The goal of therapy

Therapy is about helping people feel more comfortable. It aims to help them feel less “distress”.

Let’s leave aside the question of whether therapy achieves that and/or the question of what price might be exacted in terms of self-respect and authenticity for achieving that. Let’s allow that therapy can help people achieve that.

Is it a worthwhile goal? The fact is that anyone who sets a life-goal which has themselves as the end is living a life which falls far short of what human beings can achieve.  To make comfort, personal pleasure, not feeling “distress” – which all comes to the same thing – your aim in life is to live a diminished life.

Any worthwhile life starts with setting an aspiration which takes you higher than your personal state of comfort. Making the happiness of your wife and children your goal in life is already a far higher aim that simply securing your personal comfort. This doesn’t mean being in therapy yourself and expressing your ‘care’ for your partner by sending them to therapy too. A family where each member has enough therapy so they don’t feel too much distress in daily living is hardly a family; it is a collection of narcissisms. There are many goals a person can choose which take them beyond themselves. It might be to get very good at a sport (to give pleasure to spectators, to teach it), to produce a work of art, to contribute to the political development of your country. There are manifold ways a person can aim for something higher than their own personal comfort. Someone who has a goal higher than their personal comfort may naturally pay some attention to their personal comfort; but only up to a point. It is not the end. They are prepared to suffer discomfort when that helps them achieve their goal.

Therapy sets a very low benchmark for life. It diminishes everyone who comes into contact with it. Therapy is diametrically opposed to the worthwhile path in life.

Therapy is vaguely aware of this and tries to compensate with some propaganda that being “in therapy” makes you a virtuous person of some kind. But this is a vacuous claim.

In the vast majority of cases when people are “in therapy” they are making their problems worse. Endlessly circling around discussing themselves as if they themselves were the most important thing in life. (One therapist referred to this as clients “rooting around like pigs in their own emotional shit” – but this is precisely what therapy encourages). In the vast majority of cases the best bet would be for the person to find a goal which takes them out of themselves.

The problem with this culture is an excessive self-preoccupation. (Necessarily concomitant with an economy which emphasises the individual over the collective). Therapy is part of this. The oil which makes the ghastly machine work.




Author: justinwyllie

EFL Teacher and Photographer