The Genius Of Therapy Memes
Updated: May 17
One of my guilty pleasures is the therapy meme. Clever and deceptively spot on, their appeal is in their low tech approach which manages to articulate the mystery and absurdity of the human condition.
Go on twitter and instagram and you'll find hundreds of memes created, posted and shared from 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. I imagined a tweedy psychoanalyst in Hampstead, doodling ideas on their ipad, whilst their patient free-associated on the couch. Unlikely admittedly. Or maybe there is no human involvement 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 brilliantly subverts 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 writes in his book The Examined Life, 'what makes us human is our desire to be understood … not just the words but the gaps in between’. According to this meme, even those gaps are a little stringy and deflated, I think we can all relate to that.
Another favourite is the sock, which has now gained cult status with over fifteen thousand 'likes' to date. It needs no explanation and I am sure Carl Jung himself would have chuckled at this visual representation of the inner self.
Opening up to a therapist, and taking the risk to share your feelings, is a massive step. People often worry about their therapist, wondering what it must be like for them dealing with trauma and distress day in, day out. Years of training, our own therapy, supervision and constant CPD all help, but we are human too. Nevertheless, the meme below may resonate regardless of which chair you are sitting in.
It is perhaps no surprise that cats feature prominently in therapy memes, the one below captures the disembodied feeling of painful emotions.
In Jungian philosophy, the anima is the part of the masculine psyche that represents 'the divine female', an ancestral female energy 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. Whilst this may sound a little reductive, it is important to understand that these are anthropomorphic archetypes. As human beings we articulate these life forces on a spectrum of possibility beyond current definitions of sex and gender. In Jungian dream interpretation, cats represent the anima, symbolizing intuition and relational dynamics. Many of us, regardless of sex or gender will recognise the inner self-saboteur, which shuts down connection when emotions become challenging.
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.
Ultimately, 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 now and again.
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