How to Write Your Own DSM
Go to a beach like Coney Island on a sweltering Sunday circa 1930 with people postage-stamped on the sand between the breakers and the boardwalk. Let them signify the population of the world.
Count them carefully. Get a good night’s sleep.
On Monday, the moon’s day, choose people whose shape or size or color remind you of the man in the moon, the face of our greatest metaphor. Imagine him floating above us with his look of surprise as he reads the categories you are inventing.
Take those who are moonstruck and give their group a name.
Now it is Tuesday, a nothing of a day. Gather the nobodies, the scrawny boys lifting weights, the girls with skinny legs, the weak, sick, injured, and lame. Take those who are sunburned and give their group a name.
Wednesday divides the week in half, and if you are catching on, you will go into the sands and gather the half-hearted women who have compromised and men who balance their lives like amputees walking on one good leg. Bring them all to the boardwalk and ask them to dance.
Take those who don’t stumble and give their group a name.
Thursday is Thor’s day, the carrot-topped Norse god who could devour several oxen in a single sitting, the thunderboltthrowing giant who cross-dressed as a bride to reclaim his stolen hammer. Take all the gorging, red-haired men wearing women’s bikinis, and give their group a name.
Friday has nothing to do with fried, but as the sixth day, Friday’s power and glory resides in those with a sixth sense, people who see ghosts or channel spirits like Freud’s or Kraepelin’s or Jung’s. Take those wearing a Tyrolean hat and give their group a name.
Saturday is the day for love, under the boardwalk or on a blanket spread in the cool shade of a striped red umbrella, a day for mothers to massage sunscreen into their children’s backs and for fathers to strip off their shirts to reveal their pale white bellies.
Go to the water’s edge and draw a huge heart with your categories written inside. This is the cover of your classification. Sit quietly while the tide rises and watch the waves scour your words away.Dr Berlin is associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. An interview with Dr Berlin is included in the December 2006 special supplement to The Lancet that focuses on medicine and creativity.