Psychic CookiesOct 02, 2023
I've been doing a lot of shadow work recently. I came across this short essay I wrote decades ago, and it's still relevant.
The other day I mentioned to my husband that my computer seemed to be a lot slower than it used to be.
You’ve probably got a buildup of cookies, he said.
Oh, I said. Well, how do I get rid of them?
He showed me.
Is it safe? I asked. I mean, won’t I need them for something?
Not really, he said. All they do is let other websites know who you are. If you have to have one for a site, it’ll add it when you go there again.
Still, I proceeded tentatively, analyzing each one. If I erased the florist’s cookie would I stop getting the good deals? When I realized that five minutes had passed, and I was still barely into the “A’s,” I took a deep breath, pressed “select all,” and wiped them all out. Explorer, then Netscape. Firefox. Safari
A miracle! New pages zinged onto the screen at twice the speed.
It was like being a whale without barnacles. Or a mother going out for the first time without child and stroller and diaper bag and bottles. Arms so empty they feel like they almost levitate by themselves.
Psychological cookies are like that, too. We accumulate them all the time - little collections of hurts and resentments and bitter memories, the sensitive places that react to innocuous comments by others, the small wounds we nurse and protect. Our system is clogged with them. Often, we don’t see them for what they are. They may even feel like old friends. “Hi Lynn!” says the Amazon.com cookie chummily when I log on. The “I’m not good enough” psychic cookie is a bosom buddy.
Our psychic cookies send signals out into the ether that let others know who we are and what we want. These little yummies may not show up on our screens – but the target audience spots them right away. Men looking for angry women home in like bees to a flower. Employees looking for someone to shoulder blame cozy up. Why can’t I attract a different kind of person, we wonder, not realizing that we have a giant Oreo on our backs that’s broadcasting for jerks.
At work our psychic cookies alert our bosses to our hidden rebelliousness toward authority. “Of course, I’m happy to make coffee for the group each morning!” we say with a smile, as the aroma of freshly baked resentment cookie, heated by our internal fuming, wafts into the air.
Psychic cookies are out there looking all the time – for someone to punish us for a long ago guilty pleasure, for someone we can punish for a previous hurt. The one that attached itself the time you worked so hard on your term paper and got a D rebuffs the ten-years-later professor who’s offering to help. The old boyfriend who ditched us hitches a ride on the face of the new one who never thought of leaving us until our rage drives him away. “I’m not worth a raise,” broadcasts another, just as we’re in the process of asking for one.
Just as real cookies build up plaque in our arteries, and network cookies clog our computers, psychic cookies jam up our emotional lives. Ridding ourselves of this emotional junk food can have the same effect as cleaning out cookies from a computer or getting the edible kind out of the house. We lose the unwanted drag.
But it takes courage to wipe them off the screen. If I toss this justified resentment against my sister, does that mean she’s won? If I stop thinking of myself as inadequate does that mean I have to perform?
But the real question is, “Do I want to run my life with one foot constantly on the brake for the sake of a tasty grudge or a sweet excuse?”
If I let it go of my resentment would my sister even notice? Could I make the decision not to perform even if I am adequate? Or is the real issue that I’m burdened with somebody else’s ideas as to what I should do with my life and feeling inadequate is easier than saying no to them?
Computer experts tell us nothing ever completely goes away, and that’s probably true of our psychic wounds too, but, hey, if the machine is running better, does it really matter?
One day, if we’re feeling especially bold, we can “select all,” delete the lot, and really fly!
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