You already know the facts: Jared Loughner, an unhinged young man, fired a gun at a congresswoman and into a crowd, killing six and injuring eleven. Loughner has invoked his right to silence, leading the media to endlessly question his motives and influences. He was, according to friends, “totally normal” in high school. How did he get to this point, at age 22?

I don’t know the answer, but I think it will be depressingly pedestrian. Something went wrong in his brain, and he didn’t receive help. He shows all the signs of paranoid schizophrenia, which usually sets on in the early twenties. Whatever the answer, it’s unlikely to hold many real world lessons the way Columbine did; spree shootings, and shootings of political figures, are rare.

That hasn’t stopped political pundits from trying to milk the tragedy to gain political points. The shooting happened in Arizona, home of the controversial SB1070 bill. Loughner appeared to have a heavy marijuana habit. The right and the left have used these facts, and some wild accusations, to accuse each other of all manner of base misdeeds, most notably fostering a “climate of hate.”

Let’s discuss the word “hate” for a moment. Hatred is an emotion, like anger, joy, resentment, fear, and so on. It may be the basis for a political position, but it is not a position in itself. Everyone reading this has probably felt it at some point in their lives.

“Hate speech”––whatever that means––is free speech, even if it encourages hate in others. Fostering a “climate of hate” is just as legal as fostering a “climate of love,” provided you do not incite a mob to commit violence or threaten an individual.

“Hate groups” are, presumably, groups of people motivated by hate. Does that imply the existence of “love groups,” “pity groups,” “fear groups” and “feeling a bit peckish groups”? More to the point, how can you know if an entire group’s philosophy is built upon hatred? Probably you are projecting your own issues with their position onto them; you hate them, so therefore they must be full of hate.

As I mentioned in my essay on spirit day, correlation with increased violence is not sufficient reason to censor free speech. If intolerance of gays increases the suicide risk for gay teenagers, you can point out the correlation and complain, but you cannot force them to be tolerant, to change their views, or to shut up.

Likewise, if far-right or far-left rhetoric encourages paranoid schizophrenics to turn violent, that says nothing about the rightness or wrongness of the positions advocated. It’s more sensible, and more moral, to try to find these people before they turn violent than censor political discourse because someone might misinterpret it, however disastrously.

A frame from "Ecstasy in Entropy," a film by Nick Zedd.

A frame from "Ecstasy in Entropy," a film by Nick Zedd.

“Any film that doesn’t shock isn’t worth looking at,” Nick Zedd wrote in the Cinema of Trangression Manifesto. Are Zedd’s films still worth looking at, according to his own standard? Three decades after the heyday of no wave filmmaking, at a time when Jersey Shore and Bridalplasty are taken seriously, does the “cinema of transgression” still transgress?

Let’s say Zedd’s films still shock. Is his thesis correct? This is a larger question, beyond the scope of this review, but how you answer it will predict, to a great degree, how much you enjoy this collection.

“Abnormal: The Sinema of Nick Zedd” is a DVD collection of twelve Zedd films, made between 1980 and 2001. They Eat Scum, his most famous film, is not included. The films feature, among other things, pornography, surgical procedures, simulated strangulation, simulated necrophilia, simulated suicide, vomiting, menstruation, abrasive music and thermonuclear war. All of the films have low production values, and most are silent; the soundtrack is either a musical track, a medley of songs or narration of some kind.

The films are obscene in the most literal sense of the word. They are also difficult to watch. Explicit sex and simulated violence are in many of the films. One features a sex scene between a woman and a full-body burn victim, followed by credits superimposed over a close-up of eye surgery. The DVD’s first film ends with a young boy disappearing into a giant woman’s vagina. Even the “g-rated” films aren’t easy viewing: The Wild World of Lydia Lunch fits the dictionary definition of irony, as the wildest thing that happens is a dog running through a field.

“Obscenity is a very difficult question to discuss honestly,” Orwell wrote. “People are too frightened either of seeming to be shocked or of seeming not to be shocked, to be able to define the relationship between art and morals.” We can’t quite say that today; today, the very idea that there is a relationship between “art and morals” is almost shocking in itself. To the elite, the point of art is to appear to challenge their values without actually doing so––or, more correctly, to challenge somebody else’s values while affirming their own.

Nick Zedd in Thrust In Me, dir. Zedd and Richard Kern.

Nick Zedd self-stars in Thrust In Me, dir. Zedd and Richard Kern.

The paradox, of course, is that the very people these films shock are the ones least likely to see them. Those who seek them out seek them out because they like them, or because they fill some need best left unexplained. At best, a few souls will stumble upon a late-night showing of a Zedd or Kern or Buttgereit film on public access––but how likely is that, in an age where people can sue merely because they’ve been offended?

More than obscene, these films are short, rarely lasting more than 20 minutes. This is enough time to give a condensed, usually wordless narrative, or a filmed idea. Some of the films have no narrative at all, or a narrative that’s implied at best. The Wild World of Lydia Lunch includes a letter, tape-recorded by Lunch, detailing the financial and artistic woes of the letter-writer; as she narrates, we see her moping in her room and through the London streets. This film, though only 20 minutes, feels like a small eon; perhaps they play it on a loop in purgatory, to make the punishment seem longer.

Another question, more or less independent of the obscenity one, is whether a work of art has merit. Take away the controversial elements, or consider them independently, and ask yourself if the work has anything of value to say. In the Realm of the Senses is a pornographic film, but it also tells a story; if you remove every explicit scene, or keep them as is, the film remains a study of obsession. Whether real sex should be shown or not is a separate issue.

There’s one more artistic question, even more basic than the first two: do you care to experience this? All art is judged, in part, on the people who answer “yes” to this question. This is not a question of quality, though if no one says “yes,” the art cannot survive. If art ceases to fill a need, it dies, however beautiful or rare.

Nick Zedd.

Nick Zedd.

Which brings us back to the central problem with Zedd’s films. In an era such as ours, can eye surgery, oral sex, simulated rape or menstrual blood be really subversive––when mainstream television is encouraging brides to get plastic surgery for their wedding day, when “reality tv” makes soap operas look real and nuanced, when, thanks to the internet, we’re even more aware of the war, poverty and devastation that fills most of the world? In Zedd’s films, a few characters die, but rarely (if ever) more than one per film. In mainstream movies, directors routinely kill entire neighborhoods just to get the audience’s attention. How can you transgress something so thoroughly amoral?

I am not the first person to bring this up. “The desensitization itself is the perversion,” Eugene Hütz, a Ukranian musician (and occasional actor––in Zedd’s films as well as others) said in an interview. “For example, Nick Zedd…was extremely subversive. [His films] challenged the remains of the plastic façade, the ‘Totem of the Depraved’ that had the power. Now, the fucking mainstream television is the Totem of the Depraved.”

The question, then, isn’t if his films are worth watching by the standards of a manifesto, but if they’re worth watching for you. I think the answer depends greatly on who you are. If you are a film student, a performance artist or Lester Bangs, Zedd’s films may be right for you. If you are sensitive to guts, gore, sex or nudity, these films aren’t. If you are none of the above, I suspect you’ll only watch the films once, though I don’t know what impact they’ll have on you.

I honestly cannot say that any of Zedd’s films gave me cause to think. My main thought, watching this collection, was “Why am I still watching this?” Yes, the films are unsettling, and most of them, despite being hampered by shoestring budgets, show Zedd’s vision and artistic talent. The acting, in the narrative features, is pretty good. They do not “tranquilize and obfuscate” as some avant-garde films do; for art films, they are refreshingly to the point. But they had no real effect on me.

Cinema of Transgression aimed to “go beyond all limits set or prescribed by taste, morality or any other traditional value system shackling the minds of men.” Unfortunately for us, television executives have found ways to accomplish this without challenging the status quo. Woe betide us, starting with them!

The Atlantic Monthly used to run a column called “Word Fugitives,” where writers and readers would come together to find or create words describing something or other, often an idea or feeling with no name as of yet.

I’d like to suggest a word fugitive still at large. Here’s what it describes: a piece of art, film or music chiefly enjoyed because its artist, actor(s), filmmaker or musician is physically attractive. This doesn’t mean the artwork has no artistic merit, although that sometimes is the case. However, the person’s winsome features are enjoyed more than the art itself. Sometimes the art isn’t really enjoyed at all.

This is not the same as enjoying an already-good piece of art more because somebody’s pretty. What this fugitive word refers to is art which, if it were made by a homely person, would not interest you at all, however meaningful or well-made.

Allow me to give you an example from my own life. I find most no wave music, art and cinema completely uninteresting. However, many of the principal no wave artists were good looking in an intelligent, unsound sort of way. Look at these photos to see what I mean:

Anya Phillips (middle)

James Chance

James Chance

Lung Leg

Lung Leg

Lydia Lunch

Lydia Lunch

Lance Loud and Lydia Lunch.

Lance Loud and Lydia Lunch.

Nick Zedd

Nick Zedd

Nick Zedd

Nick Zedd, again

This is just a sample, albeit a biased one. I’m sure someone reading this finds some or all of these people hideous, but to me they look okay. In my early twenties I made a show of being interested in transgressive cinema and No New York, but I found I wasn’t so much watching these films or listening to the albums as I was scouring the internet for high-resolution pictures of Lung Leg and friends.

(Tangentially: has anyone done a study on how the attractiveness of non-mainstream artists affects their status in mainstream culture? Does the most attractive member of the movement automatically become the spokesperson in the media’s eyes? Will an artistic movement full of attractive people necessarily garner more “buzz”?)

This phenomenon goes not just for famous artists but for obscure ones as well. I’ve known maybe a dozen beautiful young artists, poets, musicians etc. in my life. In every instance but one, their art was, I’m sad to say, not very good. I didn’t know any of them well enough to see what kinds of feedback they got, but they did seem to keep up with their art longer than their less attractive peers. This was just my impression, though, and twelve isn’t a representative sample size.

Here is how I became conscious of this phenomenon. One night, in college, a friend’s band was supposed to play on the radio at 6:30 pm. I got caught up in something and only turned the radio on at 7:15 or so, cursing my negligence. This was a college radio station, and the DJ had already switched to some unlistenable indie/experimental/post-punk/feedback type garbage. I was about to turn the radio off when the song stopped and I heard my friend’s voice. It was their band, playing one of their songs.

That’s when I realized that, not only did I like the band because they were my friends, but because they were good looking kids. I had no sexual interest in them, but looking at their faces made me feel good. I misattributed this nice feeling to their music, which would not have interested me otherwise. I realized how shallow I was––a good thing to realize in college.

Dear reader, what should we call this phenomenon? Do you know of any good neologisms? I considered pulchraftsmanship, but that doesn’t fit, and it’s clunky besides. Maybe some art school veteran has already invented a term which I do not know. Maybe everyone else knows the word for this, and I’ve just embarrased myself. Oh well. Not the first time, not the last.

Anna Cropper and Tim Curry in Schmoedipus.

Anna Cropper and Tim Curry in Schmoedipus.

BBC’s Play for Today ran from 1970 to 1984. Each program lasted fifty to 100 minutes and told a self-contained, “kitchen-sink” story. Stage plays, original plays and novels were all adapted for the confines of the program. Play for Today is most known for the episode “Rumpole and the Confession of Guilt,” a one-off which later became a series on Thames Television. Many of Play For Today‘s programs are celebrated as stand-alone productions.

Schmoedipus is one of these programs, written by Dennis Potter (of The Singing Detective fame) and directed by Barry Davis. Save a dodgy VHS copy (now available online), the only known copy of this film is in a “New York Film Museum,” though a quick google search finds no museum of that name. The program stars a young Tim Curry, as well as Anna Cropper (The Lost Boys, Two Minds) and Bob Hoskins (Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Brazil).

Here is Schmoedipus‘s plot: on her 40th birthday, Elizabeth (Anna Cropper) sees her husband (Bob Hoskins) off to work, then settles in to another boring day. Soon after he leaves, a young man knocks on her door, forces his way inside and claims to be her long-lost son. Glen (Tim Curry), now 24, was born by Elizabeth at age 16, then taken away against her will. She has thought of him every day since; now that he’s before her in the flesh, tempestuous and unbecoming emotions flood her soul, making her susceptible to Glen’s pernicious, poisonous influence.

Is Glen really Elizabeth’s son, a figment of her imagination or a disturbed stranger? The play leaves the viewer many clues pointing towards different conclusions. Whatever you decide, the essential fact of the play is Elizabeth’s trauma: first, at the rape which led to pregnancy, and then the forced separation between mother and child. It’s hard not to watch the film and think “poor Elizabeth” at every scene, even as she almost kisses her son in a decidedly non-maternal way.

Equally impressive is Tim Curry’s performance as Glen. Schmoedipus came out a year before The Rocky Horror Picture Show, where Curry played the outrageous, cross-dressing, hypersexual mad scientist, Dr. Frank N. Furter. His performance here could not be more different. Here, Curry’s sexual charisma is subdued and sinister, equal parts childlike and serpentine. He delivers certain lines with a chilling mixture of petulance and provocation that will make the women in the audience very, very uncomfortable––and intrigued, in spite or because of their discomfort. At the program’s climax, he sings “M.O.T.H.E.R.” in a “sweet and wholesome way.” Curry’s vocal talents are used to great effect here; watching, one wishes ’70s and ’80s Hollywood had made better use of them.

Most of the action takes place in Elizabeth’s living room, where she and Glen have a long, sexually and emotionally-charged conversation. Glen sits on her lap, pours her “just a little” overflowing glass of sherry, strokes her arm and then throws tantrums, much to her bewilderment. Glen tells her that he burned his adoptive parents’s house down, that he escaped from a mental institution, that “you owe me my childhood all over.” They never kiss, or do anything worse, though they do come quite close.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth’s husband has a Willy-Loman-style crack-up at the office. Himself an overgrown child, Mr. Elizabeth has a full model train set in their house. In fact, he loves the trains more than he loves his wife––a source of great frustration to her. When he comes home to find Elizabeth quite disturbed, his main concern is not her state of mind, but the state of his trains. The image of these trains, running around and around on the same track, begins and ends this film.

Schmoedipus will unsettle any viewer. Its great performances and slow, methodic pace reward anyone willing to delve into it. Though not exploitative or violent, its frank treatment of sexual abuse may be too much for some. And Tim Curry fans will find it interesting to see the early beginnings of his career in film.

Above all else, this film reminds me of one line in Josyane Savigneau’s excellent biography of Carson McCullers. “Adults they did not become,” she says of McCullers and her husband, “but they did grow old.” This describes all three principle characters in the program: Elizabeth’s trauma froze her in time; her husband wants to remain a little boy, and on some level does; Glen wants his “childhood all over,” an impossible goal even at 24. Adding to all this thwarted innocence are twisted sexualities which, when denied, flood into inappropriate channels. Is there a moral to this movie? Not really, just observation of human sadness. Is that enough?

Watch Schmoedipus on megavideo, or find the elusive “New York Film Museum” and book a screening.

Calling an idea a “stereotype” does not refute it. If one believes, for example, that atheists tend to be rich and white, one doesn’t deny the existence of middle-class, impoverished and non-white atheists. Nor does one say that all rich white people are atheists. Nor does one say that all atheists are 2-dimensional figures made from one mold. One simply means that, in one’s own experience and the experience of others, most atheists have fit a certain pattern––in this case, being wealthy and white.

A stereotype is, more often than not, the end product of prolonged pattern recognition. It is a simplified observation. Reality might be more complicated, but the stereotype is true enough to be serviceable and useful in daily life. And one cannot be analyzing reality all the time. If your car breaks down in a rough neighborhood, you will start using stereotypes, whether you like it or not.

It is also simple to prove or disprove many stereotypes. Examine the data as if you were Spock. If a stereotype is blatantly false, it will often be easy to see, through crime rates, illegitimacy rates, achievement rates and so on. If it’s confirmed, it isn’t the end of the world.

For example, it’s long been a stereotype that Irishmen are alchoholics. This stereotype is based on fact, not fancy. There are Irish people who don’t drink, who don’t like to drink or who can drink responsibly. But if you are Irish, you’re at greater risk for developing alcoholism than a Spaniard or Italian. It doesn’t mean you will––but it doesn’t mean you should ignore this risk as if it doesn’t exist.

Stereotype hysteria denies people the vital ability to evaluate strengths and weaknesses given to them and their family. Knowing that you are genetically predisposed to alcoholism, depression, low intelligence, high intelligence or cancer is very important if you are looking to have children. It is far more important than giving people a wishy-washy feeling of everyone being more or less the same.

We want a patient to build an open and trustful relationship with his doctor. Yet, we pay little attention to the fact that a relationship is a mutual thing, and thus we excuse the doctor from actively participating in it. Now, have you ever tried to build a trustful relationship with someone who you address by title and last name, who sees you for five minutes a day on weekdays, who meets with you only because it’s his job, and whom you completely depend upon? It is obviously impossible. Moreover, it is harmful. We ourselves, put in the same shoes, would try as hard as possible to manipulate this person in order to get out, rather then be open and try to befriend him! But we still demand that the patiens do it.


This essay is for those who gain no benefit, and may even be harmed, by talk therapy in its many forms. Occasionally, people are forced to go to therapy, even though they know it does nothing for them. Admitting this, however, often prolongs this person’s “treatment,” thus making the problem worse.

This essay impugns no one who benefits from therapy. It does criticize therapy, but if therapy is scientifically and medically sound it should withstand this criticism. It is written from the perspective of a patient and uses no jargon, save in examples.

Throughout the essay, therapy is used to refer to talk therapy in general, i.e. the practice of treating mental problems by talking about them. Therapist refers to any of many credentialed psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, psychotherapists and so on. Group therapies are not discussed, but these lessons are applicable, to some extent, in most therapeutic contexts.

This essay is divided into four parts, not counting this introduction: “Assessing the Situation,” “Practical Tips,” “The Narrative” and “Finding Help.” Patients looking at a short-term (< 5 sessions) of forced therapy should jump to the second section, for tips that can help them immediately. Those looking for alternatives to therapy should browse the last section. Others should read from the beginning, scanning what isn’t relevant to them and perusing what is.

Let’s begin.

I. Assessing the Situation

Who is coercing or forcing you to go to therapy? Here are the most common answers:

1. Doctor or hospital
2. A court of law
3. Family
4. Employer

In many cases, the consequences for not attending therapy can be dire. A judge might send you to jail. A doctor could get you hospitalized, even committed to an institution. Your family may withhold funds or possessions of yours if you don’t comply, especially if you are a teenager. You may be denied access to your children, even if you don’t drink, use drugs or hurt others. Take these consequences seriously.

Just because the alternative is worse doesn’t mean that therapy is good for you. Just because someone wants to help you doesn’t mean they can. Many therapists are trained to see any aberration as a disorder, even if it has no negative effect on your life. If you want to leave therapy as quickly as possible, you must deceive the therapist.

The main way to lie in therapy is to outwardly conform to the therapist’s directives, get better in spite of the “treatment” offered, and make them believe that they are the cause of your improvements. Make the therapist feel good about him or herself, and half of your work is done. The other half is knowing when to cut and run, when you can leave without incurring legal, financial, judicial or other penalties.

Always say you are taking your medication. Research common side effects and complain about them for the first two weeks. Then they will disappear and you will start feeling so much better.

On your own time, learn about alternative treatments which can actually help you. For example, if you have a drinking problem, there are many A.A. alternatives, such as Secular Organization for Sobriety, Women for Sobriety or Rational Recovery. But, above all, don’t mention this research to your therapist(s), nurses, other group members et cetera. You run the risk of wounding their egos and making them question your “commitment” and “resistance” to the program. You might be able to mention it to your attorney, because of attorney-client privilege, but make it clear that you are conforming to the court’s directives and, though you dislike it, have no plans to deviate from orders.

In many cases, it is possible to stop therapy before you’re supposed to. Sometimes all it takes is a note from your therapist saying that you’re fit to return to work/school/home. Take and deliver this note, if at all possible. Open it and read it. If it recommends you continue therapy, print out another note, identical save that sentence, and forge the therapist’s signature. There’s a chance this could backfire, but it’s not as large as you think.

Know the answers to these questions:

1. Who is ordering me to go to therapy? What authority do they have over me?
2. If I don’t go to therapy, what will happen?
3. What is the minimum possible time I will have to go to therapy without incurring a serious penalty, such as jail time?
4. How am I going to get better in spite of this “treatment” that, at best, will do me no harm?

You may not know the answer to #4 yet. That’s okay. If you are a psychopath or a narcissist, unfortunately there is no cure, but then again you probably don’t think of yourself as sick.

II. Practical Tips

However you answer the four questions above, it is important to deny your therapist any ammunition. If you say you are feeling stressed, it is like putting your finger in a shark tank and wiggling it around. If you explain why you’re feeling stressed, it is like sticking your whole hand in. You may have an innocuous reason, but the therapist’s training is to take anything you give them, however tiny, and pathologize it.

Keep a neutral emotional affect. Pretend you are giving a press conference to one journalist. Be polite and professional, and answer what you can, but don’t encourage speculation.

Make eye contact. Never look at the clock. Take off your watch and “turn off” (i.e. silence) your cell phone during a session. Keep your legs uncrossed and your back straight.

Always give your therapist slightly higher status than you, but not much higher. Do this by breaking eye contact, then quickly looking back; leaning forward in your chair; smiling widely; crossing your legs and fidgeting. Like policemen, therapists take their job in part because it gives them the opportunity to dominate other. If you try to bring your status up to their level, nine times out of ten you will be subtly slapped down without the therapist even being aware of it. So always keep a slightly lower status, but only slightly; this is far more discomfiting than someone who tries to usurp their status or remains firmly subservient to them.

Never start a sentence unbidden. Wait for the question and answer it. Answer as many questions as you can with “Yes,” “No,” “Sure” and “Fine.” Not “Yes, I understand because…”, not “Fine, but I think…” just each word by itself.

If you want to stall for time, repeat the last word (or last key word) of your therapist’s sentence as a question. Examples:

Therapist: You look tired today.

Patient: Tired?

Therapist: Yes. How much sleep are you getting?

Patient: How much?

Therapist: Just on average. Like, four hours, six hours, eight hours…

Patient: Eight hours?

Pay attention to your therapist’s eyes and tone of voice. Listen to what your gut tells you about him or her. If your gut tells you that this person is seriously bad news, listen to it. Ask yourself if the consequences of not going are so severe you’d rather undergo psychological torture than face them. It is almost always possible to find a new therapist, so long as you don’t make excuses for yourself. If someone asks for an explanation, simply say “I want to comply with the court/hospital/insurer’s directive. I can’t do that with this therapist.” Repeat ad nauseam.

Make your therapist uncomfortable. Make sure they’re relieved when you leave; that way, he or she is likely to speed up your treatment.
Above all, be pleasant, professional and polite. Never direct a negative emotion at the therapist; this may seriously set back your “recovery.” Appear to improve.

III. The Narrative

If you are in therapy for more than five sessions, you will need to create a narrative. The purpose of this narrative is to make the therapist believe you are getting better and that they are the cause. Read the last sentence again; it is very important. Most professional-class people are emotionally stupid; they will believe anything if it appeals to their ego, balms their neuroses and reinforces their feeling of superiority.
Your narrative must involve some one issue, preferably ongoing or, at most, a month old. If something serious has happened to you, such as a traumatic event, do not mention it unless it is the reason you are forced to go to therapy. Never go into your background, your childhood, et cetera. Again: never delve into your past. Don’t answer questions about anything that happened more than a month earlier, if even that.

Here are some example issues to “work out” in therapy:

  • A bad job. If it really does suck, quit the job. Then, tell the therapist it’s because of therapy that you quit. In a way it’s true.
  • A drug problem. Sober up and say that therapy helped you initially. Admit your struggles and cravings. This is actually an easy thing to fake, even if you never touch drugs. Simply go to one or two AA meetings, listen to the jargon and repeat it as best you can.
  • Unemployment. Find a job, any job, start a business, work for a friend, then tell your therapist it’s because of therapy that you were able to do it.
  • Lack of a social life. Tell your therapist you are making friends, through AA/work/dance club and so on.

If you have recently experienced a trauma and have to attend therapy or face institutionalization, you have a tough row to hoe. You must simultaneously find treatment for a serious condition and endure “treatment” that can make you worse by dredging up and reliving the incident. On top of that, you have the threat of institutionalization hanging over your head like the sword of Damocles. I do not envy you. The good news is, there are support groups which deal with PTSD, survivors of sexual abuse, domestic violence sufferers and more.

Once you know your main issue, know how you are going to “work it out” in the amount of time that you must go to therapy. It might help to make a rough calendar of how your mood is going to fluctuate at every meeting. Here is an example graph:

The mood is measured on the Y-Axis from a scale of one to ten. There is steady improvement but it is gradual. At the end of session 11 you are doing well, well enough to leave anyway. Notice that there is no ten; there is a good reason for that, covered in the next paragraph. 

Most therapists are not very happy people. Think about it. If you lead a fulfilling life, do you spend it listening to the problems of strangers? Most therapists do not want to see patients happier than they are. Because of this, do not go above a seven out of ten for more than one or two sessions. You want to flatter the therapist’s ego, to make them believe that you are doing well; you do not want to produce feelings of resentment or envy.

If your therapist is financially dependent on administering therapy to survive, there will be a very strong pull for them to keep you there indefinitely. You must resist it politely, but firmly. This is easier said than done, since most people want to make money. But whether or not they make money is not your problem. Whether or not you go to jail, to the hospital or to the dumps is your problem. Your therapist is merely a means to an end, i.e. keeping you out of a place where you don’t want to be.

Know and understand your therapist’s reasons for sitting in the room with you. You may not know exactly, but take an educated guess and play into these reasons. Here are some common ones:

  1. Love of comfort.
  2. Love of power.
  3. Fear of life.
  4. Laziness.
  5. Desire to help.
  6. Desire to save.
  7. Need for prestige, superiority, status.
  8. Arrested development.
  9. Inertia.

If this person is lazy, comfortable or afraid, make them uncomfortable, but do not get emotional or hysterical. Be easy to work with, and don’t express too much “resistance,” but always be “off” in some way that makes them dislike working with you. If they view this as a challenge, change tactics: be friendly and professional, but deny them any intimacy. If they mention it, explain that you’re just doing this because you have to, otherwise x will happen.

One friend of mine sat and stared at her therapist, unspeaking, for the entire hour. When the therapist said “We have to stop now,” she smiled. She wasn’t invited back.

If this person wants to save other people, flatter them. Make them think and feel that they are the cause of your recovery. Make a note of any advice they give you and remind them of it next session; say it really worked for you, even if you spent the week doing something else. Give them an emotional high, until you get the letter of recommendation or the paperwork signed that you need to be signed. After that, you have no obligation to them.

If this person wants status and superiority, flatter them. Appeal to their intellect. Ask for their opinion on complex matters, and listen to their responses while maintaining eye contact and leaning forward in your chair. Tell them they’re smart, admire their watch, or something they have on their desk. These little details can make a big difference.

If this person is an egotist, and talks about him or herself nonstop, just listen. Don’t act interested, but listen; if you act interested they make keep you in therapy indefinitely so as to always have a receptive audience. Empathize but remain professional. Listen but make them uneasy; if they feel uneasy around you they won’t want to put you in indefinite treatment.

Above all else, be patient. Steadily improve in mood and in mind. Direct your anger to some harmless channel, like painting or drawing or working out. Obey so absolutely that you strike fear in the heart of authority. This is how you can escape.

IV. Finding Help

If you have a problem with yourself, or with interacting with others, you will probably need some outside help. This doesn’t make you a weak person or a crazy person. It just makes you a person, a sub-robot, if you will.

Often, a change in diet and exercise can do half of the work for you. Go running and go vegetarian or vegan. Stop eating processed foods, watching tv and surfing the web. For many people, this alone can create an improvement, though even a drastic one.

Some other changes you can make:

  • Taking up a physical discipline, e.g. yoga, karate, kendo, fencing, etc.
  • Writing in a journal.
  • Giving yourself permission to not be perfect.
  • Volunteering for an organization.
  • Bibliotherapy–reading self-improvement blogs and books.
  • Meditation.
  • Finding a life coach, although if therapy doesn’t work for you, a life coach may not either.
  • Joining a non-cult-affilliated support group.
  • Change of sex partner.
  • Self-hypnosis.
  • Dropping bad friends and keeping the old ones.

If you want to join a support group, try to research it beforehand to find any questionable ties it might have to a cult, a GRQ scheme or some other craziness. Scientology is particularly notorious for starting front groups and then trying to push Dianetics on its captive audience. When looking at groups, be cautious.

I am not competent to tell you how to run your life. Nor is any therapist. I hope, however, that this article has given you some survival strategies, as well as ideas for starting a path of real recovery.

O Lucky Man soundtrack by Alan Price

“When no one can tempt you with heaven or hell, you’ll be a lucky man…” so proclaim the first and last tracks on Alan Price’s O Lucky Man!,” soundtrack to the Lindsay Anderson film of the same name. Not quite rock, definitely not pop, Price incorporates elements of both, as well as blues, music hall standards and jazz into these songs. But for most listeners, the memorable part of this album is not the music, but the lyrics, whose wit and cynicism belie the mostly pleasant, upbeat nature of the songs.

In the film, Price’s songs served as a Greek chorus to the often surreal, or hyperreal, action happening on screen. Price also briefly appears in the movie, reluctantly giving Mick Travis (Malcolm McDowell) a lift to London. David Sherwin, who co-wrote the screenplay with McDowell, called Price “the only pure character” in the film, i.e. the only one not corrupted by money, power or circumstance. The idea, according to Price, was to “describe, and just in general illuminate the subject matter.” When Travis goes to trial, for example, Price sings a song called Justice, which begins like this:

We all want justice but you got to have the money to buy it

You’d have to be a fool to close your eyes and deny it

In another scene, while Travis enjoys the high life, Price reminds us:

When everything in life seems just as it should be

at last success seems just around the door

don’t forget boy, look over your shoulder

’cause things don’t stay the same forever more, la la la la

Both of these songs are upbeat, major-key songs with a jaunty percussive beat. If you didn’t speak English, you’d think they were happy songs.

Malcolm McDowell (left) and Alan Price in O Lucky Man!

Malcolm McDowell (left) and Alan Price in O Lucky Man!

Price gained fame in Britain as the keyboardist for The Animals, an R&B group contemporaneous with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Originally from Fatfield, Price grew up in desperate poverty; his father died in a coal-mining accident when he was six, and his mother worked three jobs, sometimes more, to support him and his brother. After fame at age 21, Price saw “how the other half lived” in Britain and America, especially Los Angeles. His autobiographical album Between Today and Yesterday, published shortly after this one, reflected this experience much more directly; however, the more universal themes of “O Lucky Man!” may appeal to a wider audience.

This soundtrack works well as a standalone album. At 25 minutes, it’s extremely short, especially as the soundtrack to a 3-hour-long epic. Of the 10 songs, two are instrumental, two are different takes of the titular song. Well, much better this than some bloated, beached whale of an album, with about 20 tracks of “Remixes” and music “Inspired by the Motion Picture.” It’s also all music by one artist with a unified sound and theme, a welcome break from the mixtape-itis of recent films. And fans of the film will love this soundtrack for the memories it brings back of the film.

Despite its brevity, “O Lucky Man!” is a wonderful album, one of Price’s best. Anyone interested in well-written, witty music would do well to listen to it.

%d bloggers like this: