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Human Therapy with a dose of AI & DALL-E

The story of incorporating AI image generation (DALL-E) into a therapy assignment.


Have you ever worked with a therapist? It can be hard to find someone who feels like the right fit. This month, I struck therapist gold and it was completely by accident. I wasn't actively looking for someone. I was listening to a friend talk about her therapy assignments, and I thought, wow, I need to meet this therapist.

And so I did!


First Session

In our first session, she asked me questions like what prompted me to reach out. What's on my mind? As the conversation unfolded, it became increasingly clear that during the last year of starting a business, my number one challenge was anxiety fueled by my tireless inner critic.


It seems ironic that I get so much joy spreading sunshine to those around me, but when it comes to myself, I'm suffocated by dark clouds of self-doubt.


First Assignment

My therapist delivered my first assignment: An art project to visualize my inner critic. The medium was my choice - anything from dolls to drawings. I was up for the challenge.

But what form would my inner critic take? I immediately recalled a conference where Todd Palmer, the author of From Suck to Success, talked about how his "Itty Bitty Shitty Committee". And it's something that stuck with me. I like the sound of "Itty Bitty Shitty Committee" or IBSC for short. It's way more fun than "Negative Nellie".


AI as the Homework Helper

I've always found artistic projects to be a bit of a challenge, which is why I chose to collaborate with ChatGPT for this particular endeavor. For those unfamiliar, ChatGPT is a generative AI tool developed by OpenAI. In crafting this blog, I used the paid version, ChatGPT-4 with DALL-E.


My request to ChatGPT-4 was simple. "Help me visualize my inner critic, AKA 'Itty Bitty Chitty Committee.'"

The AI's first attempt? A whimsical committee of cartoon characters. Interesting, but not quite right.


Prompt to ChatGPT-4: Help me come up with an image
Prompt to ChatGPT-4: Help me come up with an image


A whimsical committee of cartoon characters.
ChatGPT-4 Output: A whimsical committee of cartoon characters.

Take 2- Seeking more depth

Good start I thought to myself, but I was curious and wanted to keep exploring alternatives.

I asked for something less cartoony - women of all ages in a mid-century modern home.


ChatGPT Revision Prompt: women of all ages in a mid-century modern home
ChatGPT Revision Prompt: women of all ages in a mid-century modern home


ChatGPT Revision Prompt: women of all ages in a mid-century modern home
ChatGPT-4 Revised output: A more realistic and sophisticated inner critic group

Human Therapy Insights: Voices Beyond Gender

I shared the two images with my human therapist.

As we looked at them together, she asked some probing questions.

  • What are situations where the inner critic is loudest?

  • What is that voice telling me?

  • What is the impact of hearing that voice?

  • Am I avoiding taking an action?


Our conversation helped bring clarity. My "Itty Bitty Shitty Committee" wasn't just made up of female voices. It was a mix of influences from my 55-year life - from family to coworkers. What I came to realize is that my inner critic wasn't shaped so much by direct negative comments, but rather, it was the accumulation of seemingly innocent, offhand remarks over the years that amplified existing self-doubt.


How to visually represent those voices?

The following night after my therapy session, I went back to ChatGPT and asked it to consider different people in my life to incorporate into the image and it generated a new image with a diverse array of figures based on real-life influences I described.


ChatGPT Revision Prompt: women of all ages in a mid-century modern home
ChatGPT-4 Revision prompt: Inner critics based on real life influences


ChatGPT Revision Prompt: women of all ages in a mid-century modern home
ChatGPT-4 Revised output: Diverse array of real life inner critic influences

More revision is needed and DALL-E limitations

This still wasn't quite right.

This latest image is a great example of a DALL-E limitation: S-P-E-L-L-I-N-G.

Also, notice there's no diversity in either this image or the one above it.


Final Attempt

So I went back for a 4th update requesting a woman in her 50s resembling me with dark and grey streaks surrounded by overwhelming voices, marked by loud volume.



ChatGPT Revision Prompt: women of all ages in a mid-century modern home
ChatGPT-4 Revision prompt: Focus on volume and self representation


ChatGPT Revised output: Most true reflection
ChatGPT Revised output: Most true reflection

A True Reflection

This was it! This was the winner for me.

ChatGPT: "Here is the image depicting a woman in her 50s with dark hair and a grey streak, surrounded by various representations of loud and overwhelming inner critic voices. The visual cues, like exaggerated sound waves or volume knobs, symbolize the loudness and intrusiveness of these voices. This scene aims to capture the emotional and psychological impact of these internal criticisms. Take a look and see how it resonates with your experience."


Conclusion

The entire exercise of leveraging DALL-E for the therapy assignment was enlightening for me, offering a unique way to navigate some of the mental challenges I face. While I am neither a therapist nor an expert on AI image generation, I believe my experience showcases how tools like ChatGPT's DALL-E effectively complement human conversations and introspection.


Also, a key realization for me is that my "Itty Bitty Committee" isn't always shitty.

Learning to pause and listen has been crucial. It helps decipher the negative noise from the noteworthy nuggets that should not be ignored.

I would be curious to get your thoughts on this exercise. Do you have an inner critic? How have you dealt with it? Please share your thoughts. And also I would love to hear what you think of these AI-generated images.

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