speaking Jungian analyst Guggenbuhl-Craig, reflected on the retrograde effects of mass tourism many decades years ago:
His point was that no real development happens when you are holiday; either for you, or your hosts. The release from everyday pressures and difficulties hinders genuine growth, the sort of growth that can only be achieved through grappling with problems. How many times have you heard about lottery winners who admit that the dream-like windfall has only brought them heartache. Many of us subscribe to the fantasy that money would allow us to be on holiday forever, and bring an end all our difficulties. However, the paradox is that such “wins” only seem to bring more problems, more arguments and more strife. There are of course, those who seems to avoid this, but they usually continue their lives pretty much unchanged from before, continuing in the same job, same house, and with the same partner.
Being on a permanent holiday spells trouble for our psyches. Indeed, the psychotherapist Jung noted that “difficulties” are very important, even the most crucial thing, for mental health. Staying in a holiday mind-set is a psychological disaster. It sounds counter-intuitive, and rather gloomy, to say that we need difficulties for psychological health. But just think about it for a while. Anything worthwhile that you’ve done in your life, anything that has deep meaning for you, it is very likely that is has come out a place of struggle. It will have involved physical and psychological labours, both visible and invisible. That’s why the people of Amsterdam have had enough. They’ve realised being simply a magnet for pleasure seeking tourists, who are have the sole goal of releasing their repressed pent up drives and frustrations, is hampering their own local way of life and development.
Thinking about our own psyches, there may be an inner feud going on between the tourists and the locals. One part of our minds would maybe like to stay on its own “Amsterdam” for ever, smoking dope, drinking wine in cafes, messing about; but another wants to go back home and open all the post, get on the scales, cut back on the drink, get serious about life, unpack the bags, do the laundry, check the bank balance, argue with our family members and so on.
Both mind-factions have a valid point. But the “holiday-maker” part of our mind really only makes sense in dialogue with the “non-tourist” parts of our mind. Without difficulties, our holiday would have no meaning. Just ask around. All those people who stay and live at the place they went on holiday, once you dig under the surface, their lives are filled as much strife, if not a lot more, than the rest of us. Many of them ending up packing their bags and coming back, their egos somewhat battered and bruised, to the lives they left behind; others descend into alcoholism or tragedy.
Those who survive will, at the very least have to give us their illusions about being on holiday for ever, and adjust to the realities of living in a tourist hot spot. The corruption, the mafias, the gambling, the prostitution, the tax evasion, the accidental deaths, the rubbish, the political and cultural stagnation and the list goes on. Heaven can very quickly turn into a hell.
There is a palpable relief in returning to the rhythm and discipline of our non-tourist routines. Ordinary life is painful and difficult. But as the people of Amsterdam are finding, and as Guggenbuhl-Craig speculated, the alternative, despite the perfect picture postcards, is much, much worse for our psychological health.