Thursday, July 12, 2018

The Case of ASS

Fortunately for all of us, the author of New York Magazine’s Ask Polly column has gotten over her unfortunate habit of diagnosing her letter writers. I suspect that she read my remarks on the topic a while ago.

Today, Polly presents a letter from someone she dubs ASS. At least she did not say Piece of Ass… which would have been rude. The letter writer dubs herself A Self-less Self… so the acronym ASS seems strangely appropriate.

ASS seems to be suffering from a textbook case of depression. We do not want to diagnose, but we will note that ASS is depressed and in despair. She feels that everything she does is useless. She feels that she is hopeless and helpless. At age 28 she feels like she is wasting away. She cannot function at the most elementary level and is not happy about it.

How is she trying to exit this state? She is in therapy and is consulting an energy healer. And she is doing it all in Paris, of all places. I surmise, because I do know something about the Paris therapy world, that she is doing some form of psychoanalytic therapy. For those who have missed my repeated assertions that psychoanalytic treatment does not cure anything, the case of ASS should provide empirical verification. For those who do not believe my other repeated assertions, namely that such treatments produce more depression than they cure, the case of ASS will prove my point.

Of course, Polly cannot tell a woman who is in therapy to do therapy, so at least she is not responsible for the bad outcome. As has become my habit I will spare you Polly’s remarks to the effect that she had the same experience and felt very bad herself.

For now, examine what ASS has to say for herself:

I’m writing to you from Paris, precisely from my kitchen table, full of empty coffee mugs I haven’t cleaned for like a week, unpacked useless goodies that I received for my job (I’m a lifestyle journalist, or what’s left of her), opened notebooks with unfinished logos for a hypothetical brand I might want to launch one day and probably won’t, and vaping juices I bought with my boyfriend so I can do exactly like him (which I don’t, since I continue smoking cigs when he’s not there). And to be fair, it’s not even MY kitchen table but my mum’s, because I sold my apartment so I could finally leave this city I sincerely hate, this job I sincerely hate, and those supposed friends I kept seeing for no other reason than passing time while my successive boyfriends were busy. The truth is, I couldn’t care less about my own life. I just turned 28, the age when women, I’ve been told, think about marrying and having children, when I can’t even unpack my suitcase, now lying wide open in the middle of the living room, or get my agonizing toenails done, or tell my selfish boyfriend to fuck off somehow.

I used to be that promising writer, passionate about food, travel, and literature, living in a cool area of Paris with a promising photographer boyfriend. I dumped everything last October because I felt like all of this was wrong, my ex-boyfriend first (only to run away with someone else), then the biggest magazine I was working for. Now I can’t even write a single article without forcing myself like it’s torture. I’m not even happy when it’s done, I don’t get that satisfaction when I see my name printed on 150,000 issues. I don’t care about my name anymore, I even want to change it.

You want to know, and I want to know, why she chose to dump everything. Speaking of bad decisions. Speaking of self-destructive behaviors. We do not know whether this propelled her into therapy or whether this was the result of a blinding insight received in therapy, but in any case she made a bad decision. Clearly, she is in pain. What she ought to do now is to dump her therapist and get back into her life.

You can see the visible hand of therapy when she explains that she has been trying to figure out why she is in such a state. One remarks, yet again, that finding the root cause of depression merely makes you more depressed. The most effective talk-therapy treatment of depression, cognitive treatment, does not seek for infantile antecedents or root causes.

So, here is what ASS has learned from therapy:

I’ve been looking for reasons for a while now, spending my time in therapy or with energy healers. I’ve been emotionally and physically abused by my narcissist dad (not sexually) from a very young age and until I was 13, when he sent me to the hospital and finally stopped for good. And at the same time I’ve been spoiled by him when he wanted to be forgiven. I know my sense of self is fragile, if not absent, because of that, but I feel like I can’t change it now. I’m feeling trapped in an endless circle of self-sabotaging, leading the guys I’m dating to take advantage of me, including the one I’m dating at the moment.

My mom and therapists keep telling me to clean my life up and “take care of myself.” But how am I supposed to do that? Take a warm bath, read a book, go shopping, get a massage, or all that bullshit? I can’t even eat normally when I’m alone, I don’t enjoy food when I’m alone. The only thing I know is that I want to leave this country and get a fresh start somewhere else, but I know I’m not capable of it right now. I feel terribly stranded, even though I have a boyfriend, caring friends, and a close family. I’m codependent and don’t really enjoy anything by myself. Who is “myself” anyway? 

At least she has learned how to blame it on her father. Why not blame it on her mother too? Her therapist has taught her that her sense of self is fragile, thus miring her deeper in her inertia, by taxing her with weakness.

The rest of her therapist’s advice is to clean up her life and to take care of herself. Happily, her mother says the same thing. If you can get this advice from your mother, why do you need a second mother, a therapist to give it to you?

It is precisely the kind of frivolous and meaningless advice that therapists concoct when they feel that they have to do something more than to explore the patient’s past. ASS responds appropriately, to the effect that she has no idea what they are talking about.

If she is to make any progress, she needs to make a plan. She needs to define specific tasks, and to perform them one after another. The cure for helplessness is to accomplish a task… and then another… and then another.  For the rest, we do not really know what kind of depression she has. There are several different varieties.

At the least, we see in this case a young woman who is a casualty of Parisian therapy.

Have a nice day!


cj said...

Want to feel a sense of worth?
Do something for someone else - without expecting remuneration

The easiest? Go donate blood knowing that each pint may save several lives
Help out a Church, mowing the lawn, dusting and cleaning, participate in a meeting
Go volunteer at a food bank, and aid those worse off
Volunteer at a hospice or hospital and bring some comfort to someone in their dire or final days
Help an elderly or handicapped neighbor with whatever they need - shopping, cleaning, cooking, a trip to the Doctor or Pharmacy

Use caution with your commitments, but follow through on what you do promise

Old Curmudgeon said...

Jorden Peterson? as self-thereby?

Shaun F said...

Wow. What a piece of work. A codependent who is into energy healing....that's pretty heavy man! I'm glad she blames it on Dad. I'd be disappointed if she didn't. I am starting to suspect women are projecting when they start calling other people narcissists. At least in this case – it’s kind of …...not so subtle.