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Why Make Psychological Tools Material?

When I was 13 years old I purchased my first bicycle from my mother’s boyfriend. It was a cruiser bike, white with the word Peugeot inscribed on the middle bar. It was just a bicycle, but to me it was so much more.

My two best friends were suddenly geographically in my reach. This afforded us the opportunity to go on a myriad of adventures, some fun and some scary, but all invigorating experiences of emotional and social development.

This over-sized hunk of metal and rubber transcended into an extension of who I was. A curious but painfully introspective child was suddenly provided the opportunity to ride off on adventures, to investigate the world, and further explore his mind. It was now in my power not to be lonely anymore.

Even the fact that I had purchased the bicycle from my mother’s boyfriend had meant something to me. He was a father figure, teaching me another treasured lesson; the value of a material item increases when it comes with a price.

As I glimpse into the many memories afforded me by this bicycle, I recall one late afternoon riding home through a giant field, made golden by the dry, tall grass. The trail I was ambling through was well trodden, worn down to a smooth winding lane, light brown and sandy.

My mind faded into that mystical stream of consciousness where imagination, untethered, romps around in the field of creation.

In other words, I began to daydream, pondering as to how this specific through-way had been made. The small nuanced twists and turns suggested that no one person had drafted the layout of this path. No, this pattern, this blueprint, was the design of a group of random people, a social phenomenon.

As I pushed through this golden field, mind drifting, once or twice falling off my bicycle, I devised a plan of how I would make a hypothesis. This analytical expedition was one of my first sincere forays into the scientific method. More importantly, moments like this are fond memories that remind me of who I am.

As you can see, items are often more than just the materials that they are made from. This is true from the moment that they begin to fulfill a function.

As humans we are born with a predisposition to make and utilize tools, physical/conceptual objects that are branded with a goal in mind. Our evolution is often depicted by the advancement of the tools that we have devised through the millennia.

The multifaceted functions of a tool can be predefined and general, or specific to an individual. A bicycle facilitates the generic task of mode of transportation and sport; however, as you can see, subjectively it was a device that enabled me a journey of social, emotional, and intellectual learning.

I coined the term Material Psychology as a way to describe a plethora of existing methods that conceptualize internal psychological dilemmas and solutions through the use of physical tools. These therapeutic approaches leverage our natural tendencies to inject personality and meaning into the tools that we use.

Personalized objects, like The Success Diary, act as proxy to personal development by reflecting to us aspects of our personality, allowing us opportunities to review who we are and how we need to grow. It is like looking in a mirror and seeing a reflection of your soul; then noticing that you have a piece of spinach stuck between two of your ethereal teeth.

Can you think of any treasured items from your own childhood that fulfilled functions above and beyond the intended purpose? A blanky that made you feel safe? A hat that transformed you into an adventurer? A pen that made you into a poet?

Now think about the tools of your trade. It is in the little details that we can perceive how an item means more to us individually than to an onlooker. These are the moments when an object elicits a complex emotion, hard to describe to anyone that has not experienced something similar. Is it in the smell of a new set of crayons? Is it in the crinkle of festive wrapping paper? Is it in the sight of a well-organized desk?


The above is an excerpt from my recent first book. If you are a teacher encountering behavior problems in school then do take a look . Available at all major outlets.

(Just click on the image.)


Ami Braverman