Friday, February 28, 2014

The Culture of Psychotherapy in Argentina

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.


Anonymous said...

Stuart, do you think that we would perhaps all be better off if psychologists had adopted the approach of Victor Frankl as opposed to that of Freud, Lacan and their followers? I am no expert, but I remember reading Frankl's books and his logotherapy approach and finding it liberating and empowering. Rather than dig around in the dusty corners of the psyche, instead focus on purpose in life, our responsibilities and our loves. Frankl was an amazing man and I still love to read his thoughts.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

I'm not very familiar with Frankl, but the approach you describe would certainly have been a vast improvement over what we and especially the Argentinians have.

Ares Olympus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ares Olympus said...

I always liked Jung more than Freud. I like the idea that imagination allows us to see a wider world of potential, even if its all dangerous. I have no idea how many Jungian psychologists out there.

I like the idea of archetypes, and showing the ancient people's gods like Zeus, Jupiter or Oden, and their lower pantheons, so we say they were superstitious, but there's an advantage to shifting some of the responsibility to archetypal sources, and seeing them as something outside of us, rather than ego-identification with them.

James Cahill wrote a book called "The gifts the Jews" how their monotheistic god helped break a cyclic view of time into one of continual progress.

Perhaps you might consider all of humanistic Therapy is a way to escape a monotheistic religious world view that is dominant and used to destroy an unliving world that can be managed like a machine, So other "jealous gods" might have wisdom to find for special countries like Argentina.

We can't safely judge cultural success and failure in the short run, if the powerful are actually on a deadend road but don't know it, they can laugh at those heading off into the wilderness - asking impossible questions and purpose and meaning that make people look slow and stupid, but maybe religious values will arise and be reborn there, even in what looks like failure from the outside?

Lots of cultures have funny ideas of their specialness, and if they're patient and determined, like the Jews, their culture might define the 1000 year future, not because they're special, but because their rival were self-blinded fools and so the determined losers just have to wait for the empires to fall over?

You never know what power stories have to change the world, for good or bad. I prefer the scientific outlook myself, but I have no evidence rationality is going to save us from ourselves.

Steve Sailer said...

Buenos Aires, the city of psychoanalysis and plastic surgery.