Friday, September 16, 2016

Suppressing a Woman's Voice

From time to time I have wanted to show you what you are missing if you are not in therapy. And, if Ask Polly gives us any sense of what happens to your mind once you enter therapy, you should be thankful that you are not.

Yet, Polly is still beating the drums for therapy. And her advice is as lame as it has always been. This week it’s lame to the point of being frightening.

If you would like a context, see this week’s Ask Polly column as a question: how well are women’s voices heard? When a woman writes to Polly and explains that she nearly had a nervous breakdown when she heard of a semi-relative’s pregnancy, Polly uses the occasion to opine about what?

Does she discuss the woman’s maternal instinct? Not a chance. Does she talk about the joys of motherhood? No way. Since the letter writer is obsessed with baby issues, Polly launches into a meditation about: DEATH. That’s right: the Grim Reaper.

If you can find a better example of the way therapy warps your mind, I would like to see it.

The letter writer is clear enough about what happened and what is bothering her.

She calls herself “Baby Crazy (Sort of).” The name gives us a hint of what is bothering her.

She writes:
A few weeks ago, my boyfriend’s brother and his girlfriend of six months announced that they are pregnant. This is unexpected, but theoretically good news. 

You can tell that she is a hip millennial: she notes that it’s not just the girlfriend, but the boyfriend’s brother is pregnant too. Is he showing yet?

Baby Crazy takes the news badly. It ought to be good news. It ought to elicit feelings of happiness for the expectant parents. Where is her empathy when she needs it? But, no, Baby Crazy has no way to process the information and has a mini-breakdown:

For whatever reason, this news hit me like a ton of bricks. I spent the next few days after we found out alternating between a shocked silence and crying. It’s sent me into some kind of Stage 5 panic that I’ve never felt before. It’s not some kind of sadness that they don’t live closer or fear of missing out on time with this child — it’s a series of truly negative feelings. I’ve calmed down a lot over time, but every time I think about this child, I get a pit of dread in my stomach. 

Anyone with a high school diploma could figure this out. Baby Crazy cannot figure out why she is baby crazy. While she is going on about difficult this is to understand, her chosen name gives it away.

She is a thoroughly liberated woman and does not believe that she has a maternal instinct. She believes that motherhood should be postponed until… whenever. She believes that it’s all a social construct anyway and when the instinct she has been denying breaks through the ideologically driven will to ignore it, she does not know what to do with it. This cannot be me, she tells herself. This cannot be my own wish to have a baby. This cannot be jealousy and envy at someone else’s happiness.

What kind of human being becomes miserable when contemplating someone else’s happiness? Someone who has allowed her normal instincts and desires to be subsumed by a bunch of ideological nonsense. The nonsense is: that sex is primarily about pleasure and that pregnancy is a curse.

Baby Crazy sort of explains herself:

I can’t figure out why this could be, but I know what it’s not. I’m not jealous or resentful; we’ve decided not to get married for a few years, let alone have a kid, and I still know that’s the right decision for me.

Of course, this is mere denial. She does not understand that her decision has temporarily deprived her of something she craves, but cannot accept that she craves it. And, I do not need to tell you that the longer she waits he more difficult it all becomes. She is not making the best use of her most fertile years.

Being as she is in denial, she chooses to blame it on her mother. Or better, on her grief about her mother’s death:

My mother passed away a few months ago, after battling a terminal illness for several years, so I understand that my emotions are still wonky from grief. I expect grief to keep showing up at the strangest of times. But I’ve honestly never experienced something like this — totally irrational panic, fear, and sadness over something that truly has nothing to do with me. Why does this freak me out so much? 

As I said, there is nothing especially mysterious about this. If you make a habit of listening to what women say and—here’s the important point—if you are willing to afford them the respect to take them at their word, this woman has just discovered that sex cannot so easily be disconnected from procreation. And she cannot process an idea that runs counter to her most deeply held beliefs and commitments.

In response Polly outdoes herself. She has heard nothing that this woman was saying. Which takes some real effort and shows signs of having had far too much therapy.

Polly opens with the following:

Maybe you’re more anxious about the future of your relationship than you think you are. Maybe you’ve agreed to proceed rationally with your boyfriend, to give it time, but some part of you is panicked and wants to know for sure that everything is going to turn out the way you want it to. 

Is there anything about Baby Crazy’s letter that suggested anxiety about her relationship? Polly has cast herself as something of a wild psychoanalyst, a mind reader.

If Polly had attached her thought to the question of procreation, she would have been on target. Of course, Baby Crazy is worried about how her plans to have children will work out. And she is asking herself why she has postponed something that she really, really wants. She might also be asking herself how she can explain her wishes to her boyfriend after she has entered into an agreement with him about postponing parenthood. She cannot change her mind without going back on her word and this is obviously very important to her character.

Of course, Polly misses the point entirely. Since the question is birth and procreation, Polly says that it’s about death:

More than anything else, I think you’re devastated by your mother’s death. Even though she was struggling with her illness for years, and that became a kind of new normal for you, even though you figured that you were prepared for her death and you had accepted it, her actual loss was a blow you could never have prepared yourself for. That’s the way death is. 

This is pathetic. Need I say more.


Trigger Warning said...

Seriousy, Schneiderman, doesn't psychotherapy, as generally conceived until the thermodynamic model of Dr S Fraud began to crumble and tilt, require some level of mindreading?

And mindreading is popular in the political arena today, as secret, or even "subconscious", motives are regularly attributed to opponents.

And we cannot ignore the popularity of the "dog whistles" regularly heard by Progressives, ignoring the obvious irony that only dogs hear dog whistles.

Lindsay Harold said...

The mental gymnastics necessary to deny biological reality and then keep the knowledge of the truth suppressed with some sort of torturous narrative that ignores the obvious not only drives people to do and say some insane things, but to purposely seek out people they know will help them keep the unwanted truth at bay by telling them soothing nonsense. If only they can get someone to affirm the narrative they want to believe, it will help them continue on their course without those pesky urges and regrets getting in the way.

The fact that women are designed to want babies is not politically correct, and so it can't possibly be that. There must be some other reason that she's feeling when she hears of someone she knows being pregnant. But it's certainly not because she wants a baby now or that she wishes she hadn't put herself in the position of not being able to have a baby now because she purposely chose to put off marriage and childbearing and picked a man who does not want children now. She has to keep telling herself this because as soon as she admits that it is in fact jealousy and that she does want a baby, she not only has to betray her feminist ideas and pay homage to the hated idea that women are naturally inclined toward family and childbearing, but she also has to look in the mirror at her own choices that have put her in the position of being unable to have a baby now. Rather than face her own mistakes, she will deny that they are mistakes and insist on any ridiculous excuse she can find.

AesopFan said...

Baby Crazy's dilemma at least partially explains this:

(July 2012) In the United States and other developed countries, fertility tends to drop during periods of economic decline. U.S. fertility rates fell to low levels during the Great Depression (1930s), around the time of the 1970s "oil shock," and since the onset of the recent recession in 2007 (see Figure 1). The U.S. total fertility rate (TFR) stood at 2.0 births per woman in 2009, but preliminary data from the National Center for Health Statistics show that the TFR dropped to 1.9 in 2010—well below the replacement level of 2.1.1 A similar decline—or leveling off—of fertility rates has been reported in Ireland, Italy, Spain, Sweden, and several other European countries.

Ares Olympus said...

Poly, aka Heather Havrilesky, certainly seems overly confident in herself in grasping onto the mother's death, and "few months ago" sounds quite short. But the stream of consciousness that follows is really bad. I don't even think you can blame "therapy culture" since it is so utterly undisciplined. Therapy at least implies an expertise.

Her statement "I’m not jealous or resentful; we’ve decided not to get married for a few years, let alone have a kid, and I still know that’s the right decision for me." while suggesting a passivity or undue faith that things will work out, at least shows she's thinking in the proper order.

Stuart: Of course, this is mere denial. She does not understand that her decision has temporarily deprived her of something she craves, but cannot accept that she craves it. And, I do not need to tell you that the longer she waits he more difficult it all becomes. She is not making the best use of her most fertile years.

This is certainly a more worthy explanation to consider, even if not necessarily implying action, like Jung believed in thought experiments, starting with imaginings, what would it be like to have a child now, and as well, what would it be like if she never has a child, and somewhere in those fantasies she can see and weigh her contradictory desires on some slightly rational scale.

And while we're playing on challenging her denial, perhaps what she'll discover something else that's uncomfortable, perhaps she knows the man she's with isn't father material for some reason, or at least an uncertainty there for her. And so that wouldn't be quite what Stuart is saying "not making the best use of her most fertile year", but that she's not moving towards the direction of that craving.

I also reflect that unwed parenthood is near a new high, 59%! And I'm sure a large fraction of that comes from irrational people whose body says "make babies" while they're not willing to use the discipline to wait until it makes sense.

On that regard we know the Left are ready to meet the needs of single mothers, like the life of Julia narratives from the Obama Campaign, where the State becomes her husband, and the father is just the seeds to get her moving forward to the next stage.

So I suppose we do have to worry about about even unintentional incautious advice that suggests women need to "make better use" of their fertile years, without equal consideration for stability of relationship that can raise successful children who are not burdens to society.

I know, Conservatives have the answer. If pre-marital sex for pleasure isn't a moral option, young people will get more serious with moving their families forward sooner, and women will be happier.