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i too dream of a Marxist therapy

with 8 comments

 Go read the whole thing at k-punk:

The opposite of social confidence and its attendant sense of entitlement, its urbane at- homeness-in-the-world, is a sense of inferiority, a constant worry about whether one should occupy certain spaces, the quietly panicky conviction that ‘surely they can see that I don’t belong here’. A sense of inferiority is so much a part of the background noise of my existence that until really quite recently I had tended to assume that it is a universal feature of human experience. That sense of – inherent, ontological – inferiority wasn’t something that I railed against; rather, it was so naturalized that it was barely noticed, but constantly felt, distorting all my encounters with people and the world. (But of course, under capitalism, there is no social interaction that isn’t distorted by class position, no neutral social field that exists beyond social antagonism). I suppose I had my first conscious tastes of inferiority when, in the school holidays, I went with my mother, who worked as a cleaner, to the houses of the well-to-do. Feeling lesser simply wasn’t an issue; it was experienced as a non-contestable fact. At least now – and this is partly thanks to CBT – I am aware both of the way in which that the sense of ontological inferiority colours my experience – sometimes I can practically sense it as an entity, a grey vampire squatting on my shoulders, heavy and draining; and I have learned to reduce its power, if not to eliminate it. One of the other tensions that constantly came up with my therapist was over the cause of this feeling of inferiority: for me, it was clearly a class issue, and I dream of a Marxist therapy that could address the pyschic wounds of class society.

I’ve not, for a long time, been very sympathetic to the notion or practice of therapy (whether k-punk’s imagined Marxist variety or just plain on talking cure type stuff), nor have I had much time for therapy’s instantiation in the business of literary study. Lately, though, due to the fact that I’ve had some first hand experience of the thing for the first time in my life, I think I’m headed back in the other direction on the issue. Maybe one day I’ll post more about it. We’ll see.

But I will say that class-issues do seem very hard to get at in these situations. One goes in because one is frustrated with one’s work – perhaps because one is in fact the American technocratic version of the Brit “ruling class” that k-punk describes – and the therapist only wants to talk about sex. Sex is really important, don’t get me wrong. But it is possible, or even probable, that it’s my job, the expectations that I was endowed with as a young kid, the fact that I do extremely well by almost any standard but it just seems like worthless shit constantly, forever and ever, and will continue to do so, or so it looks, until the day that I die…

Blogging is a strange symptom of this problem as well, in case that wasn’t readily clear already.

Written by adswithoutproducts

July 9, 2007 at 11:25 am

8 Responses

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  1. ha, I’ve got a big post on the medicalization of sex in therapy coming up v soon…

    mark k-punk

    July 9, 2007 at 6:39 pm

  2. I don’t know; sure, therapy can produce quietism and self-centeredness, but I don’t think it’s all bad — and if depression and a crushing sense of inferiority discourage working-class people from participating in any resistant, uh, stuff, then it makes sense that they’ll need help on a psychological as well as a pragmatic or political level.

    Look at the consciousness-raising (CR) feminist groups from the 60s (ok yeah sometimes they became parodies of themselves but when they worked they were incredibly effective). Women, as an oppressed group, were taught (are taught) subservience and to lack confidence, a state of anxiety that paralyzed them and made women blame themselves for society’s shortcomings. The slogan of the CR groups — “the personal is the political” not only makes you see that it is the system that is fucked up, and not you, but also helps you to see that only large-scale social change will ameliorate the problem (which counteracts the individual-centeredness of traditional therapy).

    Now the problem of feeling overwhelmed and burnt out by the notion of having to change the world to make your individual life better is a separate, perhaps thornier, problem.

    Sisyphus

    July 9, 2007 at 9:29 pm

  3. No, I believe it. This was meant to be a measuredly pro-therapy post, though it didn’t come out quite that way did it? You’re right about the CR issue, at least in the best of cases and under the right historical conditions.

    Now the problem of feeling overwhelmed and burnt out by the notion of having to change the world to make your individual life better is a separate, perhaps thornier, problem.

    Yes. And that’s sort of my issue, in a way, and for the less-than-saintly reasons that k-punk names in his post.

    CR

    July 9, 2007 at 9:33 pm

  4. ha, I’ve got a big post on the medicalization of sex in therapy coming up v soon…

    Looking forward to it… By the way, you’ve been doing a really great job lately, mark…

    CR

    July 9, 2007 at 9:34 pm

  5. I read K-Punk’s entry and I understand what he is saying about self-confidence and entitlement, because as a woman I notice this in men at different times and in different situations. As someone from a middle-class background, I know the other side of this too. I think the privileged position can come with a sense of entitlement, but I disagree that there is a solid self-confidence. Most middle-class women are plagued by anxieties about ‘keeping up’ with that role. I think that both in captialism and patriarchy, those who fall on the favoured pole are as equally ‘trapped’ in conditioned social relations as those on the oppressed and exploited end of the pole. For a middle-class man this means keeping in line with acceptable forms of masculinity and success. And, one’s existence can seem like ‘worthless shit’ if we’re playing someone else’s game…even if we are winning at it!!!

    And, yes, blogging is also ruined by all the ego mania. I think you are on the right track with the group blog…I hate my blog and blogging these days…to get my assignments done and also regularly add interesting content to my blog would require me to forego the rest of life and blah to that!

    Polly Jones

    July 16, 2007 at 1:53 pm

  6. “One goes in because one is frustrated with one’s work… and the therapist only wants to talk about sex.”

    Based on several recommendations I read Fink’s book on Lacan. Very good, very stimulating until he gets to Part 2, the diagnoses and case studies. A guy who can only get it up with sluts. A woman who thought she hated her father, but it turns out she really hates her mother for making her hate her father. I can’t imagine myself listening to more than a couple hours of this crap. Go home, save your money, I can’t help you.

    I went out for Mexican food with an old friend who told me about his latest consulting contract. The cable company wants to extend its reach into the “cash economy;” i.e., people too poor to have a checking account or credit card. This demographic already watches 1.4 hours more TV than the norm; just think how much jouissance they’d be pulling in through cable.

    Next day my friend emailed me a blog link to some pianist who between performances records his musings on music and culture. Observes my friend: “his writings made me think of the type of people you would like to have as clients, although this guy seems at ease with the world.” My reply: “Reflecting back on our enjoyable recent outing I’ve come to regard your consulting gig as paradigmatic for the kind of dilemma faced by the contemporary worker in the intelligence sector of the economy. I suppose the type of person I’d like to have as a client would be someone who’s doing that sort of gig and isn’t at ease with the world.”

    portalic

    July 20, 2007 at 7:05 pm

  7. […] Like therapy itself, the show can handle what happens or doesn’t happen in the bedroom, but completely sidesteps […]

  8. […] and not to be gone into here. But these stories happen to be the very sort of stuff that a form of therapy that would be able to work between the traditional registers of psychoanalysis and issues of class […]


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