First Impressions: Netflix’s the goop lab by Gwyneth Paltrow
Controversial wellness ideas aside, the show attempts to discuss a variety of topics we find hard or shameful to talk about
In this life, many of us know few ways to cope: science, recreation and religion. Science, by which I mean traditional medicine and talk therapy, offered me prescription medicine for illnesses and prompted sparse visits to a few psychologists to talk about my issues, pain and loss. Meanwhile, recreation to me is my yoga practice, which I use to stretch my body, but more to ease my mind. Then there’s religion because why not? (Spoiler, it didn’t work for me either.)
But a traumatic experience at the workplace some years ago demanded something different. Suddenly, I felt confined, trapped in my own body and mind. There was no medicine I could take or talk therapy I’d willingly attend to help me process and heal from the resulting psychological trauma. Avoidance and suppression became the answer as I jumped from one workplace to another. I had a new job, a new family, I struggled. I cried every single day.
But desperate times call for desperate measures. So I tried a few alternative methods (nothing radical), like crystal healing and saging paired with meditation practices. It felt like it worked for some time until it didn’t. So here I am ~again~ looking for “new-age” ways to accept, process and heal.
Enter: Netflix’s the goop lab with Gwyneth Paltrow. A docuseries about the lifestyle & wellness company built by the actress in 2008 and a team of wildly open-minded individuals, willing to explore great lengths to optimize the self (“optimization of the self” were Gwyneth’s actual words). The show attempts to discuss a variety of topics we find hard or shameful to talk about, like understanding self-harm and using shrooms in the context of healing, as well as offers alternatives you can discuss with health professionals—should you be willing to give them a try.
Sounds like a bunch of bullshit, but hear me out. The pilot episode, Healing Trip, takes us to Jamaica and reintroduces audiences to psychedelics, specifically magic mushrooms. Four goopers (as the team is called) take shrooms—a micro-dose in tea form—and experience psychedelic psychotherapy under licensed therapists for very real and relatable reasons, like the desire to feel connected, to surrender, to address trauma. The setting was ceremonial and the shrooms were used as a tool to get insight into what we all work so hard to avoid or bury deep inside. In between the guided trip (pun intended) were interviews with Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) case studies. Among them, a cancer-survivor and a military veteran. Both of whom participated in legally testing other psychedelics, such as MDMA, again, in the context of treatment.
So should we all partake in drug-assisted therapy? Maybe not. The goop lab series was after all created to “entertain and inform.” Its disclaimer at the start attempts to absolve itself of ethical responsibility, but it does so unsuccessfully hence the backlash all over the Internet. It’s “terrible,” “a mess” and on some levels, “dangerous” according to other experts.
But I watched goop lab before reading the reviews and I was thoroughly engaged; I cried and then cringed when I heard someone say, give in to the “spirit of the mushroom.” But in 30 minutes, I felt exposed. It was almost therapeutic to listen to individuals unpack their feelings and pain, to hear people openly discuss how hard it is to live up to societal expectations to be okay because I can relate hard. The shrooms, as well as other controversial wellness ideas to me were symbolic. An “absurd” attempt to sell hope for all our modern-day anxieties but hope nonetheless.
At the end of the day, isn’t that what we all need? To feel that amid the consequences of climate change, virus outbreaks and the everyday, something good can still happen.
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Art Alexandra Lara