Monday, February 19, 2007

Triumph of the Therapeutic

I borrow my title from culture critic Philip Rieff who argued in his 1965 book of the same name, if I may vastly oversimplify, that the rise of the Freudian therapeutic ethos marks the end of a culture in which authority rests in a system of shared beliefs and experiences.

What Rieff just doesn't get is how awesome the therapeutic culture can be! Just look at all the things that therapy can do. It can cure you of alcohol-related antisemitism and stupidity-related outbursts of public racism. It can even cure you of booze-fueled sexual predation and wanton abuse of public elected office.

Amazingly, therapy can cover all the angles. It can cure you of homophobia and using the "f-word" at the Golden Globes, but it can also cure you of the scourge of homosexuality! In only four weeks of intensive therapy, for example, it was discovered that Ted Haggard is "completely heterosexual" and his years of drug-fueled sex romps with a gay prostitute were merely "acting-out situations". I'm sure most completely heterosexual men can relate.

While Haggard's story is impressive, it doesn't show the full, amazing power of therapy like another recent story. Britney Spears—a shining symbol of today's therapeutic culture if there ever was one—required only one day of therapy to learn that her problems didn't come from drugs and alcohol, or horrible romantic decisions, or a terrible taste in friends, or post-partum depression, or sheer stupidity. No, Britney's problems come from all that long, lustrous hair.

Clip, clip—problem solved! Another victory for the therapeutic culture. Take that, Philip Rieff!
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