Bodies by Susie Orbach

I’ve just read Bodies by Susie Orbach. In it, she argues our bodies and the way we think about them are shaped by our early experiences with our parents and, as we carry on through life, we are influenced by how our culture tells us to think about our bodies. In broad strokes, of course, this is obviously the case, but she goes into some interesting detail about her theories on the role of touch in parenting, and the way, for example, media images of sex cause us to look at our own bodies as if from outside, changing our own desires. In general, she seems to be saying that we don’t take our bodies seriously enough in their own right, but too seriously as projects and things external to “us” to somehow represent “us” to the world. It’s a quick read and I recommend it as such, especially to anyone on a diet or considering cosmetic surgery!

Orbach is a psychotherapist, though, and there is something in her arguements that make me uneasy at times. She presents cases as mini mysteries, where we are given the problem (a man wants his legs amputated, for example), a series of clues from his past (troubled upbringing), and then get the reveal for why he feels the way he does (read the book to find out!). This simplification she presents is obviously to make the cases she raises, but I think the approach is also what makes me a touch uneasy about psychotherapy: the idea that there is an ‘answer’ if we can just work it out. I could be wrong (and for those undertaking psychotherapy everywhere I hope I am wrong), but I struggle to think of people as that linear.