And an article in USA Today this week reported an increase in the number of pet owners taking their dogs to see psychiatrists. Hey, whatever happened to yelling at your dog to get off the couch? You know, if I could lick my own balls, I sure as hell couldn't need a shrink. Ah, who am I kidding? I can lick my own balls. That's why I go to a shrink. I can't stop. Because I'm a human being, with a bafflingly complex mind and a very stiff neck.

Now I don't want to get off on a rant here, but even the best psychiatrist is like a blindfolded auto mechanic poking around under your hood with a giant foam "We're #1" finger.

Though definitely a Western phenomenon, psychiatry hearkens back to traditional, tribal forms of healing, in which the right combination of words and potions would ease your tortured spirit. I can just picture an African Bushman, lying on a dirt floor, anxiously telling his medicine man this nightmare he keeps having about showing up at work fully clothed.

Even though it was invented in Europe, psychiatry could only become the multi-million-dollar business it is today here in the United States. We're the only people in the world who are stupid enough to actually want to know what's going on inside our minds. Americans couldn't be more self-absorbed if they were made of equal parts water and paper towel.

Another reason psychiatry has flourished in the US is that, in the 1970's, Woody Allen helped popularize the idea that going to a shrink is normal and healthy. And just look what its done for him and his family. He and his daughter-slash-wife have never been happier.

Now, ever since the days of Freud, psychiatry has been strictly limited to the realm of the middle- and- upper classes. sychoanalysis is expensive, which isn't too surprising when you consider it was invented by a major cokehead.

For me, the difference between psychiatry and psychology is just one of those little nagging things I can never remember. Like stalactite or stalagmite. Alligator or crocodile. Nipple clamp or nipple restraint.

But I do know that psychosis falls into two major categories, manic-depression, and schizophrenia. Being diagnosed as one or the other has two immediate benefits. First, it automatically defines a set of effective treatments and second, it tells you which side you'll play on in the annual Crazy Fucks Softball Tournament.

Nowadays, rather than dwelling on childhood traumas and repressed sexuality, modern psychiatry deals more with correcting chemical imbalances in the brain. Kind of like what some people did back in college, except then it wasn't called psychiatry, it was called "bong hits."

Therapists face the daunting task of taking chaotic, violent and unstable people and molding them into well-rounded, secure and productive members of a chaotic, violent and unstable society.

Now, I'm not saying we should return to the days of lobotomies and electroshock, but I do feel the pendulum has swung too far the other way. Today, everything is a disorder or a disease that deserves our understanding. Nobody is held personally responsible for their actions. And that's gotta go. I think a good first step would be to change "not guilty by reason of insanity" to "guilty by reason of insanity."

Basically I'm a pretty normal guy when it comes to my mental health. I guess if I have one little problem that makes me consider seeing a shrink, it's a white-hot hatred for all humanity that burns so intensely it literally sears my insides. Other than that, I'm feelin' pretty mellow these days.

All kidding aside, I know what my problem is. I'm what you call a self-loathing paranoid. I don't think I'm worth the time and effort it would take for someone to hunt me down.

I view my head in much the same way I view my TV set. When something isn't working right, I can either bang it with my hand, or call a professional to fix the damn thing. In fact, I even have my shrink wear a tool belt and a name tag, and rip a big one at the start of every session.

The key is to find a therapist that you click with, someone that you trust implicitly with the deep, dark secrets you wouldn't even tell your accountant.

Now, I've had some great therapists in my life, and I've also had some who left me questioning their credentials. No doubt the worst was Doctor Cletus, a Jungian in bib overalls who, while I poured out the most intimate details of my very existence, would thumb through back-issues of "Guns & Ammo" magazine, occasionally glancing over at me, giggling and muttering, "Man, that is some weird-ass shit."

And the best input I ever got from a shrink? Well, when I was younger, I was plagued by feelings of inadequacy. So I went to see a psychologist. And he told me the reason I felt inadequate was because I was inadequate. Now that guy was a fucking genius.

Of course, that's just my opinion, I could be wrong.


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