The Wellness Syndrome | Carl Cederström

Summary of: The Wellness Syndrome
By: Carl Cederström


In the book ‘The Wellness Syndrome’, Carl Cederström delves deep into the obsession with achieving wellness in our society and raises concerns about the impact of this lifestyle on our freedom, happiness, and relationships. He discusses the concepts of biomorality and the social judgment that equates wellbeing to morality, leading to feelings of guilt or self-hatred when we fail to meet high standards of healthy living. Cederström exposes how the modern workplace is exploiting the wellness ideology, turning employees into overworked and anxious individuals. Moreover, he unveils the political implications of the wellness movement and how it influences societal attitudes towards the unemployed and the welfare state.

The Narrow Ideology of Wellness

The pursuit of wellness has become an ideology that emphasizes the importance of a healthy body and mind for success and happiness. However, this way of thinking can limit one’s freedom of thought and lead to missing out on important experiences. The wellness doctrine is based on a narrow perspective that revolves exclusively around health and forbids many activities. Students are even required to sign wellness contracts, leading them to miss out on youthful experiences that can expand the mind. The cult of wellness contrasts sharply with the approach of former times when people viewed exploratory experiences as important rites of passage. Therefore, while we should all strive to maintain a healthy body and mind, we should also be cautious not to let wellness become a limiting ideology in our lives.

The Dangers of Biomorality

The concept of biomorality, which glorifies physical health over everything else, has become a pervasive cultural norm. Society judges people based on their physical appearance and assumes that being healthy equates to being morally upright. Slovenian philosopher Alenka Zupančič calls this obsession with health biomorality. However, this mindset has done more harm than good. The quest for a perfect body never ends, and people’s preoccupation with their appearance can lead to social isolation. Additionally, people who do not conform to society’s standards face shame and social ostracism. TV shows like “Jamie’s School Dinners,” which demonizes parents for allowing their children to eat processed food, only perpetuate the problem. The author contends that people should focus on building meaningful social relationships instead of obsessing over physical health. By doing so, they may rediscover the qualities that make individuals morally upright, such as kindness and generosity.

The Dark Side of Wellness

Following an ideology of wellness can make us feel worse and be counterproductive to our natural instincts. The pressure to adhere to strict wellness doctrines leads to guilt, anxiety, and overexertion. Moreover, a wellness-obsessed society demands perfection and considers indulgences as immoral acts. This mindset creates highly functioning neurotic machines obsessed with working, leading to burnout and exhaustion.

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