Photo: Serge Picard

Claude Halmos: "Your social life can make you sick"


"Est-ce que les hommes vivent? Faire face à la crise et résister" Editions Fayard, 2014.

Today, anyone can talk, without (too much) fear, about their psychological suffering from their private life,discussing the challenges one faces as a son, daughter, parent, lover, etc. This pain has gained a legitimate place in our society.

But this has not always been the case. Before those now lumped into the category of “psychologists” invaded the media in the 1990s, these problems were taboo. (For example, no one would have dared talk about their sexual problems in public.) “Private pain” is now out in the open and sometimes even making magazine headlines. How times have changed!

But another taboo has emerged. The taboo of suffering from one’s social life, the sometimes immense suffering that millions of men and women endure. And they do so not because of their private life, their personal situation or their childhood but because society forces them. A society ravaged by an economic crisis so severe that some are forced to deal with unemployment and poverty, while others are led to live in fear – even terror – of this joblessness, impoverishment, downward mobility, when there is no real lack of security.

How can we explain this silence about individual psychological issues caused by this situation (and their complexity)?

By understanding that it is essentially based on poor knowledge of theory. We live with the implicit but dominant idea that human beings build their private lives and one day will have a social life as well. On that basis, attacks on one’s social life are believed to damage their “possessions” but in no way their being. Which is false.

Human beings have two sides. They have what could be called (even though the term is unsuitable) a “two-sided psychological backbone”, half-private, half-social. For the child, the social half starts developing in school. That is where children develop a new image of themselves, a new understanding of their worth, etc. that will co-exist with those already built in their family life.

When humans are affected in their social life, half of their being is wounded, sometimes even destroyed. This can be devastating, which explains the significant rise in depression and suicide rates in times of crisis. And which justifies the urgency of care.




The French psychoanalyst Claude Halmos is a childhood specialist. She has authored several books on the subject, such as Why love isn’t enough and Authority explained to parents. She is also a regular guest on France Info radio and answers readers’ questions in Psychologies magazine.

To read

“Is this how humans live? Coping with and resisting crisis” (original title: “Est-ce ainsi que les hommes vivent? Faire face à la crise et resister”)

Fayard, 2014.