You're stuck. Dead-end job and strained relations with the spouse. Your pants are struggling to zip, and you just found a bong in your daughter's closet. You consider seeing a therapist, or a life coach, or maybe a psychic. But when it comes to figuring out what you want, and how to get it, there's a newer, hipper self-improvement guru in town.
Wantology is "a critical thinking method," says Kevin Kreitman, an industrial engineer who is credited with inventing it and the profession. (Yes, her name really is Kevin; we'll get to that in a minute.) "So you can't be trapped in your own assumptions, beliefs and perspectives. It's a skill."
For a living, Kreitman, 60, helps other people figure out what they want -- for a fee of $200 an hour. People walk into her office thinking that they want to get a promotion, she says, and leave realizing that they actually want to quit. They may think they want to get married, but actually want to travel the world for six months alone. They walk in desperate to buy a Mini Cooper, and leave wanting a Toyota Camry.
The career path that led Kreitman to wantology was hardly a conventional one. Perhaps not surprising, given that her mother gave her a boy's name -- because she never wanted her daughter to be denied a job interview because of her gender, like she was.
Kreitman's resume isn't typically female, or typically anything. After stints as a peer counselor, motorcycle mechanic, cross-country semi-truck driver, rock 'n' roll musician, and health food store worker, she got her master's and a Ph.D. in advanced technology, and consulted and taught cybernetics -- the study of complex systems -- for a dozen years.
Sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild, in her new book "The Outsourced Self: Intimate Life in Market Times," places the wantologist in the same camp as dating coaches, rent-a-friends, and professional potty trainers. Americans are increasingly, she writes, hiring people to provide very personal services that we used to do ourselves, with perhaps a little help from our (unpaid) family or friends.
This trend is tumbling fast down the rabbit hole, she explains in The New York Times: "The more anxious, isolated and time-deprived we are, the more likely we are to turn to paid personal services. To finance these extra services, we work longer hours. This leaves less time to spend with family, friends and neighbors; we become less likely to call on them for help, and they on us."
But that's not how Kreitman views her service. She conducts regular training retreats, where psychologists and other interested parties come to learn her method. Kreitman says that she already has several dozen disciples who are using her unique doctrine to help hundreds of their own friends and patients. That may make Kreitman a good wantologist, but not a particularly good businesswoman.
But it is true, she says, that wantology may be all the more useful now, when so many Americans are unemployed or overworked or unhappy as the economy struggles and shifts shapes. "We're having to rethink how we do things," she says. "People are used to having things a certain way. People are starting to be challenged."
What really happens in these sessions with a wantologist? Is it all New Agey nonsense for privileged folks with money and time to burn? I decided to find out. I had two wantology sessions with Kreitman, and for interested readers, who don't have $200 an hour to spend on touring the inner depths of their psyche, I've got the CliffsNotes. Click here to read about how to unleash your true wants.
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