Psychoanalytic Humor For The New Year

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Happy New Year to all our readers! If it seems I am preoccupied with cartoons, especially of The New Yorker variety . . . I am!

Page 54 of the January 5, 2009, issue has a wonderful cartoon by Harry Bliss. It is a group session of an unusual variety. A couple (presumably) are in a love-seat. They are flanked by two analysts with spiral-bound books. The psychiatrist on the right is taking notes with his left hand. He very much has the Freudian look: thick glasses (no eyeballs), mustache, bow tie and vest. The other analyst to the left and in the foreground is almost bald. He also has thick glasses as we can discern one side from his profile. In the center love-seat, each spouse speaks to one of the psychiatrists. The man mostly has his back to us, but we can see he has a serious expression bordering on anger. His head is slightly raised as he makes his point to the dutifully writing Freudian. Whether the woman’s psychiatrist is meant to be of the Jungian School is difficult to tell. She is casually dressed with one hand supporting the side of her head. The woman is far less animated than the man.

This is a group-analytic session of an unusual kind. When there is more than one person, by definition there is a group. But two therapists? The humor, of course, is in the love-seat. Do these people love one another? Probably. Otherwise, why would they be in a session together, even if they are talking at cross-purposes?

Do couples need His and Her analysts? Probably. There is no caption to this cartoon; it speaks for itself.

Why is there so much humor to be found in psychoanalysis? Is this some sort of social defense mechanism? The same issue of The New Yorker has an AT&T ad “Introducing the Samsung Epix.” The poor device is so confused it sits in actual-size form, and therefore out of normal proportion, on a couch while a Sopranos-like female analyst looks, listens, and takes notes. The Epix on the couch asks, “Am I a touchscreen phone with Qwerty? Or a Qwerty phone with a touchscreen?” Again, the seriousness of an identity crisis is japed. Perhaps, again, the ad registers the defense mechanism of humor.

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