A Kardashian family conversation about generational trauma highlighted the differences in two generations’ feelings about psychological therapy.
In the Season 4 finale of “The Kardashians,” Kourtney Kardashian embarked on an extremely awkward conversation with Kris Jenner about her mother seeking therapy. Kourtney Kardashian has been publicly open about her mental health journey through therapy for several years now and has often touted its benefits.
The conversation was sparked when Kourtney seemed triggered by her mother’s behavior during a road trip. Kourtney had invited her kids, sister Khloe Kardashian and her mom to see her husband, Travis Barker, play a Blink-182 show in San Diego. During the drive to San Diego, Jenner complained to the camera crew about not being involved in Kourtney’s public pregnancy announcement in June. (It should be noted that Kourtney told her entire family she was pregnant before she announced it publicly. Jenner’s main grievance was that she wasn’t involved in the public announcement.)
During the road trip, Jenner also griped about where they were staying the night. Once they got to the home they’d rented, Jenner was impatient while everyone selecting their rooms. Kourtney wanted to give priority to her kids about what room they wanted, but Jenner just wanted to select her room as quickly as possible.
Kourtney Kardashian (left) and her mother, Kris Jenner, clashed on a road trip, leading to a difficult exchange about psychology.
After everyone was settled, Kourtney confronted her mother in the home’s kitchen about her being “a massive control freak.”
“Can I tell you something about you?” Kourtney began. “What about you makes you have this need to be so ...”
“Bossy?” Jenner interjects.
“No, control. It’s control,” Kourtney said. “Are you ever curious about yourself — or why you’re so controlling?”
Khloe immediately came to her mom’s defense by suggesting that because of Jenner’s age, she’s pretty set in her ways.
“She’s 67. You think she’s — I’m not changing at 38 like that,” Khloe said before telling her sister that she should “just accept everyone” for the way they are.
But Kourtney wanted to push the conversation.
Kourtney then suggested her mom embrace her “feminine” energy — which, Kourtney claimed, involved embracing more “self-care” and not “overthinking, not overdoing.”
After Jenner continued to shrug off Kourtney’s remarks, her daughter asked her mom, point blank:
“Do you do therapy or no?”
To this, Jenner goes into deflection-mode and responds with: “Do you have a cute little dimple in your chin right there?”
As Jenner tries to talk about anything but therapy, Kourtney persists and begins talking about “generational trauma” — a researched concept in psychology in which it is believed that “trauma is passed down generationally through both interpersonal interactions between parent and child as well as through the genes of traumatized parents,” a professor explained in Psychology Today.
Khloe Kardashian, shown here at the 2022 CFDA Fashion Awards, wasn't backing up her sister in the therapy conversation.
As Kourtney tries to explain that trauma can be passed down through generations — while implying her whole family could benefit from therapy — Khloe cuts her off to say: “Or we’re basing medical advice off of TikTok?”
As Kourtney continued her attempt at explaining the concept, Khloe appeared to get more defensive, while Jenner wanted to talk about anything other than the subject.
“Like no offense or anything,” Khloe said. “But like, we all have fucking problems, just buckle up and let’s go.”
“There’s certain patterns to break if you don’t want to pass things down to your kids,” Kourtney responded.
“And you think choosing bad partners is a genetic thing,” Khloe, who had issues with the father of her children, asked.
“We have all picked people we thought we could change … and we can’t,” Kourtney said, likely referring to her former on-and-off long-term relationship with the father or her three older children, Scott Disick.
Jenner got defensive by the implication that she could benefit from embracing the concept of transgenerational trauma and therapy in general.
“I have a very full, fabulous life,” Jenner said. “Why would I go back to reimagine ... ”
“It’s just to change certain ways,” Kourtney continued, and as she began to explain how therapy has benefited her, Jenner cut her off and grabbed Kourtney’s face.
“This little eyebrow is higher than this one,” she said as she showed Khloe her sister’s eyebrows.
“It is,” Kourtney says with good humor.
“Anyway, therapy’s not for everyone,” Kourtney concluded.
The scene is captures a common disconnect between how older and younger generations view the need for therapy.
Although therapy is less stigmatized nowadays and is embraced by many millennials and Gen Zers, older generations might have a different view of it.
“Not long ago the prevailing view of seeking professional help for personal problems was associated with stigma and shame,” Tracy Ross, a licensed clinical social worker in New York who specializes in couples and family therapy, told HuffPost in 2020. “Needing to be in therapy was something to keep secret at best, embarrassing and shameful at worst. It was associated with personal weakness or failure, considered a shortcoming on the part of the family, the individual, even the community, and was viewed as a desperate last resort for those in dire need.”
Ross noted that people may also view therapy as an “indulgence, a crutch, an excuse or a luxury,” due to early admonitions to keep personal matters private.
“They may feel like they are too old or too set in their ways to change, that it’s not worth the effort or the pain of opening up,” she added.
Ross also said that even if someone, like Kourtney, shares their own experience, is patient and is persistent about the subject of therapy with someone they’d like to see seek help, they should still temper their expectations and find a way to cope with disinterest.
“Keep in mind that at the end of the day, you can’t force a person to seek therapy,” Ross said. “You can express your concerns, address their resistance and offer your perspective, but if the person doesn’t embrace the process, it is unlikely to be helpful.”