Future Shock: The New Dis-Ease of Our Time
I still have my original copy, though it\’s falling apart. Most pages are covered with little stars with underlines to remind me of important things to remember. It was a mind-blowing book for me (I must admit that even as a 60s activist in Berkeley, books were much more dazzling, exciting, and mind expanding than any drugs that were available).

The first line in the introduction grabbed me immediately and has held on to me for nearly 40 years. “This is a book about what happens to people when they are overwhelmed by change. It is about the ways in which we adapt — or fail to adapt — to the future.” Between 1965, when I graduated college and 1970, the future had kicked my butt and slammed me up side of the head. I was disoriented, stunned, and wondered how I was going survive what was heading my way.

As I devoured Future Shock the seeds of my new profession began to emerge. “First, it became clear,” says Toffler, “that future shock is no longer a distantly potential danger, but a real sickness from which increasingly large numbers already suffer. This psycho-biological condition can be described in medical psychiatric terms.” I certainly didn\’t learn about future shock during my brief stay in medical school, nor at U.C. Berkeley.

I was sure that these issues would attract the attention of scholars all over the world and there would soon be schools offering degrees in futures studies and there would be Futures Therapists hanging out their shingles in every town on the planet. The World Future Society was founded in 1966 for people interested in how social and technological developments are shaping the future. Their magazine The Futurist began publication shortly thereafter. But the profession of Futures Therapist hasn\’t yet caught on.

Futures Therapist: A Profession Whose Time Has Come
If you were around then, think back to the world between 1965 and 1970 that Toffler described in his book. Now think of the world today. Have things slowed down? Do people seem less stressed? Are humans more in balance with themselves, each other, and the natural world?

Here was the warning Toffler issued in 1970. “In the three short decades between now and the twenty-first century, millions of ordinary, psychologically normal people will face an abrupt collision with the future. It may well be the most important disease of tomorrow.” Clearly tomorrow has arrived, yet where are the Futures Therapists to help the millions, perhaps billions, of people cope with increasing rate of change we are experiencing?

When I read Toffler in 1970 I was sure the medical and psychological professions, of which I was now a member, would take note and respond. As Toffler told us, “Future shock will not be found in Index Medicus or in any listing of psychological abnormalities. Yet unless intelligent steps are taken to combat it, millions of human beings will find themselves increasingly disoriented, progressively incompetent to deal rationally with their environments. The malaise, mass neurosis, irrationality, and free-floating violence already apparent in contemporary life are merely a foretaste of what may lie ahead unless we come to understand and treat this disease.”

Most psychotherapists today are treating “diseases” such as the following:

  • Major depressive disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Anxiety disorder
  • Attention deficit disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Substance dependence disorder

Increasingly, the profession is treating these disorders with drugs. In his book, Comfortably Numb: How Psychiatry is Medicating a Nation, Charles Barber says, “American doctors dispense approximately 230 million antidepressant prescriptions every year.” And that\’s just one class of drugs, in one country. Are we really treating the right problem with the right regimen? I don\’t think so. Could all the symptoms we are experiencing be better understood as Future Shock and better treated by Futures Therapists than Medications Therapists? I do think so.

Futures Therapist Course of Study: A Modest Proposal
Most writers are avid readers and I\’m no exception. However, my book shelf space is limited so I\’m always giving away my books or donating them to the local library for their annual book sale. The books I keep over the years are ones that I find I go back to again and again. For those who would like to consider the profession of Futures Therapist, I offer the following reading list:

  • Baker, Carolyn. Sacred Demise: Walking the Spiritual Path of Industrial Civilizations Collapse.
  • Baron-Cohen, Simon. The Essential Difference: The Truth About the Male & Female Brain.
  • Buss, David M. The Evolution of Desire: Strategies of Human Mating.
  • DeMeo, James. Saharasia: The 4000 BCE Origins of Child Abuse, Sex-Repression, Warfare and Social Violence in the Deserts of the Old World.
  • Diamond, Jared. Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed.
  • Diamond, Jed. The Irritable Male Syndrome: Understanding and Managing the 4 Key Causes of Aggression and Depression.
  • Eisler, Riane. The Chalice & the Blade: Our History, Our Future.
  • Gilligan, James. Violence: Our Deadly Epidemic and Its Causes.
  • Gilmore, David D. Manhood in the Making: Cultural Concepts of Masculinity.
  • Glendinning, Chellis. My Name is Chellis & I\’m in Recovery from Western Civilization.
  • Hanh, Thich Nhat. True Love: A Practice for Awakening the Heart.
  • Heinberg, Richard. Peak Everything: Waking Up to the Century of Declines.
  • Hillman. James. The Soul\’s Code: In Search of Character and Calling.
  • Hoffman, Edward. The Right to Be Human: A Biography of Abraham Maslow.
  • Homer-Dixon, Thomas. The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity, and The Renewal of Civilization.
  • Hopkins, Rob. The Transition Handbook: From Oil Dependency to Local Resilience.
  • Jamison, Kay Redfield. An Unquiet Mind: Memoir of Moods and Madness.
  • Klein, Naomi. The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.
  • Korten, David C. The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community.
  • Maisel, Eric. The Van Gogh Blues: The Creative Person\’s Path Through Depression.
  • Mander, Jerry. In the Absence of the Sacred: The Failure of Technology & the Survival of the Indian Nations.
  • Orlov, Dmitry: Reinventing Collapse: The Soviet Example and American Prospects.
  • Petersen, John L. A Vision for 2012: Planning for Extraordinary Change.
  • Quinn, Daniel. Ishmael.
  • Satir, Virginia. Peoplemaking.
  • Schmookler, Andrew Bard. Out of Weakness: Healing the Wounds That Drive Us to War.
  • Shepard, Paul. Coming Home to the Pleistocene.
  • Stewart, William B. Deep Medicine.
  • The Institute for Psychohistory. The Journal of Psychohistory.
  • Toffler, Alvin. Future Shock.
  • Vaillant, George E. Aging Well: Surprising Guideposts to a Happier Life. From the landmark Harvard Study of Adult Development.
  • Van der Post, Laurens. A Story Like the Wind.
  • Vincent, Norah. Self-Made Man: One Woman\’s Journey into Manhood and Back Again.
  • World Future Society. The Futurist (journal).

For me being a Futures Therapist is the world\’s best job. Every day I can counsel people on issues that really matter. I\’m able to combine personal, interpersonal, community, and planetary healing. The world of the future has the potential to be truly wonderful. There seem to be two forces contending in the world today. One force is trying to hold us to the past, keeping us tied to a way of life that is not in balance with nature and is destructive to life. Another force is pulling us towards the future, to a world where humans live as part of nature and change comes at the speed of life, not at the frantic speed of chaotic destruction. We have a change, in our lifetimes, to create a world that works for all living things.
If you are a Futures Therapist or are thinking of becoming one, drop and note and tell me about your interests. What books would you add to the list?

Jed Diamond, PhD, LCSW Boomer Male Expert

Jed is Founder and Director of the MenAlive, a health program that helps men live long and well. Though focused on men's health, MenAlive is also for women who care about the health of the men in their lives.