Sunday, September 8, 2019

"Couples Therapy"

When I wrote yesterday’s post about the Showtime series Couples Therapy I had not seen any of the show’s episodes. But, I eventually decided that I needed to take a brief look at a couple of episodes. So, I did.

It’s generally not a good idea to prejudge anything, and I did not think it fair to judge a couples therapist on the basis of a couple of television reviews. I have clear opinions of the current state of psychotherapy, especially the kind that is practiced in those bastions of wokedom, like New York City and America’s largest cities. I did not come to my views haphazardly, but from experience. I have been following press reports and advice columnists, that is sage analysis and raw data. And I have chronicled my views on this blog for more than eleven years now.

Anyway, I watched two episodes of Couples Therapy yesterday and concluded, unfortunately, that the treatment on offer by a distinguished New York therapist was worse than I had imagined. If you agree with me that New York Magazine advice columnist Ask Polly is bad, the therapy on Showtime is worse. It is hard to imagine that that is possible, but alas, it is.

Amazingly, the therapist also calls herself a psychoanalyst. She has undergone some psychoanalytic training. As you know, I practiced psychoanalysis myself for a considerable period of time, and I regretfully inform you that the treatment we see has nothing whatever to do with psychoanalysis. It is all mindless psychobabble all the time.

Or, to be more clear, it is feminist thought reform. The therapist tends to take women’s sides. She tends to have contentious relationships with the male patients in her office. And she wants her male patients to be more empathetic, more emotional, more like women.

Naturally, the men often refuse to accept her absurd analyses and this makes conciliation more difficult. You might argue about whether or not this is what feminism espouses, but the therapy profession in New York City-- let’s limit the scope-- is increasingly a woman’s world. And it has increasingly been disserving women by telling them that they are always right. At the same time it has been trying to girlify men.

As a profession talk therapy is spiraling downward into uselessness. When well meaning commentators explain that people with drug addictions or other mental health issues should have more better treatment, they are being splendidly naive. They do not understand that the talk therapy business is becoming an indoctrination mill, designed to produce better feminists. And they do not understand that, this being the case, many people have no other choice but to take medication. It’s a sad state of affairs, but it seems clearly to be what happens.

As noted yesterday, when you listen to the therapist mouth banalities and bromides you should ask yourself what any of this has to do with science, or even with psychology. It is embarrassing.

We also remark that most of the patients portrayed seem like actors playing roles in a drama. Perhaps this is what their lives have been reduced to, but we know precious little about the reality of their lives. In most cases we are seeing people who are reduced to feelings, emotions, wishes and dreams. It’s all in the mind, all in the feelings… it’s sentimental drool, designed, I would say, to ensure that these people cannot get their bearings in the real world. Certainly, the therapist herself has no notion of reality. She drones on and on, sounding like a mindless therapy machine. I guarantee you that a computer program could replace her, and that no one would notice.

Let me offer an example, from the first episode. A man explains that his wife calls or texts him around twenty times a day and chastizes him if he does not respond immediately. He is an insurance agent. She believes that he must be at her beck and call… or else, she will punish him. We know that she had a child from a previous relationship. We do not know if they have any children. And, of course, we do not know what if anything she does for a living.

It would have been a good occasion for a therapist with a minimal moral sense to point out that this woman is undermining her husband at work by constantly distracting and harassing him. It is difficult to focus on your job when your wife keeps calling you, maniacally yelling about matters of no consequence. He has asked her again and again to stop doing it. She persists. 

Of course, the therapist does not take sides. She does not explain that there is something seriously deranged in this woman’s habit. The therapist listens empathetically and misses an opportunity to inject a little moral sense into the equation. She does not understand that the woman has a bad habit and should stop it.

The wife seems to have heard that her bad habit is damaging her husband’s career. She replies that she has read about CEOs who pick up the phone when their wives call. It is an instance of sloppy thinking. No man becomes CEO when his wife is harassing him all day long. A CEO will pick up the phone when his wife calls because she very rarely interrupts his work focus. Thus, if she calls he is confident that she is calling for a good reason. If she phones and texts over trivial matters, he will most likely tune her out. And tune out the therapist who cannot get a grip on the issue.

It’s a simple example. I will wager that you understand the issue perfectly, even without having gotten a doctorate in psychology or having undergone advanced training in psychoanalysis. 

So, I am not going to watch too many more of these episodes. It is frankly painful to see a once proud profession sink into intellectual and moral degradation. There is nothing resembling serious thinking. There is no moral sense at all. It a sad symptom of our culture disintegration. 

I abandoned psychoanalysis a long time ago. But still, in my time, and in my group, analysts were serious thinkers, who had some intellectual credentials. They did not bullshit psychobabble. They may have been wrong. I believe that they were seriously wrong. I believe that Freud himself made some basic and fundamental mistakes. But Freud was a serious thinker, an important intellectual figure. It’s one thing to think clearly and well and be wrong. It’s quite another thing not to think at all. 

1 comment:

Mimi said...

Back when I was counseling people, a guy told me that he didn't have any desire for his wife.

I asked him - do you have any time alone?

Turned out, he had no personal space.

I recommended that he negotiate with his wife that she not call him or talk to him 1) while he was at work, 2) while he was driving home, 3) while he was watching TV (unless it was a commercial break), 4) while he was eating.

Of course if it was urgent, this did not apply.

Of course they didn't have to follow it to the letter, but the idea was still there. He needed to have time to himself in order to want to connect with his wife. Without that space, he would find any means necessary (including shutting down his desire for her) in order to find that space.

(PS: I usually liked Carolyn Hax, though I haven't read her column in quite a while.)