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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Aunt Bee

Fifty years ago, if you were anxious and blue, there was only one person to go to. It was of course a close relative like your aunt who invariably lived with or near you. Your aunt would counsel you on your troubles, tell you to calm down and relax, and fix you a hot bowl of chicken soup. Invariably you got better, and for free.

Bending today's psychological parlance to yesteryear, that was a 'treatment', but remove the situation, aunt and all to the present day you get not a treatment, but a 'control group'. In other words modernity offers a better way, that in the form of counseling, meditation, or drugs, helps you far more than your aunt ever could, except of course that it ain't free.

The problem is that the aunts of the world have never went away, and you can often find some significant other to counsel you, feed you soup, and otherwise tell you to chill out. Moroever, a loving empathetic friend who can sooth you with a bit of affection, advice, and a homemade broth has never ever been scientifically shown to be less effective to the innumerable versions of psychotherapy and their various bromides (none , alas that involve soup). So empathy trumps therapy, relaxation bests meditation, and the placebo of chicken broth not only works as well as other nostrums, but tastes better.

The rub though is that when left on our own devices, such as friends and family, we can invariably find a better cure than what science offers us. Certainly it would be worthy of study to determine why the skills needed to remedy day to day psychological problems come effortlessly to simple minded folk whose best pharmaceutical concoction is soup. Perhaps it is due to the fact that by living in a complex world, we learn how to emotional navigate our worlds. Thus, wisdom comes not through perusing some philosophical or psychological tome, but by simply observing ourselves. In other words, perhaps the true font of wisdom comes not from books or 'experts' but from from the trials and tribulations of being alive.

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