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So Tell Me About Your Mother

Posted on : Aug-15-2009 | By : Joshua | In : Blog Post, skepticism

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If there’s one thing the world needs more of, apart from free baklava dispensers on every corner, it’s cheap Freudian pop psychoanalysis. Thankfully, Dr. Stephen Bergman, evidently a local author of some note, is here with precisely that.

I’m not about to question Dr. Bergman’s credentials. He got his MD from Harvard Medical School, where he’s now a professor, and was a Rhodes Scholar. I’m willing to grant that the dude knows what he’s talking about.

But credentials only get you so far, and they certainly don’t excuse you from writing crap op-eds. Even if the claims is based on the strongest of scientific evidence, what Dr. Bergman gives us are just anecdotes. Well, anecdotes and an off-hand reference to “work leading gender dialogues between thousands of men and women, boys and girls”. I bet there’s interesting research to be done there, but you won’t hear about it in this article. No, the methods here come straight from the “Austrian witch-doctor”, as Nabokov called him.

Step one: Take an anecdote from a patient.

When he was 6, he had been beaten up at school. He wasn’t hurt physically, but felt terrible. He walked home up the railroad tracks through the woods so no one would see him crying, and couldn’t wait to tell his mother. […] She turned around, saw the tears, and with concern asked, “What’s wrong, dear?’’ Despite wanting to tell her, he said, “Nothing,’’ turned away and walked back out.

Step two: Generalise like a motherfucker.

Although we all – boys and girls – come into the world with a primary desire for connection, there is an early fork in the path.

Step three: Find a way to work mothers in somehow.

Many boys are pushed by the culture to disconnect from their relationship with mother in order to grow, and become less valued for their relationships and more valued for themselves […]

Step four: ???

Step five: Profit! By which I mean collect a paycheck from the Boston Globe.

This is a guy who has, in his fiction books and in other op-eds, stressed the idea that patients are individuals and much be approached as such. Yet here he is painting with a broad brush and declaring that men — all men — have difficulty opening up in relationships because boys — all boys — are pushed by some magical force to not develop deep connections with their mothers. And you should trust him when he says so, because he has a story from a patient to prove it.

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