Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul,         As the swift seasons roll!                Leave thy low-vaulted past!     Let each new temple, nobler than the last,	         Shut thee from heaven with a dome more vast,	         Till thou at length art free,	 Leaving thine outgrown shell by life’s unresting sea!  By Oliver Wendell Holmes

Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul,
As the swift seasons roll! Leave thy low-vaulted past!
Let each new temple, nobler than the last,
Shut thee from heaven with a dome more vast,
Till thou at length art free,
Leaving thine outgrown shell by life’s unresting sea! By Oliver Wendell Holmes


Like the little sea creature in Holmes’ famous poem “The Chambered Nautilus,” Cowboy has decided to build herself a “more stately mansion,” in this case, a small apartment in a horse stable. Well, “mansions” are relative–to Cowboy, an apartment in a horse stall, complete with odors, dirt, and mess, is a mansion, a place where she will feel comfortable, accepted, and cherished for herself.  Her neighbors will love her, and she will love them in return.  After all, isn’t building a comfortable, welcoming mansion for our souls a goal of therapy?  In my opinion, it is.  So carry on, Cowboy!

Cowboy Decides to Build Herself a Mansion

After more than three years of working with my present therapist, I have reached the happy place where I can toggle back and forth between Ego State Therapy and EMDR as needed.  For the past several weeks, I have been again working with my ego states, to be specific, with the ego state I call Cowboy.  This post, then, is a continuation of sorts of the previous post titled “Whadda Ya Do With An Outdated Ego State With An Attitude?” 

You may recall that Cowboy has shown evidence that she suspects her protective qualities are no longer as badly needed as they were formerly.  In fact, she is showing signs of isolating herself from the other parts in Jean’s psyche, as if she may suspect that change is blowin’ in the wind, but she doesn’t want to participate.  She doesn’t want to change!  Well, if Cowboy refuses to change and other parts agree to change, what a mess that will be!  You see, Cowboy has been a major player since I was a little girl (see “Whadda Ya . . .” for more on this), and if Cowboy doesn’t adapt to changes in her environment—in this case, by “environment” I mean changes in my perceptions of myself and my life as I progress in my therapy—if she doesn’t become more of a team player, then Cowboy and her “attitude” can possibly impede my progress. 

Of course, I could simply throw Cowboy out the window, just banish her, do her in, in other words.  On the surface, that might be the easiest tack to take.  But, no, I can’t do that!  Cowboy is part of me, one of my ego states.  No ego state can be destroyed; transformation is the only course to take.  She has served a purpose within my psyche for a long, long time, and she has helped me through a lot of my life’s brambles and briar patches.  Without Cowboy, I’m not sure I could have survived my childhood.  After all, Cowboy was there to remind me that I was tough, that I didn’t need my mother, and that I could take care of myself—despite the fact that somewhere in my heart I knew that I truly did need my mother. 

However, since my mother did not know how to be a mother and didn’t even want to be a mother to me–she made that clear–I was much better off to follow Cowboy’s lead and soldier on through my childhood without a mother.  Nope, there is no way I am going to do away with Cowboy!  She deserves my love and respect, and she deserves the effort and time I must spend in helping her transform herself and her role.  Besides, there will be times in my future when I’m sure I will need to call upon her to help me out.  So Cowboy may not be as protective and assertive in her role as in the past, but however she is, she will always be welcome in my psyche.

So how do I go about helping Cowboy transform herself?  First, I need to understand Cowboy, and this means remembering back into my childhood and remembering what went on in my mind at the times when Cowboy stepped in to help me.  As I mentioned in my previous post about Cowboy, my mother was not my advocate—she did not give me emotional support when I needed it.  At Cowboy’s urging, though, I made up my mind that I was better off not needing my mother.   “I can do it myself; I don’t need a mother.” 

Cowboy materialized in my psyche, then, to serve a purpose:  she protected me from an existential despair, the despair that arises when a child realizes she has no emotional mother.  The times when Cowboy arose in my psyche were times when I was most in need of comfort and emotional support.  She helped me through those times.  But what about Cowboy?  Was she ever in need of support or comfort? 

I asked myself that question yesterday as I worked on my ego state dialogue.  As I reflected on that question, I realized that Cowboy, being part of me, may have needed a mother, herself.  Did she?  As I dialogued with Cowboy, my respect for her grew.  Why, she longed for warmth and comfort just as I did!  She had so many heavy responsibilities, which she fulfilled faithfully, and where did she go when her chores were done?  She retired to her sterile, tidy cubicle in the office part of the arena.  Did she have much in common with the other parts who lived in that area of the arena?  No!  Cowboy was, I recognized, very unhappy.  How could I help her?

What would make me happy if I were Cowboy?  I asked myself that.  My answer:  Acceptance, human warmth, kindness, the feeling of being valued for my own self.  Cowboy found all that, ironically, in the little rustic cabin she built for Aurora in the stables.  As a result of spending time enjoying Aurora’s hospitality and heart-felt kindness, Cowboy realized that she would be much happier living in an apartment in the stables near Aurora and her beloved horses than in her sterile cubicle.  Having made this decision and having obtained Aurora’s permission to add an apartment on to Aurora’s cabin, she set about preparing a blueprint so construction could begin. 

So that’s the story of Cowboy thus far.  But it’s just a story, isn’t it?  If telling this story is my Ego State Therapy process, how do I know this process is helping me, Jean, to change? After all, the goal of any form of therapy is change, good change, positive change that improves the client’s quality of life.  My reply is this:  As I write about Cowboy’s transformation, I feel the change.  Whatever takes place within Cowboy, resonates within me. In this case, I feel something somewhere inside me relax and release stress.  As Cowboy enjoys tea and crumpets at Aurora’s cozy kitchen table in the company of Jeanie, Aurora, and Gemini, the wise old land tortoise who is the keeper of Imagination and Intuition, I feel pleasure in the company of my fictional companions.  I say “fictional,” but the characters in my Ego State Therapy dialogue are fiction only in the sense that they are metaphors for the parts inhabiting my psyche.  Hey, it works!  In the process of writing my dialogue, I’ve alleviated my PTSD symptoms without taking any medication.  My mind is the best healer I could possibly have!

For a clear, basic explanation of how Ego State Therapy works, please click this link:  “