Remember the Sopranos scene with Carmela’s therapist? The therapist cuts through all of Carmela’s rationalizations about staying with a monster (which are also, tweaked slightly, the viewer’s rationalizations for liking Tony). The therapist says Carmela has to leave her husband and that Carmela is enabling evil. Carmela thinks she should leave but says, “You’re going to charge the same anyway,” and he says, “I won’t accept blood money.” It’s this incredible fight for values, and Carmela can’t comprehend the therapist’s values: her whole world requires her not to comprehend him, including his statement, “many patients want to be excused for their current predicament.”
Here’s one of my private theories about why women are fascinated with therapy: Until the post-war era, most women married who their parents told them to marry, or at least someone within their communities, and they lived in communities that effectively directed their lives and major life decisions, at least until the women themselves aged into becoming matriarchs, grandmothers, etc. Camille Paglia likes to talk about how in Italian communities, young wives were bossed around by their husbands’s mothers, and the old women wielded much of the power; today, old women are ignored by anyone not in their families, and young women have all the power, until they become crones, at which point they’re discarded by anyone who’s not their husbands or families. I exaggerate, yes, but by much? Pre-war, women had relatively few choices. The “point” of life was not individual self actualization or pleasure, it was sustaining the community, having enough to eat, putting a roof over the head, raising the children. Low on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and therefore (relatively) easy to accomplish. Expectations differ today.
You can, naturally, contrast the pre-war world with pretty much everything today: women are highly autonomous. They earn their own money and keep their own households. They have infinite freedom and choice–with it the ability to fuck up easily. A lot of people, I think, can’t handle and don’t like choice, but almost no one in the media will write an article about how choice sucks, and having less choice can be desirable to some people. So what’s the female response to total freedom? Often: anxiety, uncertainty, therapy. A lot of women get enormous social and sexual power in their teens or early 20s and wield it how one might expect someone to wield a huge amount of power with minimal guidance (that’s also the plot of every young-adult, adventure-save-the-world story).