Saturday, April 25, 2015

psychotherapy & landscape

In a few days, I'll move from the house where I've been staying (the home of an essayist & naturalist) to another house where I'll be house-sitting (the home of a poet friend of mine). This has been a lovely place to be for six weeks. I'm so thankful.

While here, I found a book of meditations. I'd like to quote one of the meditations, written by James Hillman. I'd really be curious to hear what you people think of these words. They're about psychotherapy, and one key reason why it might not "work" very well in many contexts. The meditation begins with this editor's note: "Anima mundi describes the belief that our souls are not just within us but also in nature and in the world, and that damage done to the world is damage done to our souls."

Now here's Hillman:

"Let's take a husband and wife in a modern suburb, and they fight about drink and money and in-laws and love and little habits. Then he goes to analysis and she goes to analysis and the y ork on the relationship, and they are good sincere patients who try--group therapy, team or office therapy, family therapy, sex therapy--they get it all together as human decent people. They may even go to Church. And still there is a terrible misery going on, because the room in which they're set, its low ceiling, thin hollow doors, the bed, the dishes, the TV programs, the magazines, the light tubes, the furniture they have around them, and so on and so on, the whole world of material things, verbal things, institutional things in which their marriage is set is nasty, brutish, ugly, cheap, shoddy, vicious--without soul at all. Fake. How can they possibly straighten out their situation if the whole stage set including the lines in the script are fake?

"Wait--let me go on. Psychotherapy is something very strange in a world like this. It used to rely on a bourgeois world that had certain values and kinds of things, qualities, that had to be seen through, with irony, with skepsis. See the repressed. But that world has disappeared. The politics, language, education, institutions that upheld the marriage disappeared, the buildings, streets, lights, food, words, table and chairs are gone: but psychotherapy still works as if all that scenery is still around, analyzing the marriage with theories of 1920 in a 1980 set. Unless psychotherapy takes into account the sickness of the world, it can never really work, because the anima mundi is sick now. Pathology is "out there." You feel it on the highway, you feel it in the car, you feel it in your sense that something is out of tune, false or ugly or unemotional or without soul or vapid or sexless, tasteless. How can psychoanalysis justify itself, two people in a room talking?"

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