THE DREGS EFFECT: ARTISTS AND THERAPY
from Chris Wayan's journal, 1997/11/19
What's the dregs effect?
Example: I'm sculpting with my friend Dawn. Sit by the fire making an armature for a winged centauress in mid-leap, designed to hang from my ceiling. Dawn's making a singles-bar monster, a hunchbacked lizard thing with a pinhead. Asks me what I think. "Anorexic Zippy the Godzilla?" She promptly tears the tail off and beefs it up. Goes from comical to rather sinister, though the shapes, considered as abstracts, are beautiful.
Dawn asks about the hypnotherapy I did this week. As I sculpt, I tell her all the horrible shit it brought up: my fears I'm cold, sexless, dull. Odd, since the piece I'm doing is sexy, happy and free-looking.
Dawn says "your friend Lee gave me some good tips on shopping for therapists." Dawn plans to try Zooop's bodyworker/therapist Maeve tomorrow--"Lance has been going to her now, and he recommends her too." Dawn also wants to call my therapist Shelley, if Maeve isn't compatible. She worried about privacy issues, but I think it's okay. Zooop's quit seeing Maeve, and Tim still won't see anyone...
In short, no privacy here! But what else is new? When I think of the stuff my art bares, and all the crazy shit we share with each other...
In fact, it's hard for an artist like me to grasp non-artists' ideas of psychological privacy when I'm mining the most threatening material I can reach, discussing it with my friends--and making art of it for strangers to gawk at!
Therapists with mostly middle-class patients see privacy problems in working with close friends--what if their interests conflict? But in MY profession, therapist-sharing is taken for granted--when you're lucky enough to find someone who works, you share and you make sure not to have conflicts of interest! It's evolved that way for good reason: as a subculture we use (or need) therapists more than most, yet we're poorer than average, don't have medical plans, and can't afford many of the best ones--ESPECIALLY those broadminded enough to handle our issues and ways of coping with them, which are far from American norms. We aggressively introspect, get into altered states (with and without drugs), value experiences (and behavior) others think are crazy, use art as self-therapy and fellow artists as therapists, and tend to bring to professional therapists only the "dregs," issues we can't deal with in art--or which are so dreary they make dull art (the ultimate sin). It's a rare therapist who can see this "dregs effect" skewing what issues an artist presents. It's hard to see past the distortion to the whole person, and to see that the distortion may not be denial or hiding--just a side effect of art itself.
I've been guilty of this myself--haven't really shown my therapist Shelley much of the art that I pour my soul into. She rarely gets to see its social and psychological function. Only its DYSFUNCTION--the times and places art fails me, and I come crying to her.
Like everyone else, I show my shrink the most repressed, denied side of me: but mine's a mild little bean counter! Yep, at my core is the dull, pedantic, inhibited side that others wear to pass as normal, while they hide their dream-tigers from everyone--except their shrinks. I'm just inside out.
In short: therapists who take on serious artists as clients may find them alternately dull and bizarre, with weak boundaries. Just remember, your client has two shrinks, art and you. And you're second. You only get the dregs.
The dregs effect, okay?
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