Anti-friends

Therapy has monetised friendships. In an economy-society in which everything is treated as a source of profit and financial gain it was entirely inevitable that human relationships should have become monetised. Psychotherapy – as a mainstream practice – is an American innovation. It reeks of American consumerism. That isn’t to say that there aren’t greedy people in the UK who are willing to exploit the vulnerable for money. Sadly; there are plenty.

Since therapy makes its money by monetising friendships it is clear what the greatest threat to therapy is: friendships. Therapists will do everything they can to undermine any friendships their clients have, at the same time, as they assist their client towards a shallow narcissism that is eventually incapable of friendship at all.

It is normal for therapists to disparage the friends of their clients. “That person does not have my professional expertise; there is no point talking to her about your problems”. They continually fan the flames of petty annoyances; whereas actual friendship often involves overlooking minor “errors” on the part of friends or family. They may openly sabotage friendships; suggesting people break relationships rather than try to mend them. All this is done in the name of “you need to protect yourself”. Above all; by injecting commercial considerations into the heart of the client’s emotional life and by reducing the client to a babyish state of dependence in which their emotions become shallow and self-centred they obliterate any capacity the client might have to have friendships.

Therapy is the enemy for friendship. Therapy is a defining evil of this society which is so focussed on money.

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Acquiescent in power

Therapy positions itself on the basis that “all problems are internal”. All problems are explained as being due to the client “not being in touch with herself”.

Thus therapy washes itself of any social or political responsibility.

It simply accepts the current social and political status-quo. And thus implicitly works hand-in-glove with power.

So much for radical.

Therapy can never help

The starting point for therapy is that you should focus your attention on yourself. On your emotions. On your past. On your interior life.

In truth; for almost all people who have the kind of problems which therapy claims to address the one thing they need to do is forget themselves. Get over themselves. Don’t worry about themselves all the time. Just get on with it – doubts and anxieties and all. Excessive self-preoccupation is the problem. You can’t base the resolution of your problems on the basis of the problem.

Built into therapy, as its founding rock, is a principal which will effectively block any possible resolution of the client’s problems…

 

There is nothing wrong with you

Therapy shares the same pedagogical model as modern factory education and, for that matter, the model of pharmaceutical “treatment” of psychiatric “disorders”.

In all 3 cases the welfare (income) of one party (the provider of the treatment) depends on a consensus model that the other (the recipient of the treatment) is inadequate. The recipient needs the intervention to move them from this state of inadequacy to one of passable adequacy.

Naturally, with every contact between provider and recipient the provider does everything possible to create the inadequacy on which his business model, (as well as his power and prestige), depend.

Schools teach inadequacy. This is implicit in the doctrine that it is only possible to “progress” by following the set path of progression and obediently following the teacher’s instructions. On your own you can “achieve” nothing. In reality this is not true at all. Most people if motivated can teach themselves a great deal. It may help to have someone who can point out useful resources. But it is not in reality necessary to submit to the absolute authority of another in all areas of life in order to learn. The imbalance of power inherent in standard education enforces incapacity in the recipients. They are allowed to achieve but only on the terms and on the paths set down for them by the providers; who take the “credit” for the “learning” of their objectified “pupils”.

Pharmaceutical drugs used to “treat” psychiatric disorders often mess up the recipient so much that the recipient has to take more drugs to balance out the effects of the first ones. An almost dream business model. But hardly medicine.

Therapy also depends on manufacturing inadequacy. It depends on people believing that there is something wrong with them. This is why they need treatment. But, in reality, in the vast majority of cases there is just nothing wrong with people who are “in therapy” at all. (Other than they’ve made a mistake and are wasting their money). Therapists are generally very careful to avoid “seeing” people who have serious mental problems, e.g. of the kind that attract a schizophrenia label. The people they do “see” are in reality normal, functioning, souls.

From the moment the client first steps into the “consulting room” the therapist will do everything she can to give the client a sense of inadequacy.  The very fact of being “treated” implies that there is something wrong with the client. This is why therapists are so eager to present their activity as a form of “treatment”, using language such as “clinical”,  claiming that therapy is a “science”, claiming equivalence with people who do have a real training of some kind in a field governed by social science, such as clinical psychologists, and, of course, emphasising their “professional” status. The “professional” status which creates the “right to treat” implies one who needs to be treated. As the therapist “takes up” the position of therapist (the phrase comes from a leaflet about therapy training) so the person entering the “consulting” room goes down to the position of patient. From the therapist’s point of view it is a virtuous circle. Every time the client turns up for a “session” this very fact further confirms their need of treatment, their inadequacy. The effect deepens with exposure.

One of the core tricks of therapy is to explain that the client is likely to be suffering from a hidden trauma from their childhood. The “hidden” part explains why it can’t be seen by the client. The “from childhood” part creates the excuse for months or years of poking about in the client’s memories for the “hidden” source of their current problems.

In therapy ordinary life ups and downs are interpreted as a reflection of something inherently wrong internal to the client. The real world and the present drift further and further away from the client. The therapist’s bank balance swells.

But what is “wrong” with people who are “in therapy”? Nothing. They may have lost a partner to bereavement and be feeling confused and low. Maybe a relationship has ended. Maybe they are parents and are having trouble managing their rebellious son. Maybe they are 22 years old and “don’t know what to do with their life”. Maybe they have moved house and feel a bit at sea in a new location. Maybe they are wondering about their “life direction”. Maybe they feel anxious and stressed. And so on. All normal. Life is not a packaged product that flows off a shelf in a supermarket all ready to “enjoy” with the least possible inconvenience. Dealing with these problems is just a normal part of life. Taking the above list in order here are some suggestions: suffered bereavement;  join a group run by a voluntary association for people in a similar position. Relationship ended? Try dating; or, accept that you will be alone for a while. It’s perfectly normal and may give you a chance to try out some new hobbies. Parents – talk to other parents you know; if you don’t know any then this is a great opportunity to get to know some over a common problem. 22 years and don’t know what to do with your life? Go and get some careers guidance. Your local authority may even offer a free service. Then do what everyone in that position has always done; try out a few different jobs. Moved house and feeling lonely? A not uncommon problem. Most areas will have some kind of voluntary group to help people meet. Talk to your local council. Or simply go and join something. “Life direction” problem? Some people seem to sail through life without ever having any doubts as to what to do. But some don’t. So; you are one of the latter. That’s part of your life. It doesn’t mean there is something wrong with you. Life can have a bit of grit in it. That’s part of the challenge. Going “into therapy” when you encounter some difficulties is like deciding to climb a hill but at the first challenge (a scree, a stream to be forded, some slippery grass) giving up and demanding that someone carry you to the top in a litter, preferably one with an enclosed cabin so you don’t even have to look at life as you are carried to the top. Or, like taking up football but demanding that no one ever tackle you. Yes; you can pay someone to carry you through life in a litter with the curtains drawn, and no doubt you could find people to play non-tackling football but in terms of hill-walking or football it wouldn’t be any fun.

And, here, again, we see how therapy is like the pharmaceutical industry. It offers palliatives to smooth over the rough bits of life. But those rough bits are part of the stuff of life. If you eliminate them you live a soapy, watered down, version of life.

All these people want you to believe that there is something wrong with you because their business depends on this. Because they are making money (or getting power and prestige) out of it.

 

 

 

 

The goal of therapy

Therapy is about helping people feel more comfortable. It aims to help them feel less “distress”.

Let’s leave aside the question of whether therapy achieves that and/or the question of what price might be exacted in terms of self-respect and authenticity for achieving that. Let’s allow that therapy can help people achieve that.

Is it a worthwhile goal? The fact is that anyone who sets a life-goal which has themselves as the end is living a life which falls far short of what human beings can achieve.  To make comfort, personal pleasure, not feeling “distress” – which all comes to the same thing – your aim in life is to live a diminished life.

Any worthwhile life starts with setting an aspiration which takes you higher than your personal state of comfort. Making the happiness of your wife and children your goal in life is already a far higher aim that simply securing your personal comfort. This doesn’t mean being in therapy yourself and expressing your ‘care’ for your partner by sending them to therapy too. A family where each member has enough therapy so they don’t feel too much distress in daily living is hardly a family; it is a collection of narcissisms. There are many goals a person can choose which take them beyond themselves. It might be to get very good at a sport (to give pleasure to spectators, to teach it), to produce a work of art, to contribute to the political development of your country. There are manifold ways a person can aim for something higher than their own personal comfort. Someone who has a goal higher than their personal comfort may naturally pay some attention to their personal comfort; but only up to a point. It is not the end. They are prepared to suffer discomfort when that helps them achieve their goal.

Therapy sets a very low benchmark for life. It diminishes everyone who comes into contact with it. Therapy is diametrically opposed to the worthwhile path in life.

Therapy is vaguely aware of this and tries to compensate with some propaganda that being “in therapy” makes you a virtuous person of some kind. But this is a vacuous claim.

In the vast majority of cases when people are “in therapy” they are making their problems worse. Endlessly circling around discussing themselves as if they themselves were the most important thing in life. (One therapist referred to this as clients “rooting around like pigs in their own emotional shit” – but this is precisely what therapy encourages). In the vast majority of cases the best bet would be for the person to find a goal which takes them out of themselves.

The problem with this culture is an excessive self-preoccupation. (Necessarily concomitant with an economy which emphasises the individual over the collective). Therapy is part of this. The oil which makes the ghastly machine work.

 

 

 

When therapy is a ‘way of life’ it is not a science

During the course of therapy a therapist will have to gloss over a multitide of evident signs that their theory is not valid and their ‘treatment’ is not helping the patient. They will make mistakes, forget important details (such as meetings), make huge ‘counter-transferernces’ which they will have to wave away (while focussing in minute detail on the ‘transferences’ of the patient). The patient will go for years without ‘improving’. If they do improve there will be no evidence that proves that the ‘improvement’ had anything to do with the therapy. (Indeed it is likely that all the evidence will be that it would have happened anyway).

In the end the solution adopted by therapy is to say that therapy is a ‘way of life’. This is a claim that ‘being in therapy’ has a value in itself. It is simply a ‘virtuous’ thing to do. One ‘should’ (normative claim) be ‘in therapy’. Once the claim is elavated to this level it no longer matters if anyone ‘improves’ or not. By making this claim they absolve themselves from any need to see or verifiy improvements.

This claim makes therapy a cult. It cannot be the ‘science’ that organisations such as the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy claim it to be.

Are you well today?

Someone called me up this morning – from a recruitment agency. (I work contracts so I get a lot of such calls). She started off with “are you well today”? This is a growing trend. I called an agency which deals with certain aspects of my accounts the other day and the first question was also about my emotional state.

This is an example of what the sociologist Frank Furedi calls Therapy Culture. [1] Prioritising the emotions in everyday life. Turning every encounter into an emotional one. And, as he notes, this culture is not about deeper feelings or more sensitivity but, rather, acts to create a culture in which feelings are trivialised. We ‘feel’ more but those feelings are increasingly shallow.

While Furedi is a brilliant analyst of the phenomenon he does’t really understand the forces which are driving this cultural shift. This is because he lacks an analysis of power. There are two forces at work here. One is a political force. The population are trivialised and dumbed down to make them more malleable and more gullible. (Remember, children, it is a ‘big choice’ election). All this is done in the name of ‘accessibility’ and ‘democracy’. As the poet Geoffrey Hill pointed out however, democracy is not served by removing all effort of understanding and thinking. The political class rules a dumbed down population who are constantly encouraged to ‘feel’ – but not think. The other force is commercial. The forces of marketing – whose job it is to stimulate consumption of the surplus products of the over-heated capitalist economies – work therapy culture. Advertising has moved into a new phase. No longer does it work with status aspirations, sex and persuasion. Now it seeks to engage people at the level of their trivialised emotions. An advert on the side of a London bus (for something or other) tries to colonise peoples’ emotions around achievement. The message is ‘buy this product’ and ‘get that mini fist-pump feeling’. This is emotional advertising; ‘engaging’ people at an ’emotional’ level. People are schooled for all this by ‘circle-time’ at school. It is not permitted not to ‘share’ one’s feelings. But this incessant and public ‘sharing’ destroys authentic feelings which may be private and rarely shared.

So. Back to ‘are you well?’. I’ve never spoken with this person in my life before. She is calling me about the possibility of a computer job. What, essentially, do my feelings have to do with it? (At least at this stage – where all she needs to do is ask me something like ‘would you be interested in a web developer role using skills x,y and z in location B?’). This is precisely, prioritising the emotions. A question which is really a simple factual one has to be answered on the ’emotional’ plane. But – is she really interested in how I am today? What if I were to answer truthfully; “well, I’m feeling a little sad because yesterday I accidentally hurt the feelings of someone I care about and also I’m a bit worried and anxious about one or two things I have coming up in my life”? Would she really be interested? Let’s give her the benefit of the doubt. She would be; but then, the conversation would take a different direction and have nothing at all to do with the contract IT role which she was proposing. This gives the lie to her question. She isn’t really interested in if I ‘am well today’. The only possible answer, were I to give it, would be one which trivialised my own emotional states. I could say “Yes, I’m fine” – thus devaluing my own feelings. The truth is the opposite of that implied by the actual practice of therapy culture. The truth is that a certain reticence and discretion about feelings, that is allowing people to have a private space which is not automatically shared, is about respect for feelings.

In fact there are far more egregious examples. I booked a holiday a while ago and then received an email from the travel agent with the heading “much excited, Justin?”. I am supposed to instantly fall into a gushing naive state of emotional bubbliness. The agency’s marketing department were trying to colonise my feelings of excitement, (which of course I felt prior to a holiday), and use that as a lever to turn me into a repeat customer. This particular travel agency does focus on the student market. But even so – isn’t this a language suitable for 5 year olds, not 21 year olds?

In the name of some kind of liberation of the emotions the exact opposite is taking place.

Notes

1. Frank Furedi. Therapy Culture. Routledge 2003.