I am happy to say that Elizabeth King agrees with me. She agrees with me that therapy provides a spiritual experience for people who do not believe in God. And she agrees with me that, however much therapy resembles a religion, it is—she does not quite use these words—a pseudo-religion.
King is a young writer from Chicago. Her website says that she is currently living in Argentina… and if you want to find a true pseudo-religion Buenos Aires is the right place. A true classical orthodox Argentinian psychoanalyst will certainly helped her to overcome her shame about her sexuality.
In fact, Argentina is probably the most psychoanalyzed country in the world. How’s that working out?
You see, King was brought up Christian and she is trying to divest herself of her upbringing. She thinks that she is escaping from religion, but she has really just found a pseudo-religion to replace the real thing.
Happily, King demonstrates that today’s therapists are trying to indoctrinate and acculturate people. Let’s not be so naïve as to call it medical or paramedical treatment. The fact that therapists have professional licenses and credentials is a ruse, part of a giant scam. The fact that insurance companies call it treatment and pay for it makes them the biggest dupes of all.
King is happy that therapy is helping her to overcome her sense of shame about her sexuality. Unfortunately, she does not understand that overcoming shame means becoming shameless, becoming something like an exhibitionist. It’s basic Freud. Whatever King may or may not choose to do, a culture in which people have overcome their shame encourages children to sext and young adults to hook up.
If your religious upbringing makes it more difficult for you to send out images of your nakedness across cyberspace, that’s not such a bad thing. One notes, yet again, that having a sense of shame is normal. Overcoming it is abnormal. Therapists who numb you to your sense of shame are rendering you antisocial and asocial.
People should be very careful when they start promoting shamelessness. Beyond the inconvenient sexual practices it encourages, it also induces people to be rude, crude and lewd… to say nothing of… ill-mannered. The fact that everyone is ill mannered does not make their manners good.
In any event, King notes that for atheist and agnostic millennials, therapy is their new church. In that she is quite correct.
But based on my own observations and interviews with mental-health experts, it seems that many millennials grappling with the big questions in life want to work them out on a psychologist’s couch instead of a church pew.
Religion and therapy do have a lot in common, according to Rachel Kazez, a Chicago-based licensed therapist and founder of All Along, a service that helps to match clients with a therapist. “Both religion and therapy help us understand our past and our future,” she says. “People talk about it leading to change.” From the structured meeting times—whether it’s 10am on Sunday or after work Tuesday nights—to the ways in which both practices help us accept the fact that certain things are beyond our control, both religion and therapy aim to guide people through life.
One might agree that both religion and therapy guide people through life. Thus, therapists are right to acknowledge that they are offering a cheap imitation of a religion for non-believers.
As for the big questions in life, precisely what do therapists have to offer on this subject? Most of them spend most of their time whining about feelings, telling you that you are narcissistic and saying that all your problems derive from your control issues. When it comes to wisdom and sophisticated thinking, therapy is a wasteland.
Obviously, someone like Freud was theoretically sophisticated. He was a very talented and brilliant mythmaker. And yet, he was telling you that what you really, really want in life is to copulate with your mother. If that nugget of pure absurdity feels like a spiritual uplift you need more help than therapy can provide.
Were you to wonder how therapy differs from religion, the answer is clear. Religion is a communal experience. It involves congregation and fellowship. It revolves around ritual and ceremony. Its great thinkers were truly great thinkers. To imagine that all theologians thought the same thing is to know nothing about theology.
Therapy, however, is an individual experience. It is a substitute religion for people who are self-absorbed and who imagine that they are self-sufficient.
Whereas religion tends to focus on communal worship, therapy is far more focused on the self. Meanwhile, millennials (and young people in general) tend to be more individualistic than other generations and are more willing to change. The fact that the therapeutic space is designed for self-discovery and thinking through its use of open-ended questions fits these needs perfectly. As Kazez told me, in therapy, many millennials feel they can “cultivate their own sense of things and fulfill their own needs” instead of getting the answers pre-packaged from church.
Religions do not offer prepackaged answers. It’s absurd to think otherwise. And yet, therapists understand that religion is the competition. They know that it is good for business to bad mouth the competition.
It is very good and very Heideggerean—see yesterday’s post—to think that therapy is going to make you a self-indulgent and self-important human monad. If ever you succeed at recreating yourself-- as though you had been sculpted out of silly putty—you will find that when you are faced with the daunting task of working with other people, of getting along with other people, of cooperating with other people, even of coordinating schedules with other people, you will discover that therapy has taught things what you would have done better not to know.
Young people who think, as King suggests, that they are going to find their own answers are being exploited by their therapists. There are no brand new answers to life’s bigger questions. The big questions have been theorized and philosophized to within an inch of their lives. You might feel that you are a unique individual but you are primarily, as Aristotle said, a social being. Beyond the fact, as the philosopher said, that no human being can survive outside of a group, your mental health—assuming that we care about that—depends in great part on your ability to get along with other people. The perfectly individuated version of your self-actualized being is someone that no one will even want to get along with.
The fact is, therapy produces so much anomie that it makes people vulnerable to the siren song of cults. Whatever she says, King is not interested in becoming quite as individuated as she suggests. She wants to become a good feminist. And that means, being a member in good standing of an ideologically driven cult.
In effect, the one does not to contradict the other. After all, Herr Heidegger, a man who surely lived his batty philosophy to the fullest and therefore became the best version of his super-actualized self, believed that this self could only survive, thrive and flourish if it lived within a culture defined by similar values. That is, within the culture of German national socialism.
During the years I spent in church, I internalized a great deal of harmful ideas about gender and “a woman’s place.” Having also become a feminist after leaving the church, I specifically sought out a feminist therapist when I started therapy. I wanted to sort through my problems under the guidance of someone who took the mental harms of sexism seriously, something the church I grew up in certainly did not do.
Since King has become a true believing feminist she does not question—not for an instant—the harms visited on women by feminism. She has bought into the dogma. She has been thoroughly indoctrinated. She thinks of feminism as salvation. It is saving her from the hell of organized religion.
If she believes that she has gotten out of religion, she should think again. She has effectively been swallowed up in a cult, where questioning the prevailing dogmas is strictly forbidden.
King believes that therapy has taught her critical thinking and has allowed her to ask questions. Obviously, she does not know that theology is about nothing but asking questions. I cannot speak about her church, but there are many religions out there. Nearly all of them encourage you to ask questions. Yet, feminism, her preferred cult, thinks very ill of anyone who questions feminism.
Above all, therapy has helped me to be comfortable in life’s “gray” areas. My church was all about seeing life in black and white: sinners and the saved, heaven and hell, success or failure. Thankfully, therapy doesn’t work on these terms. There’s room to explore, ask difficult questions, and deal with internal inconsistencies. Pushing back against your own beliefs or those of the therapist is not only allowed, but encouraged. The freedom to think critically and be honest about major doubts has been transformative for me.
One understands that critical thinking, in the feminist sense, means trashing the patriarchy, attacking organized religion, finding fault with all things American and Anglo-Saxon, denouncing capitalism and fighting for the liberation of all oppressed peoples. It does not involve being critical of feminism. If you dare question feminism you are a misogynist sexist pig.
Therapists have no real understanding of these issues. They have allowed their minds to be hijacked by the promoters of politically correct ideology and have made their clinical practice into an exercise in indoctrinating people in this belief system, all the while pretending that it is treatment.