Saturday, 2 April 2016

The Way of the Divan

Naturally you have to balance the mournful march of the Penitenti with the sprightly insights of a never having to say your sorry chapbook such as The Examined Life: How we Lose and Find Ourselves by Stephen Grosz. Not so much the Way of the Cross as the Way of the Divan.

As in most consulting rooms, the couch wasn’t a couch but a firm single bed with a dark fitted cover. At the head of the bed was a goose-down cushion, and on top of that a white linen napkin that I changed between patients.

This room is in Hampstead and the patients seem to be mostly of the private sort not referred to him by the N.H.S. if indeed you can actually get the sort of open ended treatment with no concept of what constitutes a cure on the National Health. Do practitioners still have to be qualified doctors as in North America? I think not but that stricture seems like having to be a meteorologist before you can rain dance. A 50 minute consultation costs from £40 to £100 according to an N.H.S. source who suggests that you might consider a private course. How does that make you feel?

The stories in the book range from 5 or 6 pages to 10 in length with plenty of white and 1.5 spacing between the lines. Neat insights emerge in these accounts but we are not told whether a change in behaviour ensues or even a firm purpose of amendment.

There’s Philip the Liar, a virtuoso confabulist, who at the age of 11 told his school chums that he had been recruited by M.I.5. He told his father-in-law, a sports journalist, that he was a sub on the U.K. mens archery team. It got serious with Grosz when after months of not paying his bill Philip told him that he had donated a month’s salary to the Freud Museum. In Ireland this individual would be a national treasure and generally regarded as great gas. There seems no genuine intent to mislead with these outlandish yarns. Grosz’s discernment of a possible cause for the deflection of reality was Philip’s bed wetting which his mother concealed by whisking away bedclothes and pyjamas and returning them dry and ironed without a word. According to his own report they never talked about this, there was just this private wordless care.
Philip’s lying was not an attack upon intimacy, though it sometimes had that effect. It was his way of keeping the closeness he had known, his way of holding on to his mother.
My View: Pull the other one Doc.

There’s a serious ethical question here- how is insight supposed to motivate. You may know why you’re doing something and you know it’s harmful and yet you don’t change. The point however is to change and there is no evidence presented in these snippety case histories that change occurs.

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