I just listened to a Wisecrack-produced video titled "Is Therapy Speak... Gaslighting Us?" I like it.
This video highlights similar things to what I was trying to talk about in one of my more recent blog posts, "Trending trauma." The video describes the ways therpy-speak has entered the everyday discourse of the secular populace.
I like how the video says, "Mental Health has become the great smokescreen for the ills of neoliberalism." I often feel this when I hear about people trying to treat anxiety, when the fact remains that living in this society is very difficult and stressful.
I was thinking about the invasion of therapeutic language into our everyday discourse while I watched an episode of Ted Lasso last night. It was the Amsterdam episode, where numerous characters make steps forward in their characterization and development. For most of these characters, they had conversations that sounded like therapy, filled with self-reflection that sounded more like a counselling session than a conversation. It was a great episode, admittedly, but it hung on an understanding that talking-about-our-problems-in-a-counselling-sort-of-way is an inherently good thing to do.
Seven or eight years ago, I went through a series of self-help books. I've probably written about this before, but here I'll just say that I was going through a lot and I wanted to be able to figure out what was going on. I read three or four of these books, likely starting with Marshall Rosenburg's Nonviolent Communication, and moving on from there. These books gave me a new vocabulary for communicating my feelings; they also empowered me to allow myself to have needs and desires, things that I'd suppressed for most of my life before that point.
However, by self-help book five or six, I started so see the pattern. Each of these books seemed to be essentially saying the same things, and they were all speaking the same language: needs, desires, trauma, self, advocate, believe, etc.. In a way, they were all the same book.
In addition, when I tried to use the language I was learning in situations where I thought it might help, that language always backfired. It took me a while to realize that the language was good and clear, but it also had a place: therapeutic settings. It wasn't meant to be used in a fight, or even between two people trying to sort out their problems. It was intended to be used in within the walls of the therapy office. Over the last five years or so, I've tried to stay away from using language that, well I don't think really fits in everyday speak.
Which has made it strange to watch things like that episode of Ted Lasso, an episode that relies heavily on "Concept Creep," I guess, where all these people can talk like therapists, and, well, it kinda' gets somewhere?
But I'm not convinced that making therapeutic language our everyday language... works. At least for me, when I rely on therapeutic language, my ideas overall get confused, and my solutions feel more empty. Therapy-talk mashes my feelings into a discourse that inherently complicates concepts and ideas. It leads from trying to talk about feelings into a place of preambles and hedges.
When discussing the inner self, I think it's always best to streamline language into simple chunks. Where a preamble or redefinition might be needed, it's best to simplify and rephrase. I try to make things as comprehensible in the moment. That's it. I don't succeed in this often, but I feel like I'm happier when it works.
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