December 6, 2009

JAPAN: Finding satisfaction in being ourselves

. TOKYO, Japan / The Japan Times / Books / Sunday, Dec. 6, 2009 CLOSE-UP Finding satisfaction in being ourselves Growing access to information and the ease with which we can compare ourselves to others is making people less happy in life, says psychiatrist Rika Kayama By Eriko Arita, Staff writer Psychiatrist Rika Kayama is an outspoken doctor specializing in mental illness, a best-selling writer and a popular social commentator. Her latest book, "Shigamitsukanai Ikikata" ("A Way of Life in Which You Don't Cling to Anything"), has sold 422,000 copies since it was published in July. In the book, Kayama, based on her clinical experience and research, suggests 10 rules by which stressed people can live happy lives. The rules recommend people not cling to money, love or children — and not pursue dreams through employment. The book, with its realistic and laid-back take on life, has attracted much attention — in part because one rule stated, "Don't try to be like Kazuyo Katsuma." Katsuma, an economic analyst and writer of self-improvement books, has become an icon as a successful businesswoman and has many fans. The right medicine: Psychiatrist and best-selling writer Rika Kayama says many people develop mental illnesses because they have unrealistically high expectations about what they will achieve in life. Satoko Kawasaki Photo Kayama, however, in her book, says not everybody should work hard to improve themselves in the way Katsuma does — because some people are at risk of developing mental illness due to stress. The 49-year-old doctor has treated such people for 23 years, and in pondering how their problems relate to social issues, Kayama has concluded that the way patients suffering from stress-related illness think about their condition has changed. Decades ago most of her patients blamed themselves, but an increasing number nowadays blame others, she said in her book "Waruinowa Watashijanai Shokogun" ("I-Am-Not-to-Blame Syndrome"). Kayama's analysis was that the spread of neoliberalism (a mix of traditional liberal concerns for social justice and emphasis on economic growth) in Japan in the last decade caused intensified competition among people, which lead them to blame their illness on their colleagues, family members or others in order to shield themselves from the criticism that develops in a highly competitive atmosphere. Kayama offers deep insights into the human condition and she seems to be a perfect fit for her role as a psychiatrist. But she says her job was not her first choice of career and she has never been carried away with her work. Born in Sapporo in 1960, Kayama, the daughter of an obstetrician, entered high school in Tokyo at age 15 and hoped she would become a scientist. Upon failing the entrance exams for the universities she wanted to attend, she studied medicine at Tokyo Medical University, where, as a student, she started writing for a minor magazine under the pen name Rika Kayama. (She reserves use of her real name for her work with patients and her private life.) [rc] Click here to read more ...... In your latest book, you said growing numbers of people don't feel that they live in happiness or are satisfied. Do you see a lot of these people at the clinic where you work?...... (C) The Japan Times