Therapy is painless

From Freud to divorce court: A therapist to meet your every need. Plus: Dan Savage vs. the Republicans; Elvis' "black satin-like" pajamas on the auction block.

By Jenn Shreve
Published August 20, 1999 8:00PM (UTC)
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From Dickensian asylums and orgasmic salves for hysteria to an endless cycle of Freudian mother-bashing and most recently, meds, the treatments for neurosis are constantly evolving. Recently I've noticed the phrase "I'm shopping for an analyst" popping up in casual conversations, as if the huge variety of psychoanalytic options somehow demanded an outlet mall complete with natural-food court and soothing music.

Psychotherapy can never be a standardized process; humans and their foibles are far too unique. But do we really need therapists to cure bad drivers? What was so wrong with bitching for an hour or more to a faceless analyst about our sex problems and mother issues, à la "Annie Hall"? Feed, the Dallas Observer and others turn their attention this week to recent trends and new developments in the treatment of our ailing heads.


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"The Single-Factor Fallacy" by Steven Quartz

Brain scientist Steven Quartz leaps into the nature vs. nurture debate -- a dialectic recently infused with new fodder from evolutionary psychologists, behavioral geneticists and the publication last year of Judith Rich Harris' controversial book, "The Nurture Assumption." For those of us whose early childhood memories resemble the climactic ax scene from "The Shining," the nature side of the argument holds particular sway. And for those whose first years of life were a blissful oasis, the nurture thesis is biblical truth.


Quartz urges us to shift away from such "false dichotomies." He cites scientific findings that incorporate nature, nurture and biological factors. It seems like expanding the spectrum of this debate is a big duh, yet after the polarized, media catfight that followed Harris' book, it's clearly still necessary to reiterate. Quartz's sane, scientific approach is a breath of fresh air in an argument often characterized by hysteria, speculation and fear.

Also of interest is Brian Doherty's "Every Madness Tells a Story," which studies recent efforts to debunk the concept of mental illness.

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The Dallas Observer, Aug. 19-25

"Breaking Up Is Hard to Do" by Miriam Rozen

Miriam Rozen reports on the growing popularity of the Coparenting Institute of the Southwest, founded by psychologist Barry Coakley. Coakley specializes in getting bickering divorced couples, who are often forced into treatment by fed up judges, to behave civilly toward each other. Although Rozen does a decent job of laying out the pros and cons of the treatment, her entertaining tales of divorces' bad behavior are the best part of the article.


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Boston Phoenix, Aug. 12-19

"Do not go gentle" by Chris Wright

Chris Wright goes for a ride with John Larson and Carol Rodriguez , co-authors of "Road Rage to Road-Wise," a self-help tome for defective drivers. As they drive through maddening traffic on roads filled with idiot drivers from hell, Wright's companions remain disgustingly calm and optimistic. This generates an entirely different form of rage in Wright, who Rodriguez calls "a negative person," making for a good chuckle or two. By the end of their ride, it seems clear some kind of road rage therapy is necessary, though not of the smile-and-take-it breed promoted by Larson and Rodriguez.


New Times Broward/Palm Beach, Aug. 19-25

"Mother of Haiti" by Bob Whitby

Carole Demesmin has released four world beat-flavored CDs. A "voudou" priestess, she travels between homes in Florida and Haiti to care for afflicted clients. And she was dubbed "Mother of Haiti," by journalists there for her political activism. In his detailed portrait of Demesmin, Bob Whitby explores the nuances of an oft-stereotyped religious and cultural practice while telling the remarkable story of an unusual woman.


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The Stranger, Aug. 19-25

"Feasting and Thieving at the Iowa Straw Poll" by Dan Savage

In 1996, syndicated sex/advice columnist Dan Savage (aka "hey faggot") highlighted the circus elections have become by registering Republican and representing his district at the GOP convention. His reports from that stunt were some of the most scathing, engaging political reporting I've read in years. He's at it again, this time filing from the Iowa straw poll, where he broke several laws and made out with a heap of booty. Savage doesn't pretend these exercises in democracy are about anything other than buying votes with hard-earned campaign donations. And he takes a few well-aimed potshots at the GOP hopefuls along the way. I only wish he'd apply his poison tongue to the Democrats, who are equally deserving.


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Orlando Weekly,

"Dead Man Talking" by Edward Ericson Jr.

A human head bursting into flames. A 320-pound man left alive because 700 volts too few surged through him at the time of his execution. These are just two recent results of faulty electric chairs being used in Florida's death chamber. In this chilling piece, Edward Ericson Jr. studies a new challenge, not to the death penalty, but to this particular method of enforcing it.


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Memphis Flyer, Aug. 12-18

"Auctioning Elvis" by Mary Cashiola

Mary Cashiola goes behind the scenes as archivists at Graceland prepare to auction off a nice chunk of their collection to raise funds for a couple Elvis Presley Enterprises charities. Elvis devotees are up in arms over this senseless act of kindness toward the less fortunate, declaring that insensitive collectors will snap up the Presleyan goodies and take them forever out of public view. Most of it has been locked up in warehouses for decades, so it's hard to see what the difference is.

Jenn Shreve

Jenn Shreve writes about media, technology and culture for Salon, Wired, the Industry Standard, the San Francisco Examiner and elsewhere. She lives in Oakland, Calif.

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Psychology Republican Party