Scarecrows serve an interesting purpose: they are incapable of doing any harm to intruders, but their power lies in creating the illusion that they can and will. So, the crows stay out of the cornfields, even though if they were to venture forth they would enjoy a hearty meal and suffer no harm. We might find this humorous, seeing how their limited intelligence allows the farmer to fool them into believing what is obviously (to us) not true. But we are no different than the crows. We have ideas about catastrophic consequences that would result if we were to act according to our actual needs. Sometimes we fully believe our ideas; sometimes we observe our ideas and deem them unlikely or irrational. But usually, in both cases we obey them. I see a man who lives without love. He is married, has a beautiful home, beautiful children, a powerful career. But he believes that if he let himself love and be loved, his world would shatter: he would lose his career; he would end up in the gutter, alone. He says “God would zap me”. And he doesn’t believe it. But he does. So his choices are ruled by his fear of getting what he actually longs for, and he lives with the idea that as long as he doesn’t embrace what really matters to him, he’s “safe”. Another patient of mine feels isolated, even though he has many people in his life, including a marriage with a caring woman who he has been with for many years. He longs for closeness and being able to “let down my walls”, but whenever he begins to have that experience (with her or with me) he begins to fear that he will be “taken over”, subjugated to the other’s will and agenda. And he withdraws, depriving himself of that which he has longed for a lifetime. Clearly, these “scarecrows” are remnants from the past. They represent experiences of a life lived without adequate safety or support. But they have been largely divorced from the memories, and held as truths – very often truths that defy logic or even current experience. And they seem as clear as “don’t step on the third rail – it’ll do you in!”. Some part of dealing with scarecrows involves understanding past circumstances and experiences which have led to their creation. But that is not enough. There also has to be a willingness to risk challenging these scarecrows. To go into the field and see if the corn is free to sate our needs, or if we actually suffer a painful fate…

your work

by susan grossman

Dear Alan, This is the first posting I have ever written-EVER. I routinely read your blog and always learn from from the articles each time I re-read them. I like your new ones very much-especially Scarecrows! I hope you are planning to do more and build them into a book. Sincerely, Susan