Dr. Phil and Me, by Dennis O’Neil
After two 30 minute office visits and a little homework, we listened to the therapist tell us, matter-of-factly and unequivocally, that our relationship was somewhere south of hopeless, we had nothing for each other, the sooner we went back to being merely colleagues, the better for all concerned. I wasn’t surprised, and I don’t think she was either. But I guess I didn’t expect the final pronouncement to come so quickly and definitively.
The therapist was the late Dr. Albert Ellis, developer of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, and boy! he didn’t believe in mincing words, nor, I’d say, in ignoring he obvious. I remembered him and this pretty inconsequential bit of autobiography when I was paging through a Book of the Month Club mailing the other day and found that BOMC was offering Real Life, by the gent who bylines himself Dr. Phil McGraw.
Soon after I stopped spending my weekdays in a Manhattan office building and became a lazy slug who could, and sometimes did, watch television at three in the afternoon, I sampled Dr. Phil’s daily offering on Channel 2 and was mildly impressed. Like Ellis, he seemed to be interested in solutions, said what he meant. And although “common sense” is overrated – common sense tells us that the world is flat – it does have its uses and Dr. Phil seemed to be using it well. The approaches of both McGraw, as exhibited in those early broadcasts, and Ellis remind me of Morita therapy, a Japanese treatment championed in this country by David Reynolds. Morita therapy says – my interpretation – that, look, we could talk for years and maybe never find out what damaged you, or when, and if we did, we might not be able to do a repair job. But we can deal with the ways the damage is making your life unmanageable, so let’s do that.
Then, during one fine broadcast, Dr. Phil casually mentioned that he’d spoken on the phone to George W. Bush. Okay, presidents call celebrities and most celebrities would take a president’s call and a lousy telephone exchange doesn’t necessarily mean anything and…Then – Dr. Phil and his wife Robin were photographed with George and the missus at some White House shindig, very festively, having, y’know, a good time, and I bid my interest in watching the Dr. Phil show goodbye.
It was, and is, my belief that GWB is the worst president ever, and that he is willfully ignorant and arrogant and that he is a psychological train wreck. Any psychologist who allows himself to be photographed with such a man is implicitly endorsing him and if McGraw is endorsing Bush, he either does not recognize the train wreck, in which case his professional acuity is questionable, or he approves of Bush’s policies, in which case his grasp on reality is at shaky, or he’ll do anything to get his face on the news, in which case…well, maybe he should see a good therapist.
RECOMMENDED READING: Playing Ball on Running Water, by David Reynolds.