Thursday, September 21, 2017

Another Casualty of Therapy

She calls herself “Help” and she shares all of her inchoate negative feelings, with her favorite advice columnist: Ask Polly. In this regard Polly is a kindred spirit.

I will spare you Polly’s advice, in which she displays her own self-centered vulnerability and suggests that Help, who feels like shit, should embrace her bad feelings. Help must have known that she was going to hear such blather from Polly. She has probably heard it before. The more she hears it the worse she feels.

You will notice that Help does not share very many details about her circumstances. We can conclude that she has cut herself off from the real world and has gotten lost in her emotions. This means that she has a serious problem, but it might also suggest that she has been taught that she can solve her problems by ignoring them and bathing in her feelings.

Anyway, since she is a millennial, she is not alone among her friends to be suffering from anomie:

I feel like I’m just walking in circles, forgetting each step as I take it. I’m relearning the same lessons over and over again, and there’s so much to remember. Do you feel better now than you did in your 20s? Does anything make more sense? My friends and I are all struggling, all sad, and all hoping for a time when we don’t feel like we’re frantically juggling all the shit and trying not to let too much fall.

I am not sure why these young women do not feel liberated from patriarchal oppression but you can probably guess.

What is Help’s problem? Simply put, she got out of her first relationship and now she feels less than good about herself. The decision seems to have been hers. It seems to have been a bad decision. She did not understand what would happen to her life once she tossed the man aside in the name of independence and autonomy:

Yeah, yeah, it’s another indulgent 20s letter. I don’t know who I am, blah blah. I got out of my first relationship this year, and I’m having a hard time believing that so much can be for nothing. Not just with him but with the friends I lost along the way. What was the point of it all? What benefit is there to the memory of him looking at me in that particular way when someone really sees you for the first time? What the fuck?

She is so confused that she seems no longer capable of making decisions. She is trying to follow her intuition, but, she was following it when she dumped her one true love. Now she seems incapable of accepting that she made a mistake:

If you’re in a tough situation, can you rely on your own intuition to guide you, rather than trying to figure out the right course based on what you think you should do but don’t trust yourself on, because doing what you thought was right at the time was actually really selfish and inconsiderate and wrong and you’ve really hurt people? I feel like I was born without a compass that other people have. A lot of the time, I feel confused about what the right thing to do is, at all. It’s like I now approach every question with all my lists and with opinions from everyone else and try to figure out the best way forward. But I never know which way is the right way, and which way will cause the least harm, and yeah, sure, which way will convince everyone I’m still a good person. (I’ve done enough therapy to know that’s embarrassingly important to me. Especially with now-ex-friends, and especially with now-ex-boyfriends that I’m still in love with.)

You will have noticed the parenthetical remark that gives it all away. She say that she has done enough therapy. Music to my jaded ears. Though, of course, she has done too much therapy.

She must have decided to do this as a result of some half-assed lame therapy. I am not surprised to see that it produces such bad results. After all, don’t therapists induce their charges to grow up and to become less dependent on a man, to feel more independent and autonomous?  Don't they want their female patients to explore their sexuality with a multitude of partners? The message may have been explicit. It may have been implicit. When she put it into practice she hurt herself, she hurt her ex-boyfriend and disrupted her social world. Many of her friends will not forgive her selfishness.

Now, she is writing to Polly, who likes telling young women to get into therapy and to feel their feelings. If she had a moral compass Help would be telling Polly that her advice sucks. After all, she did what Polly suggested. She got lots of therapy and felt her feelings. She also got lured into an ideology that wants women to be independent, autonomous and alone. Who knew that it was a formula for solipsistic self-involvement and bad decisions?

What does Polly have to offer her: more falling, more failing and more feeling. Anything is better than admitting that she did too much therapy and is incapable of accepting that she made a mistake.

1 comment:

Ares Olympus said...

Stuart: Anyway, since she is a millennial, she is not alone among her friends to be suffering from anomie

I should try again understand Anomie. I see there's a wiki page with an intro.
Anomie is a "condition in which society provides little moral guidance to individuals". It is the breakdown of social bonds between an individual and the community, e.g., under unruly scenarios resulting in fragmentation of social identity and rejection of self-regulatory values. It was popularized by French sociologist Émile Durkheim in his influential book Suicide (1897). Durkheim never uses the term normlessness; rather, he describes anomie as "derangement", and "an insatiable will". Durkheim used the term "the malady of the infinite" because desire without limit can never be fulfilled; it only becomes more intense.

So it seems that "normlessness" is part of the problem. When society is changing quickly, even in an attractive way like when opportunities expand, everyone is stuck in the same open-ended learning curve how to handle things well, and how we go wrong. So in such times many may wish to go back to a simpler past, where there were fewer choices, where everyone knew their gender, class, and age roles, and stayed within narrow bounds which produced a greater security and sense of identity. In this case Stuart promotes a direct path to marriage for young people, while expanding opportunities and complexity encourages young people to delay enduring committed relationships in favor of ambition and trying to get the most you can, while uncertainty has also never been greater in career stability.