HBO’s In Treatment

My PsychoSlut column this month is about HBO’s recent show, In Treatment:

About a decade ago, when starting as a graduate student in Emory’s Psychoanalytic Studies Program, I had a fierce, public argument with a good friend, Eddie Gamarra, about what the point of dream interpretation might be in psychoanalysis. We were arguing, in effect, over what mattered most: some original wish or dream-thought that could painstakingly be recovered (Eddie’s view), or the fact of dream-censorship itself, which retroactively creates the wish out of the raw materials of the dream (my own view). This debate raises a complex question about whether analysis points you toward a truth about yourself, one that the analyst knows or infers and tries to help you find, or whether the analyst simply (!) helps us realize the complex ways that we enmesh ourselves in self-deception, in the hopes that such a recognition may help us take up a more sustainable attitude — to exchange, as Freud said, hysterical misery for ordinary human unhappiness. Does analysis claim that there is a truth in your head, which might be excavated in order to disclose the real meaning about your life? Or does it claim that our minds are, more or less, set up to facilitate misrecognition, mistranslation, and other forms of petit and grand errors, and that it can simply be useful to track that process in action?

I have been thinking about this argument with Eddie a lot recently, usually while watching HBO’s recently-concluded series, In Treatment, which received a lot of press — largely on the strength of the brilliant Gabriel Byrne and the fact that the New York Times probably overrates the contemporary importance of psychoanalysts — but not so many viewers. The show, an American import of a runaway Israeli hit, aired five nights a week, recording a therapist (Paul) as he meets with a single patient, and then on Fridays showing his meeting with his own therapist.

As always, read the whole thing!

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