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The slap

The emptiness of American “psychobabble”

Will Smith after winning his Oscar: a “vessel for love”?

Will Smith’s Oscar slap was followed by a downpour of “overwrought psychobabble” from him and his wife, says Janan Ganesh in the FT. “I am a work in progress.” “This is a season for healing.” “I want to be a vessel for love.” Emotional oversharing is not the problem here. “That is, for the most part, a healthier thing than its opposite.” The issue is that a “psychological word salad” gives the impression of self-knowledge with none of the actual substance. As one friend of mine put it: “They don’t talk about their feelings. They talk about talking about their feelings.”

And it does them little good. Smith, a man who spent years “doling out mawkish advice on how to master the self”, couldn’t even control his own anger. This hypocrisy isn’t confined to actors: I can’t be the only foreigner in America chided for not having a therapist by someone who seemed to be getting distinctly “uneven results” from theirs. In truth, most emotionally intelligent people are taciturn, even cold. They know how to read the mind of a voter, or the atmosphere of a courtroom, and they’ll use their insights selfishly. Psychobabble, by contrast, does not reveal feelings but “obscures them in a fog”. As a Brit, I know a word for this kind of thing: “repression”.