April 05, 2006

The Celebrity Therapist

He’s a therapist who treats celebrities, and a celebrity himself too. For each appointment he blocks out a whole morning or afternoon, so no two clients will ever bump into each other. For the A-list ones, he blocks out a whole day and, in some cases, goes to their homes.

He wrote that bestseller, Loving Your Shadow. It put him on the talk show circuit, and, ever since, he puts a book out every two years. There’s an endless supply of possible titles == Seeing Your Shadow, Lighting Your Shadow, Walking with Your Shadow -- so he’ll never run out of things to write. At times he’s introduced as “the shadow man.”

At his level of practice, the line between clienthood and friendship sometimes gets blurred, but that’s to be expected: these celebrities are so needy they express it by giving him paintings, buying him vacations, getting his kids into their kids’ schools. Some weekends, on their yachts, he expounds genially on Jung and post-Jung over drinks and cigars.

He’s taking notes for his next book, The Shadow of Success. It’s a subject he knows in his depths, after having to deal with the complexes and stresses that sudden fame brings. He will not tell his readers, however, the thing that most interests him about his celebrated clients: that therapy does not relieve their suffering. This is the work of their shadow, of course: every gain worsens the acquisitive itch. They always want more, more… It’s impossible for such grasping, striving people to achieve the kind of self-acceptance which is one of the attributes of a rooted, flowering life such as, to choose a convenient example, his.

What his clients really need, he often thinks, is not a therapist but a confessor, to deliver them of their sins and make them glad of their trials. But the fact that they don’t improve doesn’t affect his theories. In fact, protracted courses of therapy with little improvement give him more time to find evidence for his ideas. “Healing” them, “treating” their symptoms, “achieving” a “positive” “outcome” – he always thinks such words in quotation marks – seems beside the point when he has such rich analytical material to study.