After a few more months of therapy, most of the slaves say they feel better and return to their assigned tasks. One, however, just can't get his act together.
"I wake up in the morning, I still don't feel like picking cotton. I just want to drink," says the slave. "We've got a moonshine still hidden out in the woods, and that's the only thing that interests me."
"You're only hurting yourself with his behavior," says the psychotherapist. "Maybe we should try another affirmation. "I clothe myself and the whole world when I fulfill my destiny in the cotton fields.' How does that sound?"
"I've tried several affirmations, and the nightmares don't stop. I had one again last night. I'm trapped in hell, and this demon threatens to cut off my toes with an ax if I try to leave. "
"When did these nightmares start?"
"I've had them all my life. Maybe I have abandonment issues or something. I must have resented my parents for being out in the fields all day, because I became more identified with peer culture than with my parents and gave them attitude. I just couldn't care about those standardized tests and getting a secure gig picking cotton. That wasn't my parents fault. They tried. I was just lazy."
"What are your earliest memories of cotton?"
"My parents picked it. I begged them to stay home at our shack, but every day they left to work in the fields. I was afraid all day, and I was afraid all night when I was little. I had night terrors, even though we were all in the same one-room shack. Then I was a juvenile delinquent, and my parents got really worried about me. They thought I'd never be able to pick a full bale of cotton in one day, with my attitude problems and stuff, and then I'd get whipped."
"Your father was distant and critical, and your mother smothered you with her control issues. Is that correct?"
"I guess so. I didn't see them much, and when I did see them, they were too tired to do anything, because they'd been picking cotton all day. My older sister, I liked her, but she got sold to another plantation when I was 8, and I never saw her again."
"So you hated your family for being away from your shack so much?"
"At first, I wanted them to come back. Then I wanted everyone to stay away, so I could have my own life. I didn't want to be around my own kind."
And so the therapy goes goes for several more years until America stumbles into a spontaneous, though partial, cure for all the mental illnesses associated with slavery; namely, the Civil War.
CHARLES M. YOUNG is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, the new independent Project Censored Award-winning online alternative newspaper. His work, and that of colleagues JOHN GRANT, DAVE LINDORFF, LORI SPENCER and LINN WASHINGTON, JR., can be found at www.thiscantbehappening.net