‘In the sphere of psychotherapy, short-term, standardized treatments and contracts are becoming the norm, which greatly appeals to insurance companies.’ (Vernaeghe)
Is our twenty-first century world itself becoming short-term and standardized?
As we have seen in previous posts, ours has become a culture which frequently demands immediate gratification and quick results. This will, inevitably, have long term deleterious effects.
Here are two important examples:
1.In the NHS
‘Fast-track counselling’ or ‘call centre therapy‘, as it has been described, has been introduced into the NHS, to cope with the increasing demand for help with depression and anxiety. The IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) offers some 30 minute telephone and online consultations of CBT and also individual and group therapy.
Research conducted in 2018 resulted in some criticism of this service:
‘The results suggest that only the tip of the iceberg fully recovers from their disorder (9.2%) whether or not they were treated before or after a personal injury claim. There is a pressing need to re-examine the modus operandi of the service.’
2. Regarding Our Planet
Crucially, our planet may also suffer from this short-term -and short-sighted- approach:
‘While short-term thinking is not surprising, it can be problematic. In his 2004 book A Short History of Progress, Ronald Wright describes human beings in today’s world as running 21st century software on 50,000-year-old hardware. The results can be catastrophic. For example, our inability to properly consider long-term risks or opportunities in combination with our short-term focus explains the four decades of inaction in dealing with climate change. We did not respond to the proverbial hand moving in slow-motion towards our face before it was nearly too late.’
Future generations will inevitably have to endure the results of this lack of consideration and forward thinking in terms of the risks of climate change.
3. Consumerism and This Throwaway Culture.
In 2018, we live in a society that is led by materialism and consumerism. Influences which shape contemporary life are, for example, the celebrity culture, with its ‘must-have’ fashions, image-consciousness and status symbols and the huge shopping centres that are everywhere and often resemble places of worship.
In terms of beauty, the fake and the false is prized over the natural (nails, hair extensions, eyelashes, breasts etc.)
Image: The Trafford Centre. Wikimedia Commons
Ours is a society which regards the disposable, the throwaway, as the norm. Rather than wash items, we use disposables, such as paper cups, face-wipes, paper towels, tissues. Rather than repair, we discard and replace, without thinking.
Food is packed in layers of plastic and cardboard which create more rubbish. The oceans are polluted with waste plastic and microfibres, harming animals and the environment.
‘Trash Mountain.’ Woodley Wonderworks. Flickr.
Goods are deliberately not made to be durable, so that they will have to be discarded and new ones purchased. Often, repair costs exceed that of buying new. Repair shops are disappearing from the high street.
‘e-Waste.’ Curtis Palmer. Flickr.
Cheap and poorly made fashions can be changed quickly, so that people will buy new clothes regularly. Imported plastic shoes replace leather ones. Obsolescence and future failure are built in to many digital and electrical goods. Furniture is seldom passed down through the generations, as it used to be. Younger generations mostly seem to prefer IKEA to antiques.
All these factors- fast- track therapy, short-term thinking about climate change, fast food, the throwaway culture, all these embody the current lack of long term thinking, which is reflected in so many aspects of contemporary society.
In Freud’s Day…..
How were Freud’s ways of thinking different? In total contrast, Sigmund Freud collected treasured antiquities, objects to keep and value, full of meaning and history. He was passionate about archaeology. Such artefacts are the opposite of disposable; they are to keep, to cherish and preserve, for centuries.
They represent connectivity with the past, things that have been entombed and retrieved, that can, like buried memories, give us clues as to how the past affects the present. This is long-term thinking.
Frued’s choice of such artefacts reflected his approach to his life and work:
‘Like archaeology, psychoanalysis is an exercise in sifting through the fragments of the past.’ (Freud Museum)
When people lay on his couch, they knew they were mostly in this for the long term, perhaps several years. This was no quick fix, but a deep, meaningful exploration and analysis of a person’s internal world.
Some of Freud’s artefacts
Next week’s post asks: Can Psychoanalytic thinking fit into today’s short term culture?
What do you think of today’s short-term and throwaway culture? Let me know in the comments below!