Whaddya Know–You *Can’t* Buy Happiness

Sometimes I read an article, and I think to myself, “This is a blatant and cynical attempt to use our ugly fascination with wealth and celebrity as linkbait.” But when the subject is as ripe as this one, I can’t resist.

The New York Times, in its ongoing attempts to paint the past dozen years as a second Gilded Age, offers up today’s story of $600/hour therapists that cater to the super-rich.

Apparently, yesterday’s Masters of the Universe were made of sterner stuff than today’s model. Rather than simply treating any misgivings by collecting expensive cars and plowing through supermodels like a six-pack of Hamms, as was good enough for their fathers, today’s hedge fund managers have turned to psychotherapy.

Here’s a sampling of problems for your delectation:

Janet L. Wolfe, a Park Avenue psychologist and the co-author of a paper about difficulties in counseling “women of the ‘upper’ classes,” said she considered a rich person’s unhappiness or emotional anguish no less serious than anybody else’s, but acknowledged how trivial some of her patients’ problems could sound.

“One of the things that drew a very wealthy woman to see me was that she was an inadequate tennis player,” Dr. Wolfe recalled. “She was very serious about this. She felt that the other wealthy women she played with would think she was an inadequate person. It’s easier for rich patients to take problems like this seriously.”

Yeah, I hate it when that happens.

“But this person knows more than you,” he told the elected official, a wealthy businessman who had turned to public service, yearning for a greater challenge, after quickly making a fortune in the private sector.

“But I’m his boss,” the patient insisted.

“The issue wasn’t foreign affairs; it was control,” Dr. Karasu recalled. “That was his attitude to me as well: ‘I know what is best because look at who I am.’ ”

I don’t know about you, but that makes me feel pretty good about my government. Our politicians know that their ability to raise money and court special interests makes them better suited to make complex policy decisions than those fools who spent a lifetime studying the subject, and thus can’t afford good suits.

“To generalize, it’s not the priority of people who are successful on Wall Street to be intimate,” Dr. Karasu said. “It is their priority to be aggressive. Many will not open themselves up to intimacy even in love affairs. They are slow to trust anyone — even the therapist.”

I don’t begrudge people money; as a capitalist, I think that people should be free to make as much money as they can (legally) haul in.

What I do object to is stupidity, and spending vast quantities of money in a futile attempt to compensate for a complete lack of self-awareness qualifies in my book. I think they’d be better off spending $20 on a positive psychology book.

At least that way, they’d know the book wasn’t soaking them for more expensive therapy sessions. And the book would be backed with a hell of a lot more research!

3 thoughts on “Whaddya Know–You *Can’t* Buy Happiness

  1. Fascinating article! After becoming engrossed with re-runs of the MSNBC Lockup Series over the weekend, I couldn’t help thinking that the attitudes of the rich men and women in this article are shared by the poor men serving time in maximum security prisons throughout the US. The belief that they always know what’s best; being unsettled by not having control over outcomes; and an inability to be vulnerable or experience intimacy. There was one particular guy who, instead of going to a half-way house that had been arranged for him, decided that he didn’t need that (he also has a substance abuse problem) and crashes at an aunt’s home, instead. Needless to say, he returns to prison within 3 months.

    In the case of the rich, I think you are correct in saying that they would be better served by reading a Pos Psych book; and advised to engage in specific activities that would foster better behavior. Unfortunately, for most of the rich who believe that everyone and everything has a price, the exchange of money for advice is tainted from the out-set so paying $100 or $600 an hour doesn’t matter.

  2. There are plenty of illegal ways to make money of which I highly approve. As long as people aren’t stealing or defrauding others, they should have a it.

  3. Jackie,

    Definitely agree that there are some things that are illegal that shouldn’t be. But my feeling is that when I’m giving advice, I’d rather err on the side of not advocating lawbreaking…just in case.

    Use your own judgment!

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