Responding to yesterday’s post about Argentina, an anonymous commenter referred to a CNN article about psychotherapy in Argentina. I am grateful for the reference.
The article offers a fuller picture of the culture of psychotherapy in that nation. I still contend that the predominance of Freudian psychoanalysis, in particular, must have something to do with the decline and fall of the once proud nation. Showing why and how something so innocuous as psychotherapy can influence a nation's economic and future feels like a daunting task, but that is no reason to gloss over it.
Of course, I still leave open the possibility that psychoanalysis appeals to a demoralized nation. Nevertheless, if the function of therapy is to raise morale, it seems to have failed in Argentina.
The CNN article recounts some interviews with psychoanalysts:
Many Argentines I spoke with agreed that their culture is one in which people talk about their personal issues more openly than in the United States.
"In other countries, people are more closed off about their problems," Frankenberg said. "There's much more of a push for people to resolve their issues elsewhere, like throwing themselves into work."
People in Argentina commonly kiss one another on the cheek in saying hello and goodbye, expressing a warm feeling even between a dentist office receptionist and patient. They talk about their feelings. They sit in cafes without a sense of urgency, drinking café con leche with a small glass of soda water and eating small cookies.
Brok said the United States tends to have a culture more oriented toward shame and individualism, and an ethic of finding solutions to particular problems.
Argentina, he says, is more into introspection. The Argentine tango, too, invokes nostalgia and self-exploration, Frankenberg said.
The slowness of psychoanalysis in particular may make it unattractive in other cultures, Rolon said. No analyst can guarantee a result in six months, and therapy goes as long as it continues to feel right to the patient and analyst. Rolon has himself been going to psychoanalytic therapy for 25 years.
"Maybe a patient comes because of a problem. And when that problem is resolved, he realizes that he wants to continue working on other problems. In analysis, that is permitted," he said. "In other kinds of therapy, when a problem is resolved, it's over."
Surely, some Americans will take offense at the notion that people in another culture are better at expressing their feelings and talking about personal issues.
In those realms, Americans are really amateurs. They prefer to solve problems. They do not often glorify those who complain about why they cannot solve their problems.. That might be why Americans are far more likely to solve their problems than are Argentinians.
Unfortunately, some Americans believe that they ought to remake their culture to make it more like Argentina. Taking the therapy culture to that extreme exacts a price, as Argentina shows.