Friday, September 12, 2014

What Katy Perry Learned in Therapy

In a recent Harper’s Bazaar interview Katy Perry shared some of the insights that she gained from therapy. She was happy to share because she thinks her therapist is an "oracle."

For the purposes of this blog it is useful to examine what is on offer in the more exalted realms of the therapy world, what you can get when you pay top dollar the best in psycho treatment.

Without any more ado, here is the Harper’s summary:

After her divorce from Russell Brand in 2012 and breakup with John Mayer earlier this year, Perry retreated a bit, and started doing therapy. “What I’ve learned is that if you don’t have the foundation of self-love first, you really have nowhere to pull love from to give it away. I had to learn about taking care of myself before I could take care of others. I want to mommy everyone. I want to take care of them. I want to save them, and I forget myself in the meantime. I learned that through therapy.” All of this self-help-speak is delivered suitably rat-tat-tat. “Oh,” she adds, laughing, “I have an oracle of a therapist.”

Perry now characterizes herself as “Open. As I’m heading into my 30s I have less time for bullshit. I look for the same characteristics: a sense of humor—someone who makes me laugh off the charts— someone who is sensitive, someone who loves and understands music, and who is really smart. A lot of times I’ve ended up with people who have been intimidated by me, unfortunately. They say they’re not, but it comes out in the long run. They’re threatened, or there’s resentment because they don’t know how to handle it.”

Yes, sometimes it’s tough being a ... “boss lady,” she finishes the sentence. “I’m looking for someone who’s inspired and could be inspiring with me.”

Let’s take Perry at her word. Let’s accept, as a gesture of respect, that she is faithfully reporting what she learned from her therapist.

That much said, it’s not merely psychobabble, but it’s the kind of psychobabble that could have been said by any therapist to any patient. In truth, it is closer to feminist ideology than to psychological science.

And yet, it was apparently designed to make Perry feel good. In that it has apparently succeeded. But it was also designed to make Perry into a conduit for feminist thought. In that it has also apparently succeeded.

Beyond that, it is vapid and largely off point.

Begin with the notion that Perry was suffering because she wanted to mother everyone, to take care of everyone… so much so that she forgot herself. Her problem was that she did not love herself enough.

Fancy, a major international celebrity, a rock star among rock stars suffering from insufficient self-love….

And what, pray tell, should an individual do to him or herself in order to show sufficient self-love?

Anyway, wanting to mother a child is not the same as wanting to mother your husband or boyfriend. Neither is the same as mothering everyone… concept which is not exactly redolent of meaning.

However insightful you find this, the Harper’s Bazaar article makes much of the fact that Perry is very often on the road. She is, apparently, never, or almost never home. How can you mother people if you are never around?

When she is touring Perry’s time is not her own. Her work owns her. Effectively, it makes sense that she has nothing left to give to anyone else, but this has nothing to do with her maternal instinct. It is the price of her level of fame and fortune.

But why, pray tell, has her therapist chosen to undermine her maternal instinct, such as it is?

The truth is, you cannot be away from home for months on end and still be a good mother…to say nothing of being a good wife.

One recalls a recent article where Bob Dylan was asked why he did not marry Joan Baez. He answered that she was never home; she was always out on the road touring. He wanted to marry a woman who would hold down the fort while he was coming and going, who would be there when he got home.

Perry’s therapist has offered an empty generalization, one that does not apply to her client’s unique circumstances.

If the therapist does not recognize the uniqueness of Perry’s situation she is simply offering the same nostrums she would offer to anyone else. This is always a bad idea.

Obviously, Katy Perry has suffered from the fact that most men feel that she overshadows them. They feel diminished by her. They feel that they are mere ornaments in a world that revolves around her fame.

Are they intimidated? Not necessarily. Are they threatened? Not necessarily. Are they resentful? Perhaps, they are.

The more salient point is that Perry’s position makes most, but not all men feel reduced. They have a right to assert their pride by not wanting to be involved with her. It is not a psychological symptom. It is not necessarily an error. It is a free choice. Seeing it as anything else is disrespectful.

The problem is, being a massively successful female dries up the dating pool. When a man achieves great success women find him irresistible. When a woman achieves great success men run away.

It is certainly challenging, but it cannot be solved by salving the pain with psychobabble.

Other women have faced the challenge. Some have opted for boytoys or for much younger men who are happy to jump on the gravy train. Others have set a different example.

Gisele Bundchen is a case in point. She is enormously successful as a fashion model. She is extremely wealthy. Of course, her work does not force her to be on tour.

She married Tom Brady. To sports fans Tom Brady is a god. His world does not overlap on hers. He probably makes less money than she does but no one thinks that Tom Brady walks in Gisele’s shadow. In fact, Gisele is sometimes seen in the stands at Patriots games. Her career does not prevent her from being a wife to Brady and a mother to their children.

She has even been known to stand by her man. Among her more famous quotes is this: "My husband cannot fucking throw the ball and catch the ball at the same time!"

Like Gisele, Katy Perry is unique. If she were your client you would do best to examine situations that are similar to hers and show how other women have succeeded or failed in dealing with their circumstances. It is absurd to compare her to everyone else and to fill her with feminist mental pabulum.

Looking at real couples in the public eye might offer some perspective on her circumstances. It is surely better than empty psychobabble.


Ares Olympus said...

Worse than psychobabble, worse than disrespectful assumptions, placing her personal life in public like this, deconstructing her past failures would seem to guarantee future failure. Who wants to be next in her string of failures?

Maybe we need to hear what Russell Brand and John Mayer have to say? Just kidding. I wonder what she wants them to say about her in public, and their deconstructions? But if they're famous enough, we want to know.

Or maybe we only care because we need to know rich people don't live dream lives, for all their wealth and status? We don't want to hear about success stories, how boring. We want to hurt about how wealth makes people selfish and foolish, and that therapists will take rich people's money gladly, and tell them what they want to hear.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

I think you are quite right. As it happens most celebrities do the same thing... anything to fill up space in the tabloids... but without any real recognition of the consequences.

I also agree that her remarks do slander other people-- something she learned from therapy-- and she should keep that to herself.

Why would anyone get involved with her knowing that if the relationship does not work out she will trash them in public? said...

But they told me if I wasn't happy, my kids wouldn't be happy and that quality was more important than quantity and I just needed to "lean in."

Thanks for telling us the truth , how incredibly refreshing.

Wish we could hear you speak at the Chicago Humanities Festival!

Stuart Schneiderman said...

I would love to speak there.... alas, not yet invited.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

"a sense of humor—someone who makes me laugh off the charts..."

I am repeatedly impressed that this is effectively a feminine universal in being attracted to a man. Yes, we often point to money, strength and power, but it's rare that you don't hear that a man's sense of humor is very important. I don't know what to say, other than it is interesting. Perhaps the alternative is boredom, but I don't always hear women say they want to be with a man who is "exciting" or "interesting."

The corollary that I wish more women would tell their daughters that the most important intangible for a man is "chemistry." Perhaps they don't know this, so maybe the father should say something... it would sure provide some rationality behind the pain of a breakup. In my view, chemistry is the all-important, most-important quality all thoughtful men look for. Sure, if she's a knockout, that's a plus, but you can't go far in life as a man without chemistry with your spouse. You just can't. I've always felt that a wife can put up with way more bullshit from their husband than the other way around. I think men need someone who is behind them, who can go the distance. Some jerks walk out on a woman like that... Jack Welch's pathetic dumping of his wife for that Suzy whatever-her-name-is comes to mind. But I still assert that chemistry is the most important factor in wife selection for a man who is going somewhere. Good looks may be the thing that gets it all started, but a woman taking care of her man, herself and her family is what counts in the long view.