Al was twenty-nine years old when we met. He was enthusiastic and cheerful, but confused about what he thought he should or was supposed to be doing with his life. Why was he forever failing at money matters? He read self-help books. He patronized astrologers, tarot card readers, psychics and mediums. Nothing helped. Al joined EST (Erhard Seminar Training) searching for answers, but was unable to tolerate the jargon. He also hated the idea of being anyone’s groupie.
Al asked me to take a look at his hands. His long rectangular palms and short fingers instantly revealed that Al was an Intuitive type. The overall resilience of his very firm hands, pink elastic skin, and separated head and life line convinced me that Al was a Pioneer. Al’s Sun, Mercury, Venus, and Jupiter were in the sign of Aries in his horoscope, which corresponded well to the Pioneer symbolism in his hands.
Al descended from a wealthy New England family. Al’s great grandfather (a Sultan archetype), created a financial empire in the import business. Al’s grandpa was one of several brothers and sisters entrusted as guardians of the large estate. Grandpa worked diligently to preserve the family fortune, however his playboy son, Al’s father (King of Thieves), squandered his share of the treasure on wine, women, and yachts. Penniless and directionless, Al’s father found a passive, soft-hearted wife to care for him.
Al was their first-born son. Al’s mother loved him unconditionally (real Aladdin’s have mothers), however she was way too permissive. She let Al get away with anything and everything. Al went through his formative years without a framework of authority, discipline, and structure. Al’s father was emotionally absent. He played with his son (to Al’s delight), but would later regress into selfish behavior and become verbally abusive to Al’s mother following one drink too many. Destined to become a rebel from the get go, Al never listened to his parents, nor did he respect any authority figures. He didn’t care what anyone thought or said (separation between head and lifelines). Al did what he wanted to do.
True to his archetype, Al was impatient and impulsive. He was extremely athletic and excelled at sports. As a child, he bonded easily with other boys who were adventurous. Al was always first to try anything, especially when it was dangerous or involved risk. He was famous among his peers for climbing where others feared to climb, jumping where others feared to jump, and swimming where others feared to swim. People thought Al was reckless and might one day have a serious accident, but Al was confident in his abilities and luck. He did get clobbered more than a few times, but like his archetype, he bounced back, landing on his feet and escaping permanent damage and consequences.
Even though Al was very bright, schooling wasn’t easy. He often ended up in the principal’s office after provoking a fight or for being the class clown. While Al excelled at sports, he also loved art and music. Academically, he struggled because he had difficulty concentrating. He’d likely have been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder today. As sunlight glittered through the classroom window, Al was skydiving, wind surfing, or on some far off adventure in his imagination. He knew he’d never be conventional (whorl fingerprints on all fingers). Al believed that having a boring job (all jobs were boring to Al) might kill him. He especially dreaded the thought of having no real purpose in life, like his father.
Being precocious, Al’s hormones raged early. Al was in love with love. Even before he knew what sex was, Al was attracted to the prettiest and most popular girls. He was determined to be their boyfriend. The gentle curved shape of Al’s long heart line ends under his index finger illustrating a highly romantic and idealistic nature. People with long graceful heart lines tend to see others, as they would like them to be, instead of how they really are.
As a child, Al watched all the Disney movies and saw no reason whatsoever why his own life should be any different from the heroes in the movies. He was strong and handsome and attracted a diversity of damsels in distress. Had you asked Al at the beginning of his quest, he would have described the object of his desire as Princess Jasmine (Objectivist archetype), Maid Marion (Visionary), Snow White (Nurturer), Cinderella (Analyst), or Sleeping Beauty (Diplomat). When Al’s conquest came too easily, he quickly lost interest. This pattern continued for over twenty years before Al realized he was intimacy challenged. Unlike Disney movies, beasts and frogs didn’t actually become princes or princesses in real life.
In junior high school, Al experienced his first part time job. He stocked supermarket shelves, sneaking away to eat ice cream in the walk-in freezer or roast marshmallows in the incinerator. Al did not enjoy this work, but it was novel to receive a paycheck. He learned a lot about his relationship to money during this period. He realized that he was not motivated by money (short bottom phalange on little finger). Al had always been impulsive and generous, but when that first paycheck arrived, Al’s generosity (highly flexible thumbs) transformed into pure extravagance. Money burned a hole in his pocket. Al blew his whole paycheck in minutes by throwing a party for his friends and spending every last cent he had earned. He temporarily forgot how hard the work was. After squandering a few paychecks, Al began to realize how easily his father had squandered the family fortune. Al swore that he would never be like his father and began saving a little money each week.
In high school, Al realized that he would have to join society one day. Not the exclusive social club of old wealth to which his rich cousins belonged, but the middle class culture that seemed to have no clue of what freedom was. According to Al, the middle class maintains mundane reality, so the rich can play. Determined not to feather some wealthy person’s mattress, Al decided he’d be like his great grandfather. He had no idea what he’d do or how he’d do it. Al did have great artistic talent (long ring finger, large ball of the thumb, whorl finger prints) and he was a wonderful craftsman. An overdeveloped sense of responsibility (strong middle finger) held Al back from being an artist, which was his true calling.
As Al approached college age, his middle finger began leaning more towards his ring finger. Al knew he’d eventually have to support himself. His conflict between his desire for freedom and his need to be responsible and practical was frustrating him. Al needed more time for Al. He fantasized about running away to a desert island and at the same time, he was super-conscious of creating a future, while striving for perfection in all things. Instead of smelling the roses, nothing was ever good enough for Al. It could always be better or different.
Wisely, Al’s mother managed to keep a valuable secret from him. Al’s grandfather had created a trust fund for Al that was to remain untouched until his college years. This fund was large enough to pay for Al’s education and also provide seed money for Al’s own small business. Al enrolled in one of the best art colleges in the country. What a wonderful time and experience for him. He learned about all kinds of materials and processes for the artist. He made beautiful art works, but Al was afraid of becoming a starving artist. Al chose the most responsible career path he could think of—fabricating artwork for other successful artists.
Al spent the remainder of his endowment creating an art fabrication studio with substantial warehouse space, lots of equipment, materials, natural light, and a great location. He had very little money left for maintenance, help, or holding out. Like Aladdin, however, he had an abundance of energy, undertaking every task himself. Al hadn’t a clue about business, but that didn’t deter him. He had a wealth of initiative, determination, and persistence. Al began knocking on doors. Soon he got his first job, which was unprofitable, which got him to the next job, which was also unprofitable, which got him to the next and the next unprofitable job. Al began wondering, Am I a lousy businessman? Is it my nature to underestimate work and money? Am I a sucker for a hard luck story? “Yes” was the answer. Very flexible thumbed people rarely ask enough for themselves. “No” is the hardest word in their vocabulary.
Al decided to work harder. His already curved index finger began to curve more towards his middle finger. Al worked day and night, week after week, month after month, year after year. When Al looked in the mirror, he saw that he had become a prisoner of his thoughts and desires. He imagined that he had made a deal with the devil, but the devil hadn’t kept his part of the bargain. Al had feared dying while working for someone else. With a regular job, he would have died only 40 hours a week. Al could have accepted martyrdom if he had become financially successful. He was barely making enough to survive, plus he had way too many responsibilities and obligations. Others depended on him. Al felt shame and guilt for even imagining dumping his business and running away. His latest theory was “the family curse.”
I encouraged Al to try gestalt psychotherapy. Gestalt therapy can work well on Intuitive types because they have no patience for traditional therapies. They need someone to catch them in their current patterns and habits by paying attention to their behavior, body language, and speech patterns. Al resisted the idea, feeling that his problems were external. He wanted a New Age solution. I recommended that he go on a Vision Quest and include being healthy, happy, and fulfilled in his vision. I suggested that Al cut his overhead and make art; however, he was determined to make his business succeed. I advised Al to envision his goal as his greatest adventure and conquest. Al could resolve his conflict between having freedom and taking responsibility by reverently and ritually embracing his everyday tasks and earning his freedom. Al needed much more structure, discipline, and focus. No more plans on paper napkins, deals on a handshake, or changes on an impulse. That wouldn’t be easy because Al had no patience for detail, bureaucracy, or anything mundane for that matter. Al eventually created an internet marketing business, which merged his creative spirit with his inspiration and passion. Cyberspace was more manageable than factory space for Al. It’s thriving because of Al’s boundless courage, contagious enthusiasm, and charismatic personality.
In intimate relationships Al had always operated on a double standard. Even though he was ready to hop in the sack at a moment’s notice, Al secretly wanted his lover to make him earn her trust. Presenting flowers and creating romantic candlelight dinners for the object of his desire was part of his mating ritual and inevitable conquest. I encouraged Al to be truly old-fashioned. I advised him to find a woman who wouldn’t put up with his chauvinistic bullshit. He’d never fully appreciate or respect any woman without having to work hard for her. I encouraged Al to earn her trust and to cherish every drop of what he earned.
Al eventually married an adventurous, attractive, loving, supportive, and intelligent Thinking type. His wife is not a princess. She has her own career. Marriage will never be easy for Al as he can’t stand being restricted in any way. He and his partner may never be very wealthy, but they make time to share those precious adventures. Al is happier, but needs to remain conscious not to slip back into impulsive, excessive, and obsessive behavior patterns.