In a random class, I talked to a Stanford Alumni visiting from the Distinguished Careers Program. Finding many similarities in our interests in the science of behavior, we exchanged information just in case. Months later, I got a call asking if I wanted to illustrate a book that had been in the works for years. The result was The Waterwheel: Practical Wisdom for 64 Common Concerns.
Now, I know what you are thinking. What does a book on family psychology have to do with science? I would say that family psychology has everything to do with science. Due to the scientific method, topics can usually only be researched if they have clear hypotheses, variables, and unbiased results. However, science in the real world is often more messy. It requires individuals to collect sensory data and interpret it through biological processes. If a therapist has spend two decades collecting evidence on a issue, are all the conclusions immediately invalid? In a way, similar arguments against squishy science can be found when pharmaceutical institutions reject tribal wisdom or medicine as being entirely placebo. It may be placebo in a way, but there is often merit in the threads. We simply do not have the technology to understand everything yet.
This was one of the illustrated pages on marriage. It talked about how individuals in a relationship can wear costumes. However, if we are willing to look past the costumes, we can see other aspects of the respective individuals. This actually relates to the idea of neuroscience very deeply. Individuals can activate certain regions of their brain when in states of stress. It may even be possible that activating a metaphor about costumes may reduce inflammation in regions of the amygdala and hippocampus. There is real science to therapy. Someone can be measurably less stressed if they imagine themselves as a peaceful lion – silly but true.
Working on The Waterwheel really opened my eyes to the ability of making science friendly. In a way, there was almost no explicit science throughout the book, but there was still science. There was actually a lot of initial work done in the planning stages to make the art as friendly as possible.
Application + Future Growth:
Based on my experience with The Waterwheel, I’d actually like to take the science of relationships into a different direction. I would like to see if the science can be made more serious. One of the key aspects of modern science is its objectivity. I wonder if something as subjective as relationships can have a hint of realism (as much realism as you can get with metaphors of people in costumes).
By portraying the images with a more realistic lens, it can evoke thoughts of domestic violence and real danger. Maybe, this is merit to a having therapy be more realistic and objective – something akin to Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT).