• Richard Hughes

The Genius Of Therapy Memes

Updated: Oct 19


I thought it would be fun to write about one of my guilty pleasures, namely that social media staple, the therapy meme. Clever and deceptively spot on, their appeal is in their low tech approach through which they manage to articulate the struggle at the core of our inner selves and the absurdity of the human condition. In the words of the poet John Keats, there is certain 'negative capability' to them, an openness to the experience without the need to reason or rationalise.

Go on twitter and instagram and their are hundreds of memes created, posted and shared by accounts such as I told my therapist about you (335.2k followers), Freud intensifies (48.5k followers), All of your problems ever (16.9k followers) and Someone’s therapist (11.3k followers).


This is clearly a flourishing psychology sub-genre and I was curious to find out who is behind these accounts and why they would spend so much time and effort creating them. Whoever they are, they clearly know a lot about psychotherapy and the human condition. In my imagination, I picture a tweedy psychoanalyst doodling ideas on their ipad somewhere in Hampstead whilst their patient free-associates on the couch. Or maybe there is no human intention at all, just a nefarious bot? So far, all of my attempts to make contact with the creators of these accounts have come to nothing.


The first meme I came across on social media was this I thought it would be fun to write about one of my guilty pleasures, namely that social media staple, the therapy meme. Clever and deceptively spot on, their appeal is in their low tech approach through which they manage to articulate the struggle at the core of our inner selves and the absurdity of the human condition. In the words of the poet John Keats, there is certain 'negative capability' to them, an openness to the experience without the need to reason or rationalise.

Go on twitter and instagram and their are hundreds of memes created, posted and shared by accounts such as I told my therapist about you (335.2k followers), Freud intensifies (48.5k followers), All of your problems ever (16.9k followers) and Someone’s therapist (11.3k followers).


This is clearly a flourishing psychology sub-genre and I was curious to find out who is behind these accounts and why they would spend so much time and effort creating them. Whoever they are, they clearly know a lot about psychotherapy and the human condition. In my imagination, I picture a tweedy psychoanalyst doodling ideas on their iPad somewhere in Hampstead whilst their patient free-associates on the couch. Or maybe there is no human intention at all, just a nefarious bot? So far, all of my attempts to make contact with the creators of these accounts have come to nothing.


The first meme I came across on social media was this Venn diagram.


The intersection is brilliantly subverted, challenging the universality of the basic law of mathematics. I love the chaotic circle of ‘things I do’ which squeezes between the givens of life. The psychotherapist Stephen Grosz, in his book The Examined Life, writes that 'what makes us human is our desire to be understood … not just the words but the gaps in between’. To be human is not the perfect circles or even the intersection, but what is between even if it is a little stringy and deflated.


Another favourite is the ‘sock ’, which has 1248 likes to date. It needs no explanation since its imagery is archaic. Jung himself would have undoubtedly approved of this visual representation of the inner self.


Opening up to a therapist, being vulnerable and taking the risk to share your thoughts and feelings can feel like a massive step - a bit like the memes below.


Psychotherapy offers a safe space to talk. People often say the experience can feel 'containing' or 'holding'. Being seen, acknowledged and validated can be a deeply reparative experience. People often want their therapist to be wise, objective; empathic and perhaps a little detached; and yet when both parties begin to see each other as complex human beings, something special starts to take place. Moments of 'realness' - like the meme below - can feel risky and are the antithesis of 'what therapy should be like' but when they can be explored with curiosity and openness, it can be transformative - for both parties.

It is perhaps no surprise that cats feature prominently in therapy memes, the one below captures just how disembodied the feelings of loneliness can be.

In Jungian philosophy, the anima is the part of the male psyche that represents 'the divine female'; an ancestral female energy within us that can be experienced as sensitivity or creativity. Likewise the animus represents the unconscious 'divine masculine' in the female psyche, which can play out as single-mindedness or rationality and whilst this may sound a little reductive or binary, these are anthropomorphic archetypes and as human beings we articulate these life forces on a spectrum of possibility beyond definitions of gender. In dreams, cats represent the anima, symbolizing intuition and relational dynamics and of course many of us recognise the self-saboteur and that when frightened of emotional connection, we shut down.


I am also intrigued that racoons feature prominently in memes too. I am sure Jung would have recognised the racoon archetype; in Abenaki Native American mythology there is a story about a mischievous racoon called Azeban who tricks others out of food. He represents adaptability and resourcefulness.


For all of this, memes normalise our feelings and perhaps make us more connected in their shared absurdity and playfulness; we all need a bit of that in our lives.




Copyright and with thanks to:


Freud intensifies @freudintens


All of your problems ever @allofyourprobs


I told my therapist about you @itoldmythe


Someone's therapist @someonetherap_


Keep talking, I'm diagnosing you @keeptalkinglol

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