Out of Your Mind

Food for Thought

“We’re all out of our fucking minds!” said Albert Ellis, the father of cognitive behavioral therapy. Ian tells me that he is increasingly aware of it. It’s not obvious because our irrational impulses are carefully hidden behind our masks, exposed only in the safety of client confidentiality. My wife knows it well as she is a psychotherapist.

Ian invited us to his home for bouillabaisse. He lives in a quintessential tenement apartment in the Lower East Side. Instead of hiding its history, he has tastefully accentuated every detail of it. Every object engages playfully with the environment.

A common motive behind buying an apartment is to gut it out so that our will can be imposed on the environment totally, which is a more masculine approach. These two approaches clashed when Jane Jacobs opposed Robert Moses’ plan to run a highway through SoHo and Little Italy. Jacobs believed that urban planning should be informed by observing the existing ecosystem. Moses, on the other hand, wanted to gut the “slum” out and impose his system on it.

The “mind” in the expression “out of mind” is the rational system we have all replicated in our heads. Going outside of it means our behavior is no longer controlled by this system. Technically speaking, it’s psychosis. We fear it because our survival as human beings depends on our ability to work with others. We need a system in order to coordinate our efforts. The more we fear death, the more we conform to this system.

The fate not only determined the environments we are born into but also who we are: race, gender, talent, looks, nationality, language, culture, family, name, etc.. We cannot gut them out and impose our will on every aspect of who we are. We have to work with what we are given, but if all we are doing is arranging what we are given, we won’t contribute anything. Our contributions must come from outside of our “minds.” The irrational we fear within ourselves is what we ultimately contribute. If we are afraid of going out of our minds, of being a dancing fool, we would just be dead fish carried along by the current of the river.