Sep 12

9/11: A Seemingly Unlikely Focus For Humor “Therapy”

An old saying, “A lot of comedy is tragedy plus time,” is often attributed to Carol Burnett, truly one of the funniest ladies ever. Whether or not she was the originator of this quote, her excellent memoir One More Time sheds some light on how she may have personally learned this bit of wisdom.

Immediately after 9/11, however, even those in the field of comedy didn’t know when—if ever—it would be possible again to turn crisis into laughter. Out of respect, many comics cancelled their gigs for a while. This included late-night TV shows hosted by such comedians as Leno, Letterman, and Stewart. When they did return, the tendency was to start with seriousness and only gradually build into the funny.

Saturday Night Live wasn’t scheduled to start their season in 2001 until September 29th. That first show did go on—despite any reservations they might have had. At the start of that show, producer Lorne Michaels asked special guest Rudy Giuliani, then-mayor of New York City, the question on so many people’s minds: “Can we be funny?” Giuliani quipped, “Why start now?”

And this freed up the comedic cast to keep trying.

The Emmy Awards event that year, to be hosted by comic Ellen DeGeneres, was postponed twice, first out of respect for the recent 9/11 attacks and later because of the start of the War in Afghanistan. When it finally aired in November, Ellen’s humor seemed very welcomed.

As a reminder, and to hear one of Ellen’s most well-received quips of the night, I think it’s worth watching the following “highlights” clip at least for the first few minutes or so.

By its nature, much of humor is risky, and this was especially so after 9/11. In order to make us laugh, the humorists were starting again to take those risks—and in so doing, they were helping us to heal.

Sep 09

Bob Newhart As Brief Therapist: “Stop It!”

Before Fiona Wallice’s three-minute sessions on Web Therapy, there was Bob Newhart as a shrink offering a different brand of brief therapy called “Stop It!”

In the Madtv comedy sketch of several years ago, the shrink played by Bob Newhart is considerably more old-fashioned. Whereas Fiona takes advantage of the internet, not seeing her clients in person, Newhart’s shrink sits behind his desk, his client on the other side. Mo Collins plays the bewildered, not-at-all-amused client.

For those of you short on time, you’ll need over six minutes to watch the full clip below—longer, actually, than the type of therapy advocated by this shrink. If for some reason you’d rather read the script, scroll down below the video:

According to Realtime Transcription, the following is the actual script featuring Bob Newhart as Dr. Switzer:

KATHERINE: Dr. Switzer?
DR. SWITZER: Yes, come in. I’m just washing my hands.
KATHERINE: I’m Katherine Bigmans. Janet Carlisle referred me.
DR. SWITZER: Oh, yes. You dream about being buried alive in a box.
KATHERINE: Yes, that’s me. Should I lay down?
DR. SWITZER: No, we don’t do that anymore. Just have a seat and let me tell you a bit about our billing. I charge five dollars for the first five minutes and then absolutely nothing after that. How does that sound?KATHERINE: That sounds great. Too good to be true as a matter of fact.
DR. SWITZER: Well, I can almost guarantee you that our session won’t last the full five minutes. Now, we don’t do any insurance billing, so you would either have to pay in cash or by check.
DR. SWITZER: And I don’t make change.
KATHERINE: All right.
DR. SWITZER: Tell me about the problem that you wish to address.
KATHERINE: Oh, okay. Well, I have this fear of being buried alive in a box. I just start thinking about being buried alive and I begin to panic.
DR. SWITZER: Has anyone ever tried to bury you alive in a box?
KATHERINE: No. No, but truly thinking about it does make my life horrible. I mean, I can’t go through tunnels or be in an elevator or in a house, anything boxy.
DR. SWITZER: So, what you are saying is you are claustrophobic?
KATHERINE: Yes, yes, that’s it.
DR. SWITZER: All right. Well, let’s go,Katherine. I’m going to say two words to you right now. I want you to listen to them very, very carefully. Then I want you to take them out of the office with you and incorporate them into your life.
KATHERINE: Shall I write them down?
DR. SWITZER: No. If it makes you comfortable. It’s just two words. We find most people can remember them.
DR. SWITZER: You ready?
DR. SWITZER: Okay. Here they are. Stop it!
KATHERINE: I’m sorry?
DR. SWITZER: Stop it!
DR. SWITZER: Yes. S-T-O-P, new word, I-T.
KATHERINE: So, what are you saying?
DR. SWITZER: You know, it’s funny, I say two simple words and I cannot tell you the amount of people who say exactly the same thing you are saying. I mean, you know, this is not Yiddish, Katherine. This is English. Stop it.
KATHERINE: So I should just stop it?
DR. SWITZER: There you go. I mean, you don’t want to go through life being scared of being buried alive in a box, do you? I mean, that sounds frightening.
DR. SWITZER: Then stop it.
KATHERINE: I can’t. I mean it’s —
DR. SWITZER: No, no, no. We don’t go there. Just stop it.
KATHERINE: So, I should just stop being afraid of being buried alive in a box?
DR. SWITZER: You got it. Good girl. Well, it’s only been three minutes, so that will be three dollars.
KATHERINE: Actually, I only have five so —
DR. SWITZER: Well, I don’t make change.
KATHERINE: Then I guess I’ll take the full five minutes.
DR. SWITZER: Fine. All right. What other problems would you like to address?
KATHERINE: I’m bulimic. I stick my fingers down my throat.
DR. SWITZER: Stop it! Are you a nut of some kind? Don’t do that.
KATHERINE: But I’m compelled to. My mom used to call —
DR. SWITZER: No, no. We don’t go there.
DR. SWITZER: No, we don’t go there either.
KATHERINE: But my horoscope did say —
DR. SWITZER: We definitely don’t go there. Just stop it.What else?
KATHERINE: Well, I have self-destructive relationships with men.
DR. SWITZER: Stop it! You want to be with a man, don’t you?
KATHERINE: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm, yes.
DR. SWITZER: Well, then, stop it. Don’t be such a big baby.
KATHERINE: I wash my hands a lot.
DR. SWITZER: That’s all right.
DR. SWITZER: I wash my hands all the time. There’s a lot of germs out there. Don’t worry about that one.
KATHERINE: I’m afraid to drive.
DR. SWITZER: Well stop it. How are you going to get around? Get in the car and drive you, you kook. Stop it.
KATHERINE: You stop it. You stop it.
DR. SWITZER: What’s the problem, Katherine?
KATHERINE: I don’t like this. I don’t like this therapy at all. You are just telling me to stop it.
DR. SWITZER: And you don’t like that?
KATHERINE: No, I don’t.
DR. SWITZER: So you think we are moving too fast, is that it?
KATHERINE: Yes. Yes, I do.
DR. SWITZER: All right. Then let me give you ten words that I think will clear everything up for you. You want to get a pad and a pencil for this one?
KATHERINE: All right.
DR. SWITZER: Are you ready?
DR. SWITZER: All right. Here are the ten words: Stop it or I’ll bury you alive in a box!
Sep 07

Burnout Versus Compassion Fatigue: Latter Sounds Better

Have you ever felt like you’ve become completely fed up with your responsibilities—your job, your relationships, parenting, etc.? And then felt like you just can’t do it anymore? And now you don’t want to get up in the morning and can’t stand the thought of facing a new day? And you’re afraid that what used to be doable is now downright overwhelming? Even reading this is a major chore? You might have burnout.

But burnout describes people whose flames have died out. Burnout is ugly, depressing, unhealthy. Boring. Uninteresting. Old—as in, Hey man, whoa, like, you’re a real burnt out dude, ya know?

Wouldn’t you rather have a nicer sounding problem?

Well, compassion fatigue is here to save the day. If you’ve got compassion fatigue, you’re tired because you’ve over-cared, over-helped, over-loved. Isn’t that a whole lot better?

So, next time someone remarks on how haggard you look, how your temper has flared once too often, how you don’t seem to want to do fun things anymore, don’t say it’s because of your burnout—say it’s because of your compassion fatigue. You’ll still feel like crap—but people will respect you so much more.

Sep 05

Wherein I Salute Labor Day By Being Too Lazy To Give You Much Useful Information About Therapists and Therapy Types

For a type of job that often elicits such reactions as “How can you sit there all day and just listen to people?” or “I could never do that. I’d just tell them all to get a life”—and that’s just from clients—the world seems to be full of people who do indeed want to practice therapy and a myriad of types of therapists out there. I say seems to be because I did barely minimal research and couldn’t get any actual figures on this. And I say practice therapy both in the usual sense and the classic joke about not having it right yet.

People who seek therapy are often confused by how many types of therapists, or how many therapy disciplines, actually exist. An example of a discipline is clinical social work, which is the training and affiliation I have. If you want to know more about either this one or the others, John Grohol describes them on Psych Central. I can’t be bothered doing this myself. It’s Labor Day, and I have off.

And then there are all the many different types of therapy reflecting a godawful number of choices regarding schools of thought and techniques. One example of a fairly popular type of therapy is cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT. There’s also ACT and EFT and EMDR  and ECT and RET. Go ahead and look these up to see what they mean. There are also lots of other impressive ones, some with acronyms and some that don’t even have acronyms. While you’re doing your research, Google “Types of Therapy” or a phrase something like that to get a longer, fuller list of all the possibilities.

Me, I’m tired just thinking about it, so I’ll just be ending this post now…

Sep 02

“Sign Up For More Issues” As a Crossword Puzzle Clue

I was doing a crossword puzzle recently and read this clue: “sign up for more issues.” A five-letter word. Do my first thoughts go anywhere near the correct answer, renew? No. My mind went immediately toward the notion of people signing up to have more psychological issues.

So,who would you sign up with? Your parents? Please Mom. Please Dad. I want, I want, I want more issues!!! 

I advise doing the asking when you’re very young, then—hopefully in your formative years. I think that’s likely to be the most effective enrollment plan.

You want more issues? I’ll give you more issues, Mom replies. She turns to her husband. I’m leaving you. That’s right. It’s what you deserve for years of cheating on me with my sister. She stomps off, presumably to pack her bags, but turns around abruptly. Oh, and keep the kids.

Now there. You’ve got yourself some more issues—more than you already had.

And on a different tangent, unscrupulous therapy also came to mind. As in: You tell your shrink that you’re feeling good, ready to leave therapy, conquer the world…

Whoa. Not so fast, fella. Have I got a deal for you. I’ll give you some low self-esteem and even throw in some emotional intimacy issues. Just sign right here, please…And make sure to keep your standing appointment with me for the next couple of years.