funded studies show
that fifty per cent of the
UK population are on
the edge of a nervous
SUPPOSEDLY AFFLUENT, WHY IS THERE SO MUCH STRESS IN TODAY'S SOCIETY?
Why is the UK rate so much higher twice the average of mainland
Western European countries and nearly six times that of Shanghai or Nigeria?
The big question is, Can we do anything about it?
Distinguished psychologist and bestselling author Oliver James thinks we can
and, backed by The British Council, he travelled the world to research Affluenza,
his highly-readable, thought-provoking book. Having identified the source of
this emotional turmoil, he has dubbed it 'The Affluenza Virus'.
The Affluenza Virus is the placing of too high a value on money, pos-sessions,
appearances (physical and social) and fame. During his research into the 'affliction',
Oliver James found that those obsessed with these values are at a greater risk
of suffering the most common forms of emotional distress depression,
anxiety, personality dis-orders or a tendency towards substance abuse.
Okay, so far. Some television programmes lead you to believe that everyone is
obsessed with celebrity, is envious of those who have what they believe should
be theirs and has a desperate need to keep up with the Jones. So, can it be
possible to be successful and still
If we recognise that we've been infected by this Affluenza Virus, this
is a turning point. In a sensible way, Oliver uses psychology and a smattering
of life encouragement as he delves into the past to under-stand what's happening
and identify 'The Vaccines'.
Studies were carried out in New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, China, Russia,
Denmark and America, interviewing in depth at least thirty citizens per nation.
The majority of people concerned were middle and upper-middle class professionals
and while most were infected with the virus, there were significant exceptions.
Alongside personal interviews, Oliver James looked at scientific studies devoted
to particular countries to provide a wider view. His findings from country to
country are startlingly different and provide clues to how society can be improved.
Above all, James demonstrates that English speaking nations (Britain, the USA,
Australia, New Zealand and Canada) are twice as prone to emotional distress
compared with mainland Western European ones. Over a fifth of Australians are
now emotionally distressed, having been widely exposed to the Affluenza Virus
by Selfish Capitalism. To his surprise and pleasure, Oliver finds that the much-vaunted
globalization of the world has by no means infected all of it, and that there
are strong grounds for hope.
Oliver explains the cornerstone of Chinese emotional well-being: "If you fail,
if you really have given it your best shot, you are not culpable". You must
accept it and move on and take responsibility for yourself. It's interesting
to read his account of a depressed young Chinese woman called Tai. Oliver James
talks of "Tai asserting that only she
can decide what course her life will take".
He suggests: "Form as truthful and accurate an assessment as possible of yourself
and your society, rather than living in a rose-tinted bubble of positive illusions."
He encourages positive volition, and "to believe in your capacity to achieve
goals, however modest they may be, so long as they are realistic".
Highlighting the confusion of 'wants' with 'needs', Oliver also explores his
own disappointments and urges the enjoyment of what you have and an acceptance
that you can't have everything. When you get the wake-up call it all sounds
Affluenza helps you to strengthen your emotional immune system, resist the epidemic
and reconnect with the important things in life.
You can also understand how you are affected by society and
learn how you can live your life more productively. Oliver advises:
* Have Positive Volition (Not 'Think' Positive)
* Replace Virus Motives (With Intrinsic Ones)
* Be Beautiful (Not Attractive)
* Consume What You Need (Not What Advertisers Want You To Want)
* Meet Your Children's Needs (Not Those of Little Adults)
* Educate Your Children (Don't Brainwash Them)
* Enjoy Motherhood, Not Desperate Housewife/Househusbandry
* Be Authentic (Not Sincere), Vivacious (Not Hyperactive) and Playful (Not Game-Playing)
Affluenza provides a detailed account of the way in which the virus
has destroyed new Labour how 'Blairism' became 'Blatcherism', and captures
the moment, triggering extensive debate and controversy.
I found the book extremely interesting and helpful, from the first page to the
appendices, studies and notes at the back. My advice is to
read this book as soon as possible! But did it cure me of my Affluenza? I have
re-evaluated my life as everybody should, from time to time.
But I do still dream of the German Cabriolet in the drive of the house overlooking
Affluenza by Oliver James is a Sunday
Times bestseller that has sold over 22,000 copies in hardback. It was published
by Vermilion on 10 January (2008) in paperback at an RRP of £8.99. (ISBN: 9780091900
"Never before have I read a book that so precisely captures the way we are all
being emotionally snookered by the demands of 21st century living" Jeremy
"Oliver James is our foremost chronicler of what ails us. Affluenza should
be mandatory reading for everyone" Will Self
"Just as Aids is stalking the globe, so is the Affluenza virus. I think he's
right. So will you" William Leith, The Guardian
"Oliver James is excellent at showing why social scientists think that the surge
in material affluence can produce the opposite of happiness. What he adds is
a sizzling reality check, which takes us into homes, workplaces and streets
in seven cities worldwide" Avner Offer, Chichele Professor of
Economic History, Oxford University
"Very well written, full of interesting stories" The Spectator
"Absorbing and effective wake-up call" London Lite
"Everybody should evaluate their lives from time to time. And Affluenza
is just the book to help you to do it" Maggie Woods, MotorBar
Oliver James trained and practised as a clinical child psychologist and, since
1987, has worked as a writer, journalist and television docu-mentary producer
and presenter. His books include the bestselling They F*** You Up which
has sold over 70,000 copies in the UK and con-tinues to sell around 200 copies
a week. The revised and updated edition is published by Bloomsbury on 25 January
(£8.99 ppr). Oliver James is the resident psychologist on ITV's This Morning
and presented and produced the successful Channel 4 documentary series, Britain
on the Couch. He is also a trustee of Homestart UK, a children's charity, and
has provided Blue Skies Thinking for both the Labour and Tory parties.