Theodore Dalrymple writes:
So I suppose you think that people ought to pull themselves together,” one of the guests replied (more or less).
Now I had never denied that some people cannot get better by the mere exercise of their own will, determination, and intelligence; but when they can and when they can’t is a matter of judgment. What I found most interesting about the guest’s remark, however, was the cultural shift that it implied, for the notion of pulling yourself together is apparently now applied only in the context of ridicule. A person who calls upon another to pull himself together is thereby showing himself to be a crude, and possibly a vindictive and cruel, person, a kind of psychological primitive whose geographical equivalent would be someone who believed that the earth was flat.
Now let us examine the matter in slightly more detail.