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Shrink, Cure Yourself First


Val is a life-long practically oriented student of effective emotional and attitudinal responses to the many challenges of life.


A Strange Bunch of Professionals

From my high school Latin lectures in my native Croatia, I still remember many of those "Dicta et Sententiae" -- or proverbs -- hence this one used in the title of this post, albeit a little modified.

"Medico, cura se" -- meaning "doctor, cure yourself", while I just changed it to fit a shrink. And I mean any mental health professional, from a psychiatrist, to psychotherapist, to clinical psychologist, to psychoanalyst...well, a shrink.

Let me start by asking you, the reader, one simple question:

Would you ever take your car to a mechanic if you knew that his own car was sitting there in a condition beyond his ability to repair it? Then, how could we explain that many of those above mentioned professionals get paid for fixing others' emotional issues -- while being unable to fix their own?

Am I saying this because, maybe, I had some bad experience with that profession, and now I am getting even here? Please, don't bother analyzing, I am far from a need for those services -- it's simply that, while being a studious freak in matters of mental health, I happened to notice these things about those professionals.

First would come to mind a confession by an online psychologist, how a great number of young people undertake that line of study in hope to find a cure for themselves.

Others, in addition, want to meet patients/clients with similar issues to theirs, so that maybe they can find a healing thread in a process of working with them. You know, others sometimes give us clues which we keep buried in ourselves, and only by recognizing them in others can we relate to them and benefit somehow.

But then, there are other, more shining examples of shrinks who needed a therapy more than their patients.

Take that "father" of psychoanalysis, Dr. Sigmund Freud for an example. The dude made himself the name by shocking the medical community with introduction of unconscious roots of neurosis, but even more so by exposing the suppressed sexual energy.

But then, while he would occasionally have a patient with a dysfunctional marriage, he, himself was an abusive husband. Besides, after several oral surgeries for removal of cancerous growths, he still continued smoking his cigars. How is that for academically smart dude? He died by an arranged suicide.

What makes you wonder is, how is it that his psychoanalysis is still taught at universities -- after he obviously couldn't use it to fix his own mind.

The story of, once, his colleague, Carl Jung, is not that terrible, albeit he also, at the peak of his career of a psychoanalyst and a famed scholar, admitted about his long contemplated suicide.

The third gentleman-shrink, and he should be remembered as that, was Jacques Lacan, a Parisian bonvivant, called a "charlatan" by Noam Chomsky, a fine scholar who used to know him personally. Lacan was allegedly sexually abusing his female clients, slapping others "who were too slow to understand him", and charging for a 10 minute session the full fee. He died rich, with a legacy of a hard to understand theoretical cosmetics, for which to this days there are study groups.

So much about some famous shrinks who needed a shrink themselves.


A Fancy Sounding Art -- Not a Reliable Science

Socially, not as a patient or a client, I had an opportunity to know a few of such shrinks, and my layman's impressions were definitely calling for their own extensive therapy.

Now, doesn't it look amazing, that statistically, the success rate in the field of mental therapy is quite low -- making you wonder why it is even parading as a "science". I mean, the way how they sound so eloquent with a well developed fancy terminology, one would assume that they know what they are talking about.

It's almost as if they are coming from a well established line of study heavily supported by exact sciences like chemistry, or physics, or even medicine.

Although, in quite a few ways, medicine is also still in diapers, despite its somewhat arrogant pose of having the right answers to many questions that are unanswerable because of the incredible complexity of the human being.

And while even medicine is still tapping in the dark, so much more of the same can be said about psychology. What it is basically trying to do is to squeeze the whole mystery of humanness into their pet theories -- so they are interpreting human behavior merely as seen through the prism of what they are assuming there.

Human intimate truth is not predictable as those few chemical compounds put together and under the same conditions always giving the same results. Here, another of my Latin saying comes to mind:

"Si duo faciunt idem -- non est idem". -- or, "If the two do the same is not same". We can't extract a few fragments from a selectively told story by a patient and build a "case" from that -- because of enormous variables possible.

It's not like my appendix looking like yours, so the good surgeon shouldn't have problem of recognizing both as the same organ.

During a therapy, that human factor can also play a big role, for that very reason of the therapist himself not being a "reliable instrument" to measure and recognize a feature in the patient's issues.

Since psychology is basically an art, the "artist" is using their empathy, not only some cold, objective parameters -- and that's where an unresolved therapist's issue may contaminate both diagnosing and the therapeutic procedure.


Shrinks That Need Therapy

Up there I mentioned those few shrinks that I personally met in socializing circumstances. Being a life long enthusiast about mysteries of human nature, each time I was looking forward to meeting those "embodiments of professional wisdom". Didn't see all of them at the same time, but that first one already gave me a hint at what I might expect to find at any next one that I might encounter..

She was a depressed divorcee, having problems with her daughter and father-in-law who was taking side with his son in their marital dispute. Need I say more?

Of course, shrinks are also only fallible human beings, and the question is not about the unfortunate outcomes of their relationships, but how they are handling them. For, I can almost hear them giving advice to some heart-broken wife:

"This is not the end of the world. Remember yourself from times before you knew him. Who were you then? Pick the pieces of your life from that time and mobilize that best in yourself to make your next relationship functional."

I didn't see any even remote sign of that in her. She was a broken woman; and if you really want to know what I was telling her, read the paragraph above. She looked at me, gave me a kind of sad smile, and said a quiet "thanks". Then we joined the others, both somewhat uncomfortable about that reversed roles we took back there.

The other one of those in that group of shrinks was a hard core psychoanalyst, who religiously believed, along with her "intellectual Papa Freud" that our childhood traumas are providing all the keys to later in life dysfunctional relationships and neurotic emotionality.

But, while she was having a pretty secure and loving home as a kid, she actually acted like quite an insecure person, with well overdeveloped defense mechanisms, and an attitude of academic vanity. Well, I enjoyed teasing her, asking those uncomfortable questions.

At one point I said: "All that such people need is an awakened sense of adult responsibility to snap out of childish models of emotionalism -- like they snapped out of wearing diapers with their toilet training".

Then her defense mechanisms kicked in, and she suddenly waved "Hi" to someone and left to talk to them, giving me a brief excusing gesture.

Needless to say, as she was saying "bye" to everyone later on, with quite a Freudian slip, or parapraxis, she somehow missed to say "bye" to me -- by accident, of course.

In my relatively long life I have seen an obese cardiologist, a dentist having brightly whitened teeth with yellow stains from nicotine, and yes -- a few of those car mechanics with lousy looking cars that were telling a different story from the framed certificate behind a dusty glass.

But somehow, more than by anyone of those professionals, I was affected by shrinks, maybe because I had naively expected them to enrich me a little in my own quest for self-advancement as a human being -- not to leave me wondering.

Eager to learn, sometimes we have to unlearn.

© 2021 Val Karas


Val Karas (author) from Canada on March 17, 2021:

John -- Your wife is a broad-minded lady; and I am not saying this because she agrees with some statements of my article, but because it takes a true intellectual integrity to say things against a line of study where one invested time, studious efforts, and money. Mrs. Hansen has my admiration for that.

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on March 17, 2021:

This was an interesting article, Val, and I can especially relate to it because my wife majored in psychology and Japanese at University, but declined to work in the field because she had the same opinion as you, that many of her fellow students, and most practitioners had their own problems they wanted to learn how to fix, and also that so much of the therapy methods taught seemed to be inflexible and “one size fits all.”

She detested Freud and thought how could such a flawed human being be called the father of psychology. Thank you for sharing,

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