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Jackie Schuld Art Therapy Blog

A Book for Re-Envisioning Change: Utopia for Realists

I read Yang’s “The War on Normal People” just as the pandemic was getting started. I was also a brand new therapist, which meant I had just spent the past three years studying and thinking deeply about the emotional and mental wellbeing of people.

I appreciated that Yang offered some unique ideas, mainly that of income assistance.

I enjoyed his fresh perspective so much that I picked up a book with a similar philosophy called “Utopia for Realists.”

Similar to Yang, Rutger Bregman starts his book with a smattering of statistics about the state of the world and the state of mental health. I know these subjects well and I tend to glaze over statistics. Someday I’ll have to write an essay that explains why my autistic mind does that, but now is not the time.

Bregman does accurately capture some of the key concerns of our time though, such as how the best minds of our generation are thinking more about how to make people click ads than solve the world’s problems.

In another section, he describes the impact of poverty on a person’s mental bandwidth. Here, he describes one of the key things I have found to be true as a mental health therapist: mental health has far more to do with the culture, systems, and external factors around us than any internal “defect” or chemical imbalance.

I also appreciated Bregman’s push for better quality of life for humans - for creativity, for leisure, for meaning. As an art therapist, that is music to my ears and exactly the kind of world I long for.

The kind of world I advocate for in my own writing now. I highly suspect that if Bregman and I were to ever sit down for dinner, we’d have a lot to talk about.


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