In her press interviews Lena Dunham has proudly announced that she has been in therapy since she was 8.
Doubtless she feels that she owes some of her success to her therapy. Credit where credit is due.
If we ask what Dunham has learned from therapy, we get an occasional glimpse of it in her hit television show: Girls.
In the first episode of the new season, Hannah Horvath was trying to break up with her sometime boyfriend Adam.
Adam had been hit by a truck in the last episode of the old season, and now he is laid up with a full leg cast. He needs someone to care for him and Hannah has been making a half-hearted effort.
It is fair to mention that Adam is not what one would call a very good patient. He seems to know it and is showing his gratitude by expressing his loving feelings for Hannah.
With Adam incapacitated Hannah has fallen for another man. Now she is trying to navigate the treacherous moral shoals of breaking up with a man she has loved, a man who loves her and who now needs her.
Why waste time with a man who needs to be cared for when you can enjoy a man who can stand on his own two feet?
Finally, Hannah breaks up with Adam by uttering lines that must have come straight from some therapist’s mouth.
She tells him, in my transcription:
I have tried the whole thing, OK, of being selfless, of taking care of everyone else around me, worrying about everyone before myself. But, you know what, I’m an individual. And I feel how I feel when I feel it. And right now I feel like I don’t ever want to see you again…. It’s not your choice; it’s my choice.
Do you think that these are words to live by?
If you apply them to the demands of motherhood, what do you get? Surely, not a very good mother. If a man were to say that he needs to find a new girlfriend because he is tired of taking care of his sick wife, what would you think?
The therapy culture has been passing around these empty platitudes for some time now. Some people take them to be pearls of wisdom, principles to live by.
Amazingly, therapists pretend that their discipline has something in common with “science.” I defy anyone to show me what there is in Hannah’s speech that represents objective, scientific information.
Of course, Hannah Horvath is a fiction. She is not real. Her petty narcissism makes her less likable as a character.
In the best of all possible worlds viewers are going to watch Hannah breaking up with Adam and understand that her therapy has made her self-absorbed, self-involved and narcissistic.
They will understand that she is not ready for anything resembling a relationship. They will know that she is anything but a role model.
Yet, when young people learn these precepts from their therapists they often take them as words to live by.