Reflections on the Selfie and the Psyche: A Series of Posts

Back in April, I started this post:

I am going to try another blog post series, that kind of feels like very short chapters in a book, but blog style. This will address the word of the year 2013, “Selfie”, and what it has generated in our society in terms of people’s view of the self-portrait. I will start with this introduction to the selfie, what sparked my wanting to blog abou it, and how it relates or fits into the history of the self-portrait by humans. (there is a lot of documentation of monkeys and elephants making paintings, not sure if they ever were shown a mirror and did a self-portrait but that is for a different topic!) Other future posts and what I hope to address:

1. The selfie and art therapy: is there anything going on in art therapy connected directly to the making of selfies?
2. The how to and what not to do: finding lots of links about making great selfies versus bad boring ones and sites that like to show the different categtories of bad selfies vs good ones.
3. the celebrity selfie and its effects on non celebrity selfies.
4. Selfies and Social Media: what it means to “post” a selfie after taking the photo. new variations include the “belfie” as body parts can depict self portraits.
3. Creative uses of the selfie: what are some selfies that go beyond casual and become “Art”? how do you think outside the box of the selfie!
4. Woman and selfies: the male gaze versus the female gazing at herself. Selfies for self-esteem…
5. The new pathologies associated with taking selfies to an extreme. As with anything, if you become addicted to making selfies, you will of course get sick, just like people addicted to the internet or social media or gambling. Too much of anything and your system is way out of balance.
6. Selfies and psychosis: while we are at it, besides ocd and addiction, are people incorporating selfies into their psychotic episodes?

This post was begun about five months ago, sparked by a heated debate on my personal Facebook, generated by a very provocative comment. Basically, someone male posted a provocative statement about certain kinds of selfies. He was commenting on selfies by “girls”; I think once you’re about 18 or 20 you are not a girl, you’re a woman, but most people on Facebook are not sixteen year old girls so I assume he was referring to women. Here is what he wrote:

“I think one of the biggest turn-offs Is a girl who has a lot of selfies on her Facebook. Nothing screams the worst kind of character than that. Are they so uninteresting, so self absorbed to just self promote? They’re only existence is to have people praise them so for that I hope they burn in hell. We have this incredible opportunity to say something and all they have to say is “praise me.” Sad it is.”

11 people liked this.
This post was followed by a ton of long comments and philosophical arguments for and against this person’s interesting opinion.
Here are a few interesting ones:

Anout tolerance of others:
Name of Poster…I tend to agree with you and to be honest I do find it hard to take people seriously when they’re always posting pics of themselves, especially the type who will say “Look at this gorgeous little bunny” whilst using the bunny as a way of showing people their legs/boobs etc BUT I have some friends who do that but who are also committed on a daily basis to animal rights and so I believe we just have to be kind and accept people for who they are. Part of growing older and wiser is to accept people who do things differently than ourselves. Some people do it because they are insecure deep down and some because they genuinely are vain and have massive egos… (you can usually tell the difference) but iI have to say that you hope they burn in hell is a really mean thing to say and I find that hard to take. If you had a young daughter who was like that but at the same time she lived with you and you knew she was very sweet, would you want her to burn in hell? Sorry but that’s a really terrible thing to say. :(”

Friendly and shares important part of Selfies- building self-esteem:

“I take a lot of selfies. I’m far from vain. I don’t see my family and most in face book. But mostly I’m do it to document my transformation. I’ve lost so much weight 110 lbs and I’m morphing… Loving my self and not shameful for that. Name of Man: everyone has a story and a reason. :)… As handsome as you are you sound as you have a lot of hurt. I won’t judge you for your comment. I think you are a good person … Sometimes appear wounded by your reactions… Because that is how I see your post as a reaction. We tend to form our opinions based in our life experiences… Forget that everyone is an island … We can grow up in the same house with our siblings ,yet everyone may recount their story in a different light . It’s all about how we see things…lighten up!! Xoxo”

He responds:
“I’m more or less talking about the girls who are trying to look hot in every picture. The ones who need some sort of affirmation from the FB world they’re hot. All the girls here on this thread are not the girls in talking about. I usually do in fact get rid of “friends” who only post selfies in a manner that is only for self promotion and want me and others to bask in their hotness but sometimes I keep them in my friends lost because I also try to teach them Fb can be so much more. Plus let’s be honest, Fb is also a big mound of BS so a lot of times I don take it to seriously so a lot of my “friends” are for pure passing the time while I’m bored. But anyway, everyone of you have worthwhile profiles. I wasn’t referring to you.”

At this point, I put in my two cents:
“I don’t mind any of it. If some females out there actually like how they look and their bodies, and want to show that to their friends, what a victory: 97 percent of women will probably have mean thoughts about their bodies today. Even if it’s more like 79%, that sucks. And what about all the men who post selfies? I think Facebook can be therapeutic for people who were not see. Or validated as a child…

Later he says something getting him into more hot water:
“Yeah I love women in the sense of respecting them and my Mom is my hero. I’ve always admired strong women with a sense of self. However, girls who post selfies and starving for affirmation all the time caring about how hot they are? I have an open mind but there are people who do annoy me. I’m just so over it.”

There were many more interesting responses, but here are a few:

“This is getting too political and I’m sorry I commented I have a lot of modeling pics as a model don’t you want to promote yourself to get jobs? I also have a college degree and I am a single mom of 4 kids and I work 2 jobs. As far I’m concerned and that’s all that matters… I’m all good! Far from narcissistic or conceited. More like proud of what I have accomplished and continue to do so. Being hot to me is a bonus”

I tried to be irreverent a while later
“Wow. Now I want to take a selfie every day and post it on FB with each of my 100 days of Happiness posts… I guess I like that people do vain narcissistic things on FB and share it. That’s brave to me/ I’m as vain as anyone and very into myself but I’m not yet comfortable and being into selfies and not giving a shit what other people think. It’s a goal to work towards. I hope when I’m 70 I will be taking lots of inappropriate selfies and posting them on whatever is the FB in 2038!!!”

So those were a few of the 47 comments this post provoked on April 1, 2014!

This is the tease so the next post will go deeper into the definition and origin and how the human self-portrait has evolved…

Distress Tolerance: The Dialectic

A great description of the “Dialectical” of DBT Therapy:

Beauty and the Borderline

Before I launch into a special category of Distress Tolerance skills (the “Dialectical” skills, I call them)  I want to say (er, write) a few words about the dialectic, which is one of the key concepts behind DBT — so key, in fact, that “Dialectical” is the first word of DBT.

Walking on the SidewalkThe “dialectic” is a word with a lot — and I mean A LOT — of baggage.  Philosophers throughout recorded history have written ridiculous amounts about it, discussing this and that about different types of dialectic, blah blah blah.  (Sadly — I write with a smile — this sort of high-falutin’ discussion is what turns ME on, but I know most people would switch off once I started going on about how fascinating it all is, so I’ll stick to what’s pertinent to us.)  Essentially, the dialectic is, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, “a method of examining and discussing…

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Robin Williams’s Verdict on Life

Reblogging a great blog’s post quoting another person but it’s an interesting point of view; though on vacation, I have thought of Robin Williams’ life and death, but I have been avoiding Facebook and newspapers and Internet not to mention TV, so it has been good to have an excuse to stay out of the frenzy of opinions on suicide, mental illness/substance issues as well as celebrities… This commentary is great food for thought.

Bipolar Lessons

This is such a realistic and compassionate point of view on Robin William’s suicide that I just have to share it. Be warned that this may be triggering for some people.

From the Patheos blog Camels With Hammers

Robin Williams’s Verdict on Life

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Creativity and Inspiration: Leonard Cohen Agrees With Me!

I started a series of posts about creativity and so called “creative blocks” quite a while ago, and now that I’m on vacation, I will post someone else’s words about the creative process. “Show up” is the message, and I would say its true of everything in life. What’s the key to bring a good parent? You gotta show up every day however flawed a person you are…

My mantra or idea that we artists don’t wait for inspiration, we make art on a daily basis just like any other daily habit is not original or particularly earth shattering, but are you practicing it with your particular medium/media?

Most of the time I am lucky because I simply don’t care that much if I “like” what I am making or not, sort of like how you feel after your yoga class that the benefits come from doing it often and it doesn’t make much sense to judge how you did yoga.

Anyway, Leonard Cohen is one of my favorite musical artist, and he talks about his own process from “Brain Pickings Weekly:

“There are always meaningful songs for somebody. People are doing their courting, people are finding their wives, people are making babies, people are washing their dishes, people are getting through the day, with songs that we may find insignificant. But their significance is affirmed by others. There’s always someone affirming the significance of a song by taking a woman into his arms or by getting through the night. That’s what dignifies the song. Songs don’t dignify human activity. Human activity dignifies the song.”

I would add that sometime so called boring activities inspire all kinds of creations from Charles Schultz’ beloved Peanuts to the TV show Seinfeld (which I believe took a lot of inspiration from Peanuts). There is a line in a David Bowie song about the artist Andy Warhol that I love:

“Andy walking, Andy tired
Andy take a little snooze
Tie him up when he’s fast asleep
Send him on a pleasant cruise
When he wakes up on the sea
Be sure to think of me and you
He’ll think about paint
and he’ll think about glue
What a jolly boring thing to do”

I myself do love to think about glue and tape and practically any material.
Anyway here is the piece:

“Cohen approaches his work with extraordinary doggedness reflecting the notion that work ethic supersedes what we call “inspiration” — something articulated by such acclaimed and diverse creators as the celebrated composer Tchaikovsky (“A self-respecting artist must not fold his hands on the pretext that he is not in the mood.”), novelist Isabel Allende (“Show up, show up, show up, and after a while the muse shows up, too.”), painter Chuck Close (Inspiration is for amateurs — the rest of us just show up and get to work.”), beloved author E.B. White (“A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.”), Victorian novelist Anthony Trollope (“My belief of book writing is much the same as my belief as to shoemaking. The man who will work the hardest at it, and will work with the most honest purpose, will work the best.”), and designer Massimo Vignelli (“There is no design without discipline.”). Cohen tells Zollo:

I’m writing all the time. And as the songs begin to coalesce, I’m not doing anything else but writing. I wish I were one of those people who wrote songs quickly. But I’m not. So it takes me a great deal of time to find out what the song is. So I’m working most of the time.

To find a song that I can sing, to engage my interest, to penetrate my boredom with myself and my disinterest in my own opinions, to penetrate those barriers, the song has to speak to me with a certain urgency.

To be able to find that song that I can be interested in takes many versions and it takes a lot of uncovering.

My immediate realm of thought is bureaucratic and like a traffic jam. My ordinary state of mind is very much like the waiting room at the DMV… So to penetrate this chattering and this meaningless debate that is occupying most of my attention, I have to come up with something that really speaks to my deepest interests. Otherwise I nod off in one way or another. So to find that song, that urgent song, takes a lot of versions and a lot of work and a lot of sweat.

But why shouldn’t my work be hard? Almost everybody’s work is hard. One is distracted by this notion that there is such a thing as inspiration, that it comes fast and easy. And some people are graced by that style. I’m not. So I have to work as hard as any stiff, to come up with my payload.”

Taken from:

Leonard Cohen on Creativity, Hard Work, and Why You Should Never Quit Before You Know What It Is You’re Quitting