During the last fifty years the figure of the psychoanalyst in popular culture has plunged all the way from eminence to stock comedy. It is broadly accepted that humour is a means of expressing anger and fear without risking hostility, and that jokes allow us to regress momentarily into a childlike mode of cognition. So, why all the jokes about shrinks – or, to put it another way, why might we become angry and fearful and wish to opt out of adulthood at the thought of psychoanalysis? So repulsive is the idea of becoming ‘dependent’ on a psychoanalyst (as I once heard it described) that those who aren’t giggling are likely to be googling ‘Cognitive Behavioural Therapy’ and booking a cure-all block of twelve sessions instead.
Given the climate of scepticism, it is striking that an unapologetic, non-satirical book about psychoanalysis has been on the bestseller list for several months. Some have suggested that here, at last, is someone who argues the case for psychoanalysis – but this is projection. Its author, Stephen Grosz, isn’t arguing;