The Fake Van Gogh and Therapy
A while ago I discussed therapy with a coworker of mine. She mentioned how her friend was training to become a therapist and she took a look at some of her training material and said to her, “You can’t just be using these canned “empathetic” statements on people, people are smart, they are going to see through this eventually.”
In my own experience with therapy I felt like a great deal of therapy was spent convincing me (at least on a conscious level, maybe I knew the truth deep down) that the therapist really cared about the things that had hurt me. The therapists have these perfectly canned statements or can sense your feelings and how you will react perfectly so that they know just what to say to make you feel heard and safe. (However feeling heard and safe is not necessarily the same as being heard and safe, feelings do not automatically equate with reality).
At one time I think that I was firmly convinced that the best therapist I had cared about things that hurt me such as child sexual abuse and even if this feeling that the therapist truly cared about me and the things which hurt me brought me some feeling of safety and “healing” I now find myself looking back and questioning whether that was the truth, whether she really did care the way that I thought she did.
If you can convince someone who is terrified and feels disconnected that there really is no cause for fear, everything is really OK and that there are really people (such as the therapist) who would fight for them in their time of need and fight to keep them safe, they could become less terrified and stop having warning flashbacks that they are unsafe and being attacked again. But what if you convinced them that you are there for them and will fend off their attackers but you really are not there for them and wouldn’t fend off attackers ? What if now they have a false sense of safety which is not in line with reality ?
Does the truth matter ?
A few years ago it was discovered that a multi million dollar Van Gogh painting that was being enjoyed as such was in fact a fake and a fraud. People had been enjoying it as a real Van Gogh completely unknown to them. Their level of enjoyment of the painting, not knowing it was a fraud was supposedly the same as if the painting was real.
Does the truth matter ? When the painting was found to be a fraud the truth mattered. The fact that people had been effectively conned and enjoyed it and no one had known the truth for so long didn’t erase the truth or the loss of money. What if they had never discovered that the painting was inauthentic ? Would the truth still matter ?
Similar to enjoying a beautiful painting by a famous master painter which you later discover to your surprise isn’t what you thought it was, does it matter if your therapy gives you feelings of safety but the safety really isn’t real ?
What if you died never knowing that the feeling of safety that you had was inauthentic ? Would the truth still matter ? Would it matter whether you weren’t safe in reality and had been lied to ?
I think that presently therapy is giving a lot of people the feeling that they are safe in reality when they are not. Or at least lot of therapy is done with state of mind that it doesn’t matter whether people are cared about or are safe, what matters above all in therapy is that they feel cared about and feel safe. As long as the therapist effectively convinces them that they are safe and cared about so that their flashbacks stop, that is the most important thing. So what if they now believe a lie ? Their PTSD is “cured.”
Of course, it’s much like having a doctor who decided to not upset you by informing you about the 1/100 possible complications from your medical procedure which luckily never happened to you so you recover from your procedure “blissfully unaware” of the doctor’s neglect to mention the real risks. What they fear may never harm them, they may escape unscathed. However does the truth matter ? Do we want to live in the truth or in the lies (albeit “blissfully unaware”) ?
This reminds me of a talk on cures for “PTSD” I once watched with a group of therapists. They mentioned that a cure for “PTSD” which erased the whole memory of the trauma had ethical and moral implications for society in terms of wiping out the memory of a crime. Is the truth important ? Is history important ?
I want to ask these same questions of therapy. Is simple erasing the truth and reality as a cure OK ? Is people simply feeling better by living in a lie OK? Is that healing ? Isn’t it important that people actually are safe and do feel supported in truth rather than merely feeling supported and feeling safe ?
Isn’t it important for people to actually be better rather than merely feel better ?
Of course if you’ve decided a priori that people are crazy, and “scaredy cats” and afraid of ghosts and things which really don’t exist, that their flashbacks aren’t really saying something about unresolved crime, then I guess there is nothing in people’s situation to fix, the problem truly is in their psyche or in their body-mind-soul rather than being a real problem in the real world. They truly are a bit not in touch with reality, are crazy and need to be fixed.
It feels to me like many perpetrators do evil things to people in order to dominate them, gain submissiveness, raze resistance and effectively control them. When the victims are tortured by these evil acts, the perpetrators want to then erase their crime from view, by calling the victims crazy. They get partially what they wanted, the submission they want, they cut down resistance, but in the process sometimes they get more than they bargained for. The victim is tortured and screams in pain (in one way or another, maybe in one “symptom” or another) and society wants to ask why they scream in pain. Whether or not the perpetrator gets more than they bargained for, they have to hide their crime from view. The truth has to be erased, if victims can somehow be made “blissfully unaware” of the crime or if not be made blissfully aware then silenced then this would only be a good thing to perpetrators. The truth must absolutely and certainly be thrown under the bus.
If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it does it still fall ? I think perpetrators would hope that the objective truth does not exist, that they can make it that resistance was razed but paradoxically no one ever cut down the tree and it never fell. I’m not sure if on some level perpetrators wish so hard for the objective truth to not exist that they actually delude themselves that it doesn’t exist and victims truly are crazy for being tortured. Are they so deep in lies and creating illusion that they actually lie to themselves too ? Certainly they cannot be lovers of the truth.
This all reminds me of thoughts that I had when I was leaving the faith (religious fundamentalism). On some level my faith in getting to live for all eternity and go to heaven and have perfect happiness and every good thing in the afterlife was a pleasant illusion to me. It felt great. Of course this illusion also created a lot of problems in my life, I avoided solving my life’s problems because I could hope that God would solve them or hope that God would make it up to me in the afterlife. Leaving the faith meant a great release from shame and guilt and fear. It meant a freedom to work on my problems and solve them myself and I also felt sad on a certain level to lose my beautiful illusion of a blissful afterlife. I briefly wondered what it would have been like to just enjoy blissfully (and wrongly) believing in a wonderful afterlife all the way up until my death and then just die. I would never get the afterlife in question but being dead at that point I would never know the difference, I would never exactly be aware of my loss.
If you lose something and never know that you’ve lost it (and maybe no one ever knows) does the truth still matter ? Have you still lost something ? Like the people who paid millions for the Van Gogh painting and were enjoying it, if you’ve lost your money but don’t know it have you still lost your money ?