Bad therapy? Woke or some good points

by May 14, 2024Newsletter0 comments

Approx. Reading Time: 11 minutes

Woke, cancelled and too certain

I recently, not for the first time, had an unsettling experience of reading a book that I really hated, and yet found that, despite myself, I was agreeing with much in it. The book is Bad Therapy, below, which has been creating a stir, and is largely a critique of child therapy and therapy culture. It does set up a straw man to easily knock down, suggesting that our culture, especially school culture and parenting beliefs systems, have been taken over by a psychobabble dominated world that does more harm than good.

She points to the massive increase in mental health issues like anxiety and depressive disorders which has also coincided with the increase in therapy culture. She bemoans the trend for thinking that empathising with feelings is always a good thing, suggesting that we can actually grow even stronger difficult feelings when we amplify them.

This is typical of what I feel mixed about. I have seen a gazillion times how children, and adults, calm quickly down when feelings are borne, contained and empathised with. Yet I also agree that there is a trend to assume that if someone feels something in response to what we say then it must be our fault, and that if anyone is ‘triggered’ we must be held responsible for doing the ‘triggering’. This is one of my main issues with what I think is a mis-construal of the good ideas that have come out of trauma informed care.

The author makes too many slippages for me to be able to recommend the book; a beautiful baby is thrown out with the dirty bathwater. True there are bad therapists, true that many in school settings overly use therapy speak with insufficient training, true the world (especially Instagram and tiktok worlds) are full of inane pop-psychology, true asserting one has a psychological issue can be used as an ‘excuse’ to not do (exams etc), true there is far too much diagnosis and indeed, medication, and really true, there is too much helicopter parenting and not enough time to play and be a child. Much in the book I agree with, including the deleterious effect of technology and social media, the power of pharmaceuticals, and the the importance of authoritative (not authoritarian) parenting, and the fact that children are too molly-coddled and too many are lacking in grit and resilience. But making headlines by knocking down straw men and ignoring the subtle nuanced complexity of what we are seeing, and the work of well trained experienced therapists, does us all a disservice.

I often feel something similar listening to the much derided Jordan Peterson who often has really intelligent sensible things to say but falls into the trap of playing to the gallery of the neoliberal right. This leads to more polarization. In the book pictured below, The Parasitic Mind, Gad Saad, who has been praised by Peterson, takes swipe after swipe at the liberal/left-leaning tendencies that can lead to many of us living in fear of being cancelled. This was also an uncomfortable read, another book I wanted to chuck out of the window at times. The logic makes sense. Are trendy ideas taking over supposedly scientific institutions so that actual free thinking is suffering? He takes some powerful, but also some cheap shots at what he calls ‘ideas pathogens’ including the agendas around gender, race, privilege, social constructionism and much more. The trouble is I agree with a lot of what he says, despite not wanting to. I think it is inappropriate for journals, for example, to demand that people write a position statements when they submit a paper, as if ones gender identity, ethnicity or number of ACEs or privilege should be a factor in whether a scientific paper should be published or not. I am shocked that academics are being removed for things like getting pronouns wrong. I also agree that there are issues with the new censorship seen by, not governments, but social media. But I am not buying into the whole trope, and I so yearn, when reading such books, for the subtlety of a Bionian ability to stay in uncertainty. Sadly such schismatic polarisation is rife, perhaps particularly with regard to the Middle East, and of course gender and trans issues, to name but a few. So this is really just a plea for a degree of bearing non-knowing.

and the below does not help, and no wonder young people are not having sex! I hope to review Jonathon Haidt’s book next time on the negative impact of screen life.

and please forward to anyone who might be interested
I am trying something new this month in terms of offerings. Instead of offering one of my own or a colleague’s papers I have signed up to a bookfunnel bundle offer and if you click below you will get access to a range of free psychology/self help chapters or whole books which can be downloaded. I have not read what is on there yet so i cannot vouch for any of it, except there’s a chapter of Repark on offer, but I am really interested to hear if anyone found accessing such a bundle useful.

Just because I liked the picture

One great we have lost:

Sad to note the loss of Daniel Kahenman (above), a true great. here’sthe guardian obituary. The Nobel prize winner is probably best known for his most popular book Thinking Fast, Thinking Slow, although I was reading him for years before that in trying to make links between the psychoanalytic ideas about the unconscious and those of modern psychology and the whole concept of heuristics.
I loved how he showed the bad logic most of us use in our decision making, mainly due to irrational emotional investments.
Here isa relatively recent podcast with him and Adam Grant, also an interesting thinker.
His nuanced thinking and his understanding of bias and prejudice is an important antidote to the kind of polarization and certainly we are seeing so much of.
This is one of my favourite stories of his was: ‘It must have been late 1941 or early 1942. Jews were required to wear the Star of David and to obey a 6 p.m. curfew. I had gone to play with a Christian friend and had stayed too late. I turned my brown sweater inside out to walk the few blocks home. As I was walking down an empty street, I saw a German soldier approaching. He was wearing the black uniform that I had been told to fear more than others – the one worn by specially recruited SS soldiers. As I came closer to him, trying to walk fast, I noticed that he was looking at me intently. Then he beckoned me over, picked me up, and hugged me. I was terrified that he would notice the star inside my sweater. He was speaking to me with great emotion, in German. When he put me down, he opened his wallet, showed me a picture of a boy, and gave me some money. I went home more certain than ever that my mother was right: people were endlessly complicated and interesting.’

A poem by Jan Richardson: What Abides
You will know
this blessing
by how it
does not stay still,
by the way it
refuses to rest
in one place.
You will recognize it
by how it takes
first one form,
then another:
now running down
the face of the mother
who watches the breaking
of the child
she had borne,
now in the stance
of the woman
who followed him here
and will not leave him
Now it twists in anguish
on the mouth of the friend
whom he loved;
now it bares itself
in the wound,
the cry,
the finishing and
final breath.
This blessing
is not in any one
of these alone.
It is what
binds them
It is what dwells
in the space
between them,
though it be torn
and gaping.
It is what abides
in the tear
the rending makes.

CHILD, the BBC radio 4 podcast ,Child, Radio 4: This has been a great series. Although I was asked to contribute a tiny bit, I have learnt so much from it.

The remaining episodes have now been released, do listen I make a brief appearance in episodes 20 (play), 24 (attachment) and 26 (nursery) as well as in episodes 1, 7 and 9 so farhere.

Also check outIndia Rakusen’sother podcasts, eg Witches, its amazing listen here

blossom outside my house.. now disappearing

Some upcoming events

A few of mine and a few others of interest below:

May 21, 2024

Caspari lecture: The Body is no Brain-Taxi

Event Link
annual lecture for Caspari
Organiser: Caspari FoundationLocation: online

May 29, 2024

Talk on attachment, trauma and compassion

Paris, Visio Conference on
Organiser: Compassionate Mind foundation, franceLocation: online
May 31, 2024 & June 7, 2024

Resparking. Working with numbed states

A days training
Organiser: Psychological Training, Cornwall .Location: St Austell details here
June 21, 2024

Traumatic roots of forensic presentations: Early experience and attachment

Organiser: Sussex Partnership NHS TrustLocation: Brighton

And a few other amazing looking ones:

Working with Complex Trauma, Tavistock Centre, 26th April details here

Brent Centre: Adolescence Now June 22nd details here

Reveries: Dreaming Across the Lifecycle : Great speakers here, in Manchester 6th July details here

Some blogs

A rather shocking personal account by an adult of their analysis as a child with Edna O’Shaughnessy read here

Brilliant ideas in The Big Think, about Blind Spots in science and the importance of human experience .. there’s a a book called Blind Spot too read here

Jean Twenge, Why gen x’ers dont read much, even academically bright ones : A really important blog by excellent researcherread here

A nice article courtesy of Rob Glanz , Regrets (and in ones 90th decade!) read here

My writing, formats and Bookfunnel
I am temporarily leaving aside my book on prenatal life and pregnancy. I had intended to publish independently, like Respark, but one generous soul, a journalist who I asked to endorse the book, loved it and suggested I get an agent to get a wider audience, so i am trying that and otherwise I will publish in the next few months (and then get on with other guides) . Loads of you sent in stories which are in there, I cant thank you enough
In case you forgot (!), Nurturing Natures 3rd edition is out now.
cheapest deal, psychological therapy books
available on amazon

‘RESPARK’ is also available in all the formats below

A ‘cheaper than Audible’ audio version of Respark is available here

The ebook version is available and there is a 25% discount withthis link
Audio hereand onSpotify and other platforms

The physical book and ebook is available from amazon or psychological therapy books or Karnac here,

Please do leave a review anywhere you buy it, it really helps a lot

Affect and Emotion (the new edition)

An ebook version of Affect and Emotion is availablehereat £4.99 and a further 25% discount availableon this link
Also here onamazon or psychological therapy books. only about 6 quid too!

Click on links below to view or buy these:
Nurturing Natures,
Affect and Emotion
Nurturing Children,
The Good Life,
From Trauma to Harming others
For other journal papers and chapters papers and chapterssee here

A few recently read, mainly non-therapy books
(get links to the books by clicking on the pictures)
Yes this bookBad Therapy by Abigail Shrier, is the one I mentioned above
and the other one I mentioned,The Parasitic Mind by Gad Saad
Hunter, Gatherer Parent by Michaeleen Doucleeff. Another top selling parenting book which I was interested to read but not bowled over by. It uses evolutionary and anthropological thinking to try to outline why we are parenting in a way that is not helpful for us or our children.
Milk: An Intimate History of Breastfeeding by Joanna Wolfarth. A very fascinating and at times painful read, taking in subjects like the pressure on women to breastfeed, the history of non-maternal breastfeeding, really interesting socio- cultural and biological facts but what keeps us interested is her personal narrative threaded through the book.
My Mess is a Bit of Life, Georgia Pritchett: This was a gift that I did not expect to enjoy it but I did. A painful autobiographical book, which tries very hard to be funny, as she is a comedy writer, but also tells stories about her life that are touching and sad. personally i could have done with less jokes but I still enjoyed it.
Prophet Song by Paul Lynch: This won the Booker prize and had me hooked. A dystopian novel about Ireland at a time not so different from ours, but where there is a military fascistic takeover. At times it is harrowing but also engaging and I cared about the characters and it grabbed me emotionally. Possibly most importantly, it does send quite a warning about any complacency about how safe our democracies might be
Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi. A somewhat quirky funny and touching book, the conceit of which is a cafe where it is possible to go back to the past from but not change that past. It is about how we feel about our lives, regret, hope acceptance. I liked it anyway!

A few interesting podcasts

Lex Fridman interviews Sean Carroll on quantum physics, relativity and mind curdling ideas in a way that even I thought I got understand some of itlisten here

Talks on Psychoanalysis: Salman Akhtar on the life instinctlisten here

The placebo effect: A well put together and fascinating account by Andrew Hubermanlisten here

The astoundingly fascinating Donald Hoffman on The proof that reality is an Illusion: What is behind space-time?listen here

And finally …
Bad therapy joke:
My therapist told me write letters to the people who you hate and burn them later. I did that. But now what should I do with the letters?

Phew, that’s it! Thanks for reading everyone

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