Make your own psychotherapist • 9 July 2010

Or, Lucy and the Eye with Rhinestones.

Art Fair is coming. It’s a craft fair so powerful they call it art. Take Ann Arbor’s baseline homeyness—characterized by my corner coffeeshop, which sells cute, fluffy edibles called “pasties” and decorates with home-made wire sculptures of imaginary animals—and factor in an invasion by thousands of crafters: the entire customer base of Michaels, basically. I have visions of bric-a-brac, rhinestone jewelry, and hand-thrown tableware. How many Birkenstock sandals can one town accommodate? Our population will increase by 50% and the major streets will shut down.

The professors flee. But apparently this is my summer for staying put in one place and experiencing unwanted raptures over insects, vermin and plants. (I should not have waxed eloquent about my poo back in Spring. That was the start of this reverie stuff.) I’m concerned that despite my aesthetic displeasure with Art Fair, the inner onslaught of happy will compromise me again. I might feel compelled to participate, despite lingering distrust of people who participate in anything. First thought: sell home-made birdhouses? (My folks are both wonderful crafters and DIY ideologues, though as a child I grindingly refused to learn anything that wasn’t from a book.)

Considering recent conversations, now I wonder: how would one represent the art of psychotherapy with the tools of crafting? How to reimagine a useful version of Lucy (the modern craft-booth mountebank who Charles Schultz created out of raw, unrecognized misogyny)? How to embrace the logic of the marketplace, in which transformation itself is transformed from process to product?

Well… here’s what I got. There is probably a section of Art Fair for dog sweaters and catnip toys. We could put it there.


Do you worry about your ego? Does it do things that you wish it wouldn’t? 

It’s ok. A lot of us, especially liberals, are ashamed of our egoes and try to cover them up as much as possible. But having an ego is like having a body: you can’t leave Home without it!

Americans are bunch of ego-potatoes. We have have grown equanimity-resistant and toxic. Some of us are so obese that range of motion is severely limited! But just as we work through the shame about having a body and learn to take care of it through diet and exercise, so it is possible take good care for your ego.

Human organisms perform some of their functions so well that we’ve learned to do them unconsciously. Breathing and heartbeat are two examples of automatic processes that can go awry. Two of the functions the ego system performs so well that they become unconscious are: projection and rationalization. A modicum of projection and rationalization is necessary to get most humans through the workday, but in ego-potatoes these functions work about as well as an alcoholic’s liver or a food addict’s kidneys.

Just like other exercises bring the breathing and heartbeat functions back in to consciousness and reorganize them efficiently, this product is designed to shore up projections and rationalizations. A real therapist works better, but has the disadvantages of being accident-prone and expensive. With the build-your-own-therapist (BYOP), funds can be conserved for shopping at Michael’s


Here are some common statements combining an extreme projection with an extreme rationalization—in this case a rationalization for running away. Most of these sentiments were harvested locally, from the artist’s own psyche; and all are normal responses to modern life.

This is a good statement-structure to begin with because running away and self-isolation point to a part of the unconscious that is ripe with the fear of discovery. The intelligent part of the ego knows this, but one has to combine acceptance with good technique to coax out the fear. The BYO Psychotherapist will give the ego a safe place to do exactly this.

For phase one, please choose the statement that most resonates now, or craft a similar one that creates an even better freak-out. Please note: to be technically efficient in phase two, this first statement should contain both a projection and a rationalization. 

Again, having an ego is like having a body. It lets us be in the world, and is naturally good (and naturally a little stupid in places). So… as the breathing and heartbeat calm down, be confident that the statement with maximum resonance is the best one for now. Just be creative and enjoy the funny feelings this might create. That is the flaccid boundary of the ego beginning to vibrate. Check it out: as the nervous system chills out, phase one turns in to an epistemological massage. Mmmmmm…..

● My boss had so many issues that I had to get away from her. I’m my own boss now.

● Bloggers are horrible people. I couldn’t expose myself to them anymore, so I stopped writing.

● The people in this spiritual community are so competitive! Their practice is empty. I will find better friends who understand that competitiveness has no place in a spiritual refuge.

● Facebook is full of freaks! I can’t trust those crazy people in my life. Delete!

● People who care about money have bad hearts. I shun material wants and work only for trade.

● People who do this yoga practice are delusional. Their stupidity sickens me. I’m out.

● People here are intellectually (or spiritually) dead. They just pollute my mind. I keep to myself.

● My colleagues are evil cutthroats. I won’t play their reindeer games. I’d rather be marginalized.

Now phase two is easy.

Construct an echo chamber with six plain white walls. It should be a comfortable size for your ego (though most egoes will expand or contract easily if the dimensions are not exact). The walls should be extremely resonant. They should also be perfectly insulated from (and to) the outside.

Use some fingerpaint to depict a beautiful eye on one of the walls. The iris should be the exact same color as yours, but the look in the eye will be accepting. The eye will regard you the same way the sun regards the earth: Hello over there, you janus-faced old beautiful world.

Also, it might work to give the eye a comfortably subversive quality of knowingness. Then put the fingerpaint away and climb inside the cube. Close the escape-hatch and set the timer for 50 minutes.

Look calmly in to the eye for a moment. Then lie down on the floor of the echo chamber.

Remember your sentence from phase one, and say it a few times silently. Then whisper it aloud. Over the course of the next 50 minutes, repeat the sentence incessantly at a gradually increasing volume.

By the end of the session, you will be screaming. It will be loud. When there is so much vibration off the walls that the words reverberate senselessly through your organism, and you feel you're just at the point of boiling and freezing at the same time, and you know something in you is just about to die, that's gooood. Please scream the statement louder.

When 50 minutes are finished, stop.

Repeat daily for two years or until reality crumbles. Whichever happens first.