The courage to slow down, when the two premiers Sturgeon and Ardern say enough

“Bus stop somewhere in the city. It reminds me of via Spartaco where I used to take the 84 bus when I lived in Milan. It’s morning and it’s sunny. I arrive out of breath at the stop, I’m late and I’m wearing only underwear and bra. Nobody pays attention to me, despite the fact that there are many people waiting for the bus”. It is a dream, I had picked it up from a Milanese woman in her fifties. She makes us touch all the critical issues hidden in the forced acceleration of our lives, from the sense of anonymity to mutual indifference, from loneliness to the anesthetizing frenzy.

I went to look for it in my archive, after the resignation of the Scottish prime minister, which follows those of the premier of New Zealand. Perhaps their dreams, inspired by much greater efforts and responsibilities, were populated by the same anguish, by the same fear of getting lost, of no longer finding that “meaning” that seems to flee from so many existences. Even sense runs, in his own way.

The reasons supporting the resignation of the two prime ministers seem to be, as well as close in time, rather similar, stress attrition, although those of the Scottish could have more political reasons. The fact remains that life consumes, some of its roads even more, especially when the exercise of power is not motivated only by greed, a “consumption” that does not concern the gender of the interested parties, I don’t think we should have argued differently if the two protagonists had been males, it is the defecting that makes us think.

When it happens that an important person says enough, everyone sees, records, sometimes comments, in other cases the habit prevails. For years, many years, the list of those who “give in” to fatigue has been getting longer, and for many the only way not to let themselves be contaminated is to ignore it, move on, but I don’t know how wise it is because hardly anyone will escape this meat grinder. In the past year, according to official sources, one million and 600 thousand people have resigned from their jobs in our country, one of the most frequent reasons says that they are looking for more favorable existential dimensions. Good news, after all, when work ceases to claim its supremacy over everything else, it means that something positive is happening. Let’s hope the bleeding continues.

I consider that if we decide to slow down, even just a little, I would lose most of my patients, worn out by the traumatic fracture between time, whose dimensions cannot be changed, and events, whose increase in our lives is increasingly out of control and requires readjustment efforts of a magnitude unknown to those who had preceded us over the centuries.

A fracture which will be difficult to remedy, which overwhelms man, hurting him in his vital tasks – love, work, friendship – on which he has been firmly supported for millennia. Landslides that don’t even spare the subjects who should provide remedies and who instead linger on words that no longer grasp reality.

When Sigmund Freud decided to say what could not be said, because Victorian conventions prevented it, and he opened the peephole that gave onto intimate life, the train was still in competition with the horse-drawn carriage, the speed a

dream fueled by Jules Verne’s novels, ocean liners began to mend the continents, but you couldn’t go and come back at will, it took time and money, a lot of money. Staticity was a common figure. In the space of a day you could experience at most a couple of events, roughly going to work early in the morning, coming home late in the evening, then we put our feet on an inclined plane and nothing was ever the same.

Accelerating takes a lot of energy, which we often don’t have, so we end up living “in debt” or not living at all. And yet, we continue to dwell on narcissism and other initiatory words, omitting the frightening tug of war that we have been forced to engage in with the world that contains us. Sure, instead of talking about the causes, we can fix the fallen, just deploy an army of therapists. But it can’t last forever, we can increase the healers, but the fallen ones will grow faster. The multiplication of events at the same time has been the most aggressive turning point in human history, placing the latter under unprecedented pressure that questions its identity, balance, mental health, as has never happened before.

We should interview children to understand what the effects of acceleration are on their lives and imagine our future. Little recruits diagnosed and treated like never before, with intakes of psychiatric drugs soaring dramatically. We should ask the boys, so well interpreted by the Paduan student in the past few hours, when she wondered where the legitimacy comes from to exert unsustainable pressures on them, by the school and by the families, bringing many of them close to the breaking point. In recent months we have witnessed debates, sometimes surreal, which have focused on the effects of Covid on the younger generations, but the pandemic has only “rested” on ground made fragile by senselessness, it is not the primary cause, if anything it demonstrates that it is it was enough to slow down, albeit forcibly, for important questions to emerge, previously buried.

The close resignations of Jacinda Ardern, who declared herself “exhausted” on January 19, 2023, and those of Nicola Sturgeon, who four weeks later denounced the brutality of politics, are revolutionary acts, saving rebellions, for small and large. They say, without any doubt, that we are unable to withstand senseless accelerations. However, they will remain romantic gestures for a species that now confuses speed with progress, guilty of forgetting that it was a slow society that brought us here, giving us the opportunity to perfect our cooperative nature, to which we owe everything.

Domenico Barrilà, Adlerian analyst and writer, is considered one of the greatest Italian psychotherapists.
He is the author of about thirty volumes, all reprinted, many translated abroad. Among the latest we mention “The bonds that help us live”, “What I don’t see about my son”, “I superconnessi”, “Tutti Bulli”, “We stay together. The strength of interdependence to be reborn”, all published by Feltrinelli, as well as the Bildungsroman “La casa di Henriette” (Ed. Sonda).
In his production there is no shortage of works for young children, such as the series “Growing up without side effects” (Ed. Carthusia).

He is the author of the service blog, for educators,