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Life Beyond Therapy: Sigmund Freud goes to Palm Springs

For many of us LGBT San Diegans, this is the perfect time to go to Palm Springs: it’s not too hot and just far enough away to feel like we've had an adventure.

I was thinking recently of what it would be like if Sigmund Freud — the famous psychoanalyst — were alive today and joined me for a weekend in Palm Springs. He and I would sit by the pool at an LGBT-friendly resort during White Party weekend, margaritas in hand, watching the boys and girls go by. Here’s what Sigmund might say:

“You see that guy over there, the one who’s so cautious about his sunscreen and afraid to get wet? He is what I call the “too good boy” … and that shy young woman who’s hesitant to take a chance and talk to the cute woman next to her? She’s the “too good girl.” These people have overdeveloped superegos. The superego is the voice of caution and worry about future problems or dangers. It says, ‘You better not do that, you’ll be sorry.’ Superego-focused people overvalue safety and undervalue a sense of adventure: they avoid risk, at all costs.”

I have worked with many clients like this.

For example, take Mr. A. He tries so hard to do the right thing, eat right, volunteer for a worthy cause, etc. However, Mr. A hardly ever lets himself go. He’s locked into perpetual Good Boy mode. If he keeps this up, eventually he’s likely to get so sick of being so good that he’ll drink too much, score some crystal meth and let some guy (or two or three) have unsafe sex with him. Then he’ll come into my office and ask me, “How did I let that happen?”

He ignored his inner Bad Boy for so long that it came out with a vengeance.

Another drink and Sigmund turns to another poolside gathering.

“Look at that group, see the ringleader? She’s not afraid to be loud, bold and blunt. Across the pool is that handsome guy who’s having too much fun and doesn't know when to stop. These people are the “bad boys/bad girls.” They are totally id-driven. The id is the instinctual, primitive part of us that wants to eat, sleep, and have sex whenever we want to, and we won’t compromise or wait for anything.”

A client I’ll call “the supremely charming Ms. Z” is a good example of the perpetual “bad girl.” She almost always finds a way to get what she wants. She’s the woman who’s done it all, had it all, and is bored to death. She’s living the id-driven life, and it’s not making her happy. She’s often disgusted with herself and with her friends/lovers for letting her get away with so much. But she’ll come in for therapy and tell me, “I don’t know why I feel so depressed, I have everything I could want.”

Are we doomed to live life in these two extremes? Fortunately, according to Freud, no.

“I didn't want the id and the superego to battle it out alone, so I created the concept of the ego. When you go too far in either direction, your ego warns you: ‘Stop bouncing back and forth between extremes and find your balance.’”

At this point, Mr. Freud (now on his third margarita) explains that some men and women have figured out how to be both Good and Bad. These wise folks can be outrageously sexy, goofy and loud and then pull back and be considerate, thoughtful and kind. They can have wild, uninhibited (but safe) sex with some hot girl/guy they met last night and then go to church the next morning.

If you’d like this to be you, consider these questions. I suggest you write down your answers:

1. Think about a time when you were way “too good” for your own good.

2. Now think about a time when you were “bad” — even if it was only for a short while.

3. How can you balance the good boy/girl and bad boy/girl sides of yourself?

Put your answers aside and come back to them three days later. Then, let your answers help you tap into both your “good” and “bad” sides, so you can have a balanced life with lots of sexy, spontaneous fun and quiet, grounded wisdom.

You can have it all! Enjoy the process!

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Michael Kimmel is a licensed psychotherapist who specializes in helping LGBT clients achieve their goals and deal with anxiety, depression, grief, sexually addictive behavior, coming out, relationship challenges and homophobia. Michael is currently accepting new clients. Contact him at 619-955-3311 or visit HERE. This column was originally published on SDGLN media partner Gay San Diego.