Thursday, November 25, 2021

Billionaires in Therapy

Just in case you are short of things to be thankful for today, a New York therapist has a suggestion: be thankful that you are not a billionaire.

If you were a billionaire you might be consulting with therapist Clay Cockrell. And then, according to Cockrell, you would be a miserable excuse for a human being.

One needs to mention that Cockrell, apparently short of common sense, would do better not to be bragging in the pages of the Guardian about how rich his patients are. And surely, he would do better not to tout the fact that they are all miserable. Isn’t discretion supposed to be the hallmark of therapy?

And besides, at the risk of offering a cheap shot, isn’t he, as a therapist, somewhat responsible for his billionaire patients’ misery? 

So, Cockrell ends his opening paragraph with this sentence:

I work as a psychotherapist and my specialism is ultra-high net worth individuals.

To be fair, the word “specialism” is sometimes used in Great Britain. And yet, if Cockrell did not want to sound like some mix of pretentious and illiterate, he should have said something like: I specialize in….

You might have guessed, but young Cockrell offers his billionaire clients gobs and gobs of empathy. He tells us this, just in case you were wondering why they are all so miserable. If that is the best your therapist can do, you would be miserable too.

Anyway, we can give thanks that Cockrell is not a television critic. For some inexplicable reason he thinks that his patients’ lives are just like the television drama called Succession.

Apparently, everyone has seen it. And everyone, your blogger excepted, thinks that it’s great television:

Over the years, I have developed a great deal of empathy for those who have far too much. The television programme Succession, now in its third season, does such a good job of exploring the kinds of toxic excess my clients struggle with that when my wife is watching it I have to leave the room; it just feels like work.

Actually, Succession presents caricatures of a certain family. It is not very well written and not very well acted. It is more like propaganda, designed to demean and defame people who Frank Rich-- who counts as an executive producer-- does not like. If you want to see a far better television show about the Fox News Empire, check out Showtime’s The Loudest Voice.

Of course, if these billionaires are consulting with Cockrell to receive a heaping platter of empathy, they do not have very much judgment. If treatment has merely allowed them to share their misery with an empath, they are being rolled.

In any case, feeling empathy for people’s problems is not the same thing as helping them to solve the problems.

Now, for the problems that some of these people have, beginning with this one:

What could possibly be challenging about being a billionaire, you might ask. Well, what would it be like if you couldn’t trust those close to you? Or if you looked at any new person in your life with deep suspicion? I hear this from my clients all the time: “What do they want from me?”; or “How are they going to manipulate me?”; or “They are probably only friends with me because of my money.”

Out there in the real world, we make judgments about other people. We trust those who have earned our trust and we do not trust those who have shown themselves unworthy of our trust. It is not that complicated. And besides, the super rich often hang around with other people who are similarly well endowed. It’s important to learn who you can and cannot trust, but you are not going to learn by listening to a therapist whine about how miserable it must be not to be able to trust everyone. No one can trust everyone.

And then billionaires apparently have this problem:

Then there are the struggles with purpose – the depression that sets in when you feel like you have no reason to get out of bed. Why bother going to work when the business you have built or inherited runs itself without you now? If all your necessities and much more were covered for the rest of your life – you might struggle with a lack of meaning and ambition too. My clients are often bored with life and too many times this leads to them chasing the next high – chemically or otherwise – to fill that void.

Is he talking about people who have earned fortunes or people who have inherited fortunes. It’s not the same. If you have a business to run you do better not to think that it can run itself without you. If you no longer want to run the business, you can undertake any one of a number of other activities that will engage your mind and your intentions. What you do not want is to have a therapist who feels you pain and showers you with empathy about your miserable condition.

Dare I mention that for the most part people who are in the sub-billionaire category do not want to hear billionaires complain about how hard they have it.

And then, as though their problems never cease, billionaires do not like to talk about money.

Cockrell explains:

Most of the people I see are much more willing to talk about their sex lives or substance-misuse problems than their bank accounts. Money is seen as dirty and secret. Money is awkward to talk about. Money is wrapped up in guilt, shame, and fear. There is a perception that money can immunise you against mental-health problems when actually, I believe that wealth can make you – and the people closest to you – much more susceptible to them.

And yet, think for a second or two. How many people do you know who like to talk about money. It is rude and crude. It feels like lording it over someone, for instance, a mental health professional, who does not have as much money.

Fair enough, some people are so arrogant that they like to talk about money. It’s a bad habit. They should get over it.

And then, Cockrell returns to the television show, Succession, in order to buy into the propaganda about the Murdoch empire:

People like the series’ lead character, Logan Roy, who came from humble beginnings to create an incredibly successful media empire. His entire life has been focused on his business. However, it is evident that he has failed miserably at raising fully functioning children.

Obviously, these are fictional characters, designed to malign the reputation of Fox News. The purpose is simple. In order to ensure that everyone thinks alike in America, Fox News needs to be shut down. And yet, Cockrell does not question the bias of the producers of this television show.

And besides, people who have made billions sometimes do have fully functioning children. Sometimes people who do not have billions raise dysfunctional children. The difference lies in whether or not said children are pushed and prodded to make something of their lives, and are not allowed simply to live off their parents’ fortunes. Some billionaires understand this. Some do not.

Cockrell continues, to toss around a few pieces of contemporary psychobabble:

Too many of my clients want to indulge their children so “they never have to suffer what I had to suffer” while growing up. But the result is that they prevent their children from experiencing the very things that made them successful: sacrifice, hard work, overcoming failure and developing resilience. An over-indulged child develops into an entitled adult who has low self-confidence, low self-esteem, and a complete lack of grit.

Many billionaires understand these points. If their therapist has not explained these facts of life they should find another therapist.

Cockrell then confuses the characters in the television show with his patients-- suggesting that he does not see his patients as human beings.

There are few people in the world to whom they can actually relate, which of course leads to a lack of empathy. The next time you watch Succession, see how the Roys interact with their staff and others outside their circle. Notice the awkwardness and lack of human connection and how dreadfully they treat each other. It’s fascinating and frightening. When one leads a life without consequences (for being rude to a waiter or cruel to a sibling, for example) there really is no reason to not do these things. After a while, it becomes normalised and accepted. Living a life without rules isn’t good for anyone.

Succession is built on the idea of a group of wealthy children vying for who will take the mantle from their father – none of them are able to convince him that they can do it. And that is because they have reached adulthood completely unprepared to take on any responsibility. The wealthy parents I see, often because of their own guilt and shame, are not preparing their children for the challenges of managing their wealth. There is truth in the old adage “shirt sleeves to shirt sleeves in three generations”. On numerous occasions the child of a wealthy family has said to me: “We never talked about money. I don’t know how much there is or what I’m supposed to do with it. I don’t know how to take care of it. It’s all so secret and dirty.”

One does not know where to begin unpacking this psychobabble. If billionaire parents do not care about raising their children, and if they imagine that giving them a large inheritance fulfills all parental responsibilities, someone should wise them up. Parents are responsible for teaching their children about money, about budgets and about investing. Otherwise, they can hire tutors.

If their children are arrogant snots, they can send their children off to join the military or some such organization, like a little league team, where they cannot get by writing checks. Or they can give them a religious education that teaches them the virtue of humility.

One understands that many billionaires are self-important assholes. Perhaps their dysfunctional children are God’s way of telling them that they are not very good parents and that there is more to life than money. Then again, when a certain billionaire president decided to hire his daughter and son-in-law, both children of great privilege, the media rose up in horror at the notion of seeing such children go to work. And when said son-in-law was instrumental in crafting the Abraham Accords, the same media chose largely to ignore the accomplishment.

Clearly, when it comes to choosing a therapist, billionaires can do better than the Guardian columnist. Then again, it does not speak well of them that they are willing to go to a therapist in order to be put on an empathy drip.

Dare we mention that these patients seem to complain a lot. Perhaps their therapist should wise them up. They did not make billions by complaining.


370H55V said...

A very appropriate post for Thanksgiving.

I am reminded of the scene in "Arthur" in which Dudley Moore is buying a bouquet for Liza Minnelli. The florist recognizes him and asks sarcastically "How does it feel to have all that money?", to which Arthur responds "Feels great, feels great."

Sam L. said...

Oh, the poor souls! Mah heart buhleeeeeds for them.