Navel Gazing Not the Answer?

The other article I had in mind was this one by Lauren Slater in the New York Times last weekend. It’s interesting that both articles express skepticism about the value, especially the curative or therapeutic value, of the talking cure and also of the intervention of therapists after traumatic events. At last! I’ve been rolling my eyes and making sarcastic remarks for years whenever a news story informs us that a plane crashed or a crazed gunman shot up a school/fast-food joint/post office or an earthquake leveled a town, and in the next breath added that ‘counselors are on the way’. As if that helps. As if we can all heave a big sigh of relief because at least professionals will be there to deal with the trauma. As if they don’t in fact often make things worse, hounding people who want to head for a corner and curl up in the fetal position to ‘process the experience’ instead.

And just as Tavris points out in her article, practitioners have a tendency to ignore research and cling to the ideas they’ve grown attached to. There are studies which show that people who don’t want to talk about their traumas in fact do better than people who do. George Bonnano, a researcher Slater talked to, has this to say:

In the 1980’s, trauma became an official diagnosis, and people made their careers on it. What followed was a plethora of research on how to heal from trauma by talking it out, by facing it down. These people are not likely to believe in an alternative explanation. People’s intellectual inheritance is deeply dependent upon a certain point of view.

Yes, and self-absorption is the American way, as Slater wittily points out.

We believe that the human spirit is at its best when it expresses; the individualism that Tocqueville described in his book ”Democracy in America” rests on the right, if not the need, to articulate your unique internal state. Repression, therefore, would be considered anti-American, antediluvian, anti-art and terribly Teutonic.

Ah well. If enough people speak up, maybe we will eventually catch on that narcissism isn’t all that good for us after all.

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