Sacred Disorder | Cliff Bostock's blog – 'Finally, I came to regard as sacred the disorder of my mind' (Rimbaud)

Stop it!

Welcome to Sacred Disorder. I’ve started this blog as a place to track my interests in psychology, culture and politics. It is linked to my website,

The infamous video above was sent me by my friend Brad Lapin. It features Bob Newhart, the original TV therapist who was a lot easier to take than Dr. Phil or Dr. Laura. The video is actually a pretty good summary of behavioral therapy. But, more important, it points to one of my own criticisms of psychotherapy.

Therapy insists for the most part that we look at life through a tragic lens (like the client in the video does). Indeed, Freud based psychoanalysis, the mother of all modern therapy, on the tragic myth of Oedipus. Life, as the Buddha declared, may indeed be suffering at heart, but Freud insisted that our inquiry into meaning always account for the tragic.

But I believe the lens of comedy is just as valid. The Greeks understood this themselves, always featuring comedies that satirized tragedies during their theater festivals. (Theater arguably functioned as “therapy” for the Greeks.) This perspective, which is something quite different from the sunny optimism of so-called “positive psychology,” comes natural to me, thanks to a mother who was at once depressed and unbelievably funny throughout her life.

Early on in my work in psychology, I offended quite a few clients by bursting into laughter during their sessions. You learn, of course, that this is a no-no in therapy school. But I actually found that, after a moment of explanation, most clients saw my laughter as an invitation to view things differently. (Those who didn’t understand wisely moved on.)

You can read an essay I wrote as part of my doctoral program on this topic. It’s entitled “Jocasta’s Riddle: How psychotherapy requires self-inquiry as tragic reflection.” It’s on my original website,

Write a Comment

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Please note: Comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.