aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
When I was 38 I had been in therapy for twenty years. I up and quit. The therapist, seeing me in her penthouse apartment, was visibly shaken. From then on I took to saying, “self-awareness is the most over-rated aspect of personal change.”
From a NYTimes interview of Dr. Owen Renik, an analyst questioning the self-perpetuating side of therapy:
Q. You place great emphasis in the book on symptom relief as the central measure of the effectiveness of therapy. Shouldn’t that be obvious?
A. Not necessarily. There is a tendency among psychoanalysts to pursue self-awareness as a goal in itself, rather than a means to an end. Originally, the idea was that the self-understanding that arose as a result of psychoanalysis was unique and impressive and valid because it afforded relief from symptoms that were otherwise impossible to treat.
If you don’t require that self-awareness be validated by symptom relief, there are two destructive consequences. The first is scientific. You have no independent variable to track; you set up a circular situation in which it’s the analyst’s theory that determines what is found in analysis. Many critics of psychoanalysis have recognized this.
But an equally important consequence is that you relieve the analyst of any accountability. The process can go on forever, and there are all kinds of temptations to extend it, including the therapist’s vanity, his inability to admit failure, his narcissism - and nobody likes lost income. The therapy then becomes an esoteric practice of proselytizing, rather than a discipline, and the proof of that is everywhere in the world, where fewer and fewer people go to analysis at all. If the therapy worked, people would be going.
Therapy is the norm in New York; leaving was a bold contrarian move. Here there’s just as much need (if not more!) but in this culture it is stigmatized, frowned upon and to seek it out is seen as a personal failing. Is there irony then in the fact that being here has driven me back to the therapist’s couch?
All of us like some of it but none of us likes all of it
What I’m saying is that rather than being ‘over,’ television has the opportunity to expand as never before. I just wrote an expansion of that Guardian column and some posts here for the magazine published by aforementioned Royal Television Society; I ended it this way: “All the limits that used to define television are gone. TV can now become whatever we want it to be.” I don’t look at the old, linear channels as the definition of TV; I look at them as the limitation on TV. [...]
Do we like the programmers’ linear TV schedules? Not much. That’s why God invented the remote control, VCR, PVR, and cable/satellite box: to give us choice and control over our consumption of media. Now we also have the power to create media.
I like Jarvis’s construction of “linear TV” and hope against hope and wholeheartedly agree that its time has past. Linear TV requires that all of those programmers fill up all of those channels with something, and often that something is anything that costs as little as possible because there’s so much time to fill and so few of us watching.
I invite anyone to look at the schedule of any media channel - broadcast, cable, satellite, radio; you name it, any channel - I think you will find that the majority of what is on that schedule is of no interest to you. Add it all up and you will find that the majority of what the content industry gives us we, individually, have no interest in.
All of us like some of it but none of us likes all of it and I see an opportunity here.
An advocate excited by the rise of peer-produced media, I certainly don’t think the hit or the high-quality series program is dead and destined to be replaced by You & Me TV. Rather, I think all that filler schlock that programmers use to take up all that time can go away. It will free them up to focus solely on higher quality fare and make some room for those of us who want to produce culture just as badly as we want to consume it.
There are two trends out there that I hope and expect to be borne out. In one, people are buying large screen high-definition home theater systems on which they want to display high-end high-quality professional media. In the other, screens are getting smaller and more widely distributed and ubiquitous. I expect the professionals to dominate that large-screen high-resolution space. I only hope they might be forced to cede some of those ubiquitous small screens to the rest of us.