Several years ago, while in graduate school in New York, I attended a lecture by a famous psychoanalyst who was advocating for a special place for psychoanalysis in today’s society. The world, he argued, has become too fast paced and goal oriented. People are pushed into acting without thinking, behaving without contemplating, and are leading overly productive lives. In fact, he suggested that Nike’s advertising slogan—“Just Do It”—best symbolizes our time.
“Nike-ism,” he argued, “is everything that psychoanalysis is not.” And our duty as therapists is to preserve the countercultural force of psychotherapy opposing this tide—against rushing and doing too much and thinking too little.
“Well,” I told my friend as we listened to the enthusiastic applause of the audience. “I kinda like that slogan.”
“Why?” she asked.
“Look at this room!” I answered. “Everything is so slow, so predictable. Don’t you think analysts need to hurry up sometimes? Get a kick to their backside on occasion? Otherwise, it can all become a grand festival of nodding and sighing and snoozing. I don’t think psychotherapy is about that at all.”
The dichotomy between doing and being is central to the way therapists view psychotherapy, both as a special practice in the world and as a helpful way to distinguish between different…