It’s Wednesday again!! It kind of snuck up on me this week so I’m frantically trying to get this post completed before I indulge myself with a supper of left-over spaghetti (how jealous are you???). I chose this week’s mental health expression last week during one of my counseling sessions. My counselor and I were discussing the different personality traits or states that co-exist in my mind (the determining factor that garnered the Dissociative Identity Disorder diagnosis) while trying to define who the “Real Holly” is.
After describing several different personalities: Soldier Holly, the part of me that is physically aggressive and prone to violence; Little Holly, the part of me that is still a child, more impulsive, creative & fun; Public or people-pleasing Holly, the part of me that has learned how to behave in order to be accepted even when that means not being true to my feelings; and Perfectionist Holly, the part of me that criticizes and analyzes anything and everything that any other personality thinks, says or does. There are a couple other personalities, but I don’t want to overwhelm anyone by going on and on….and on.
My counselor was asking who is the Real Holly. I answered that I think the Real Holly has aspects of each personality but at this point in time they don’t combine well. My personalities don’t play well with each other and trying to force them to unite is not working. I likened it to shuffling cards, only instead of shuffling one deck, I’m trying to shuffle three different-sized decks of cards together and it’s making a huge mess.
My counselor commented that she now had a better grasp of the expression “not playing with a full deck”. So there you have it, today’s expression is “not playing with a full deck”.
Wiktionary defines “not playing with a full deck” as a person who is “not acting completely sanely, or (is) mildly mentally retarded or diminished.” It also identifies the expression as used “chiefly” in the US and Canada.
I found this interesting story claiming the origin of the phrase on many sites – “Common entertainment included playing cards. However, there was a tax levied when purchasing playing cards but only applicable to the “ace of spades.” To avoid paying the tax, people would purchase 51 cards instead. Yet, since most games require 52 cards, these people were thought to be stupid or dumb because they weren’t “playing with a full deck.”
However, Take Our Word For It assures us this is not the case at all – “Cards were taxed, yes, and the tax stamp often appeared on the ace of spades. This does not mean to suggest that only the ace of spades was taxed. Nonsense. The entire deck was taxed when it was sold, and the decks were sealed (often with a tax label) so there was no way to remove an ace of spades, anyhow. Not playing with a full deck is simply similar to other constructions describing intelligence (or lack thereof): not the sharpest knife/ brightest bulb in the box, a few bricks short of a load, the lights are on but nobody’s home, etc. Many of these clichés are fairly recent, coming from the 20th century.”
Other sources claim the phrase “not playing with a full deck” was coined in the 1970s or 80s. There seems to be no shortage to these types of clichés, all created around the same time in history, but I think we will discuss those phrases next week. Until we meet again remember there are 52 cards in a deck plus 2 Jokers for a total of 54. You wouldn’t want to get caught without a full deck.