Jan 18

“A Dangerous Method”: Three Psychoanalysts Depicted

In a previous post about scary boundary-breaking by therapists, I described the based-on-a-true-story film A Dangerous Method (2011), which wasn’t yet in theaters. Now it is, and in a couple months or so it will be released on DVD.

Today’s post will use excerpts from film reviews/articles to focus on the characterizations in the movie of the three depicted analysts: Freud, Jung, and Spielrein.

Rex ReedNew York Observer, regarding A Dangerous Method: “…a psychological tug of war between the father of modern psychiatry, Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortenson), and his disciple Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) over the mind and sex of an overwrought mental patient named Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley), a mad Russian with a craving for spanking. Whacking her on her naked bottom must have worked. She ended up, years later, analyzing patients of her own. Too bad she didn’t also analyze this movie. It would have saved so much wasted time.”

(Ouch, Spielrein herself might have said.)

Lisa Kennedy, The Denver Post, states that “David Cronenberg’s elegant historical drama ‘A Dangerous Method’ begins and ends in a way that recalls one of Sigmund Freud’s better-known quotes.”

“‘Much has been gained,’ he told a patient, ‘if we succeed in turning your hysterical misery into common unhappiness.'”

(In modern psychiatry there is no longer a diagnosis of “hysterical neurosis.” The current DSM uses “conversion disorder,” basically defined as the conversion of emotional issues into physical symptoms. For the upcoming revised edition of the DSM, “functional neurological disorder” is being considered as the next replacement term.)

J. Hoberman, Village Voice: “…The protean Fassbender plays a proper Jung, steely yet agonized; Mortensen’s self-amused, paranoid Freud is a more unusual piece of work. Mind ablaze, he sees repression everywhere. The mystical Jung believes that nothing happens by accident; for Freud, all accidents have meaning.”

(And for Spielrein, her therapy is an accident waiting to happen.)

Dr. Sandra Fenster, Ph.D., psychoanalyst (from a post on Psychology Today): “…Jung lost his objectivity–something an analyst cannot afford to do. With his patient, Sabina Spielrein, Jung’s own insatiable needs got the best of him; he confused them for hers. That is what analysis is not. And, that is the danger in the method.”

(And this is the voice of reason.)

Dec 16

“Shame” Movie Validates Sex Addiction

The new Shame movie helps legitimize sex addiction. It lies in the camp of those who see this disorder as a growing “epidemic”; not in the camp that isn’t sure it even exists.

Writer Tracy Clark-Flory‘s recent article in Salon, “Don’t Believe the Sex Addiction Hype,” is in that latter camp. Clark-Flory calls sex addiction a “cultural phenomenon, not a legitimate medical diagnosis.”

Psychologist David Ley, author of the upcoming book The Myth of Sex Addiction, is quoted by Clark-Flory as perceiving this diagnosis as a “moral attack on sexuality” that’s not substantiated by science. He’s afraid that if the DSM proceeds with adding “Hypersexual Disorder” to its new edition next year, too many people with a high frequency of sexual behavior will be inappropriately labelled and thus harmed.

Isn’t this blaming the diagnosis instead of the misguided diagnoser?

Actor Michael Fassbender stars as Brandon, a sex addict, in Shame; Carey Mulligan portrays his sister. Fassbender has already won awards for his performance.

Sheila Marikar in her review for ABC : “If you’re still in doubt about whether or not sex addiction is real, see ‘Shame.’ There are few things as depressing as watching a man defile a series of prostitutes while his suicidal sister sobs into his answering machine.”

According to Newsweek, Steve McQueen, the director of Shame, is among those who doubted the validity of this addiction—until he researched it by attending meetings of Sex Addicts Anonymous. Much as anyone with an open mind might when exposed to others’ stories of anguish, he became a believer—and made his movie.

As for dealing with the titular emotion of the movie, psychiatrist Garrett O’Connor has reportedly stated that addicts of all types carry at least some degree of malignant shame.

Shame, in turn, is also what often propels the addiction. This vicious cycle is what some would call the “shame spiral.”

Considering this, you may be sorely disappointed if you see Shame expecting sexual thrills, then. In fact, be prepared to experience the opposite, say reviewers.

Back to the issue of whether or not there’s such a thing as a sex addiction disorder, noted film critic Roger Ebert cuts to the chase on his website: “Whatever it is, Brandon suffers from it.”