Skip to comments.Poor Winnie the Pooh. Not even he is safe from rampant 'therapism'
Posted on 07/28/2005 3:30:44 PM PDT by MadIvan
ON THE MORNING of July 7, I watched a commuter, who had just emerged dazed and smoke-grimed from an Underground station, being asked whether he would like to see a trauma counsellor. Politely, but firmly, he declined, and staggered off. The counsellor looked disappointed and mildly disapproving.
I cite this episode not as further evidence of British sang-froid in the face of terrorism (there are so many stiff upper lips in the media at the moment it is surprising any of us can still speak), but of something more profound. There is a widespread assumption that most people, and particularly those suffering from loss or shock, are by definition in need of psychological treatment, trauma counselling and cathartic emotional disclosure.
Even apparently well-adjusted creatures such as Winnie the Pooh have been hauled on to the couch. A group of Canadian psychologists recently published a paper on the hero of Hundred Acre Wood, and found that in addition to being a bear of very little brain, Pooh is suffering from attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, binge-eating of honey and borderline cognitive functioning. While not a complete fruitcake, Pooh, they concluded, is certainly a few sultanas short of a full loaf.
The satire was well-aimed, for Pooh is not alone. Jim Windolf, writing in The Wall Street Journal, studied the statistics put out by mental health agencies in the US and calculated that 77 per cent of Americans are suffering (or think they are suffering) from some sort of emotional disorder. These include women depressed about their self-image, men who cannot live up to some masculine ideal and people with eating disorders and addictions ranging from cocaine to the internet. The trauma industry has evolved an army of experts to explore feelings and vent them: self-esteem educators, degrieving professionals, traumatologists and ventilationists, all busily identifying and measuring emotions, the better to expose them to the bracing light of day.
In a remarkable new book, One Nation Under Therapy, Christina Hoff Sommers and Sally Satel have identified the spread of what they call therapism, the growing, quasi-religious belief that humans are generally fragile and in need of psychological aid. According to the tenets of therapism, children must be protected from competition, lest their self-esteem is bruised; sharing emotions is good and reticence a sign of repression, possibly leading to post-traumatic stress disorder; normal human emotions, including grief, stress and sadness, are pathologies to be tended and cured. People who reject therapy are deemed to be in denial, and thus doubly at risk. Satel, a psychiatrist, and Sommers, a philosopher, argue that the emphasis on therapy is steadily eroding such characteristics as stoicism, self-belief and self-reliance.
No one would deny that psychotherapy has proved a boon to many, while doctors have developed medications for treating devastating mental illness that have transformed the lives of millions. Some therapies are not appreciated enough: in this country, counselling for bereaved children is woefully underfunded.
But where therapism goes too far is in the assumption that all human beings are essentially weak, unable to confront on their own the quotidian neuroses of life. The therapeutic culture has reached hilarious extremes in America. Some schools have banned teachers red marking pens in favour of lavender ink, on the grounds that red may seem too judgmental. Traditional playground games such as tag are being replaced by new, stress-free games in which no one can ever suffer from being out (the sort of game the England cricket team must dream about). Such thinking is swiftly spreading from the US: this month the Professional Association of Teachers in Britain proposed that the word fail be banned from classrooms in favour of deferred success, so as not to undermine pupils enthusiasm.
The latest research suggests that cultivating self-esteem and encouraging emotional ventilation may be detrimental to some personalities. There is no necessary correlation between self-satisfaction and achievement, while an unmerited, narcissistic sense of self-worth has been directly linked to antisocial behaviour. For some, the suppression of feelings is not necessarily a sign of psychological frailty but the reverse, an adaptive and healthy response. Conversely, being forced to discuss emotions can lead to self-pity and introspection. The expression of uninhibited emotion is fashionable, but there also is much to be said for bottling it up, for private consolation.
This is heresy within the trauma industry. Afterf 9/11, the US Government launched Project Liberty to encourage New Yorkers to undergo counselling: Feel free to feel better said the slogan. The organisers expected at least 1.5 million people to seek help, but after eight months less than one tenth of that number had turned up. With ingenious logic, some psychotherapists then claimed that the low turnout showed that New Yorkers did not know, or refused to admit, how deeply traumatised they were. It seems more likely that they had found solace elsewhere: with friends, family and within themselves.
Humanity is tougher, and more buoyant, than the practitioners of pop psychology would have us believe. Once it was a sign of weakness to seek therapy. Many of those touched by earlier wars simply refused to talk about the experience. Today the cultural pressure runs in the opposite direction, to the point where the person who seeks his own succour, in silence, is failing to address the inner demons.
There is no emotionally correct response to shock: some gain strength from airing their feelings; others do not. It is entirely right that the damaged individual should want to seek comfort through professional therapy, but equally there is nothing ignoble in walking away, like the stunned commuter at Aldgate station, and going home to have a bath, a drink and a think. He did not consider himself a victim in need of psychological help, and nor did Winnie the Pooh.
We have about 8 brown bears eating salmon out of the stream a 1/4 mile away, including a moma and two cubs. Where's the pooh bear when you need him ;-)
A Biblical, Christian perspective on therapy can be found here.
Much to the benefit of their wallets, pyschobabblists have convinced us that the opposite is now true.
They've managed to win either way, like the ugly admirer who tells you that the more you resist, the more he/she knows you're interested.
Losing sight of the fact that after a while lavender will "seem too judgemental" to these emotional wrecks as well.
Traditional playground games such as tag are being replaced by new, stress-free games in which no one can ever suffer from being out
Never heard of such a game. In games there are winners and losers. Some hit HRs, some strike out. Some hit nothing but net, some heave up air balls. Competition is essential to kids' development, as is learning how to both win and lose.
And how many NY counselors sought out counseling post-911, and was that counseling tainted because the counselor him/herself was in need of counseling? IOW, were NYC counselors handing out sub-standard counseling post-911? The gubmint needs to investigate this potential case of "Tainted Counseling"....;^)
There's one quibble I have...the hunters who killed Bambi's mother were okay, but they didn't kill ENOUGH deer.
They're ubiquitous these days. A high school kid dies in an auto accident, or of an overdose, and always the news accounts, usually in the first paragraph, note that grief counselors have been dispatched to the school of the victim.
Bad things happen, folks. Buck up. Deal with it.
What positions are college grads interviewing for these days? Far too often, it's "grief counselors," corporate "human resource managers," and "diversity managers."
Evidently, the business of America (and Ivan's UK) is no longer business, but hand holding.
Therapy is surely a growth industry (and an industry it certainly is), although it can actually do more harm than good. Sometimes letting out those emotions just drives you into deeper despair which, of course, requires more therapy, and on, and on.
There's something to be said for good old-fashioned stiff upper lip stoicism. It works. I'm not at all convinced talk therapy does.
I think it depends on the person. Some people get benefits talking to others about their troubles, some don't, and if you're a talk about it person and you don't have anybody to talk with then a shrink is probably a good idea. And some people just never learned how to deal with reality which shrinks can be good for. But I've never been one of those talk about it kind of guys, which is funny because I've always been one of those people that's willing to listen and advice, but whenever I start thinking about talking through my troubles I just feel like I'm being whiney.
If I'm depressed or bereaved (like after my best friend's recent suicide), I don't go to some touchy-feely quack of a "therapist".
Far from it! I use the time-tested remedy of BOOZE.
Given a choice between airing my "feelings" to some therapist and a bottle of rum, I'll pick the rum every time.
I have a special place in my heart for "human resource managers", and it's not in the nice place.
9 times out of 10, they can be found loafing in their offices, painting their nails or something like that, while everyone else is doing the actual work.
And 30% of servicemen returning from Iraq develop a disorder (thread echo, echo, echo... Am I hearing things? And what's with this closed bracket to the right of this text? Shouldn't it be more parenthetical?)
The standard double jeopardy of the psychologist. You're in denial. Really, the only thing they have to offer is labels and pills.