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Open door, closed prison

The client has his problem solved by the therapist but then, at the door’s threshold, his face slumps again because he remembers he is “meant to be” depressed; and his depression has not been cured by “the correct method”, so it is invalid—even though he feels better. So he is in prison but the door is open—he just refuses to walk out.

He refuses to walk out because he has an interpretation, perhaps connected to status in some way as regards what a therapist “should” do. The therapist should make the client examine their relationship with their parents—he shouldn’t just ask him when he last remembered being happy and then tell him to do what made him happy then. The client would rather be depressed with his “right” interpretation than happy without it—and that’s why it’s hard to help depressed people.

The left thrives on interpretation and in interpretative professions—journalism, academia, law. If you think about what CNN is as a station, it’s basically just interpretation—there’s a constant narrative voiceover that tells you how to interpret the images shown to you. It’s possible to imagine a news station that just showed images with no interpretation—it could suggest an interpretation by the way it cut the shots (but with time constraints it would make it difficult to produce a sophisticated implicit narrative in that way).

I bet if people watched CNN with the sound off, they would become more rightist—the images would speak for themselves. Then again, a “silent news channel” would have a small audience because the whole point with news is the interpretation—the narrative—that needs to be hyped and protected (from reality).

The aetiology is similar to depressed people because depressed people pick at themselves, the internal nag-hag pulls apart what they do with interpretations and so makes action impossible (which in turn increases the self-loathing). It is as with Roethke and his lines upon leaving a sanitarium:

Self-contemplation is a curse

that makes an old confusion worse.

Recumbency is unrefined

and leads to errors of the mind.

Long gazing at the ceiling will

in time induce a mental ill.

The mirror tells some truth, but not enough

to merit constant thought.

He who himself begins to loathe

grows sick in flesh and spirit both.

Dissection is a virtue when

it operates on other men.

The prison door is open—you could just walk out, but you can’t because it doesn’t fit your interpretation; and that interpretation is often associated with vanity, with the fact that it’s beneath your dignity to admit that to whistle makes you happy and is a satisfactory solution to your depression.

Depressed people love to interpretatively pick at things—just like journalists, academics, and women. It’s sometimes mistaken for self-absorption, but if you tell a depressed person they’re self-absorbed they’ll vanish into their room to pick apart how they’re “bad for being selfish”. It’s not self-absorption, it’s moralism—it actually happens to people who feel guilt that they might be self-absorbed; people who are genuinely selfish don’t have the self-reflective capacity to feel the need to dissect themselves to death.

Ironically, Susan Sontag wrote a book called Against Interpretation (1962)—as a Jewish New York literary intellectual all Sontag did was interpret things. So when it came to Aids in the 1980s, Sontag popped up with Aids and its Metaphors (1989) to draw parallels between then-new computer viruses and Aids and to remind us why this “medicalisation” and “biological narrative” had “dangerous” fascistic undertones.

You know, the virus on the network—the virus that knocked down the body’s immune system, the New York Jewish intellectual who tells you how good immigration is for your society. “I feel this is precisely the essentialised biological discourse that needs to be problematised.” I resist the interpretation that you put on reality, Ms. Sontag.

It’s worthwhile to consider Laing’s observation that there’s no need to dissect how you came to be in prison when you could just walk out. There’s no need to “go into your family and your dreams, but if you think we absolutely must we will”. The same pertains to the right: the right wants to know “how did we get here?”. This question is inevitable but, per Laing, can paralyse you from action. We know what the problems are—how those problems came to be is irrelevant; and, in fact, by picking at “where did it all go wrong?” you will become a depressed impotent interpreter.

If you insist on an answer to this question, then it all “went wrong” when you were born: this was the first and final catastrophe.


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