What Did Oz Give to the Tin Man?

From the iconic Wizard of Oz movie, what request did The Tin Man make of Dorothy when she first discovered him?  Direct the oil can around his mouth to enable language.  Then his arms to enable movement.  Then his eyeballs to …

All well and good, but The Tin Man was convinced that he couldn’t experience emotion because he didn’t have a heart. Of course The Wizard ultimately gives Tin Man a heart, though it is one of velvet and filled with sawdust.  If, as America famously sung in the ’70s, “Oz never did give nothin’ to The Tin Man that he didn’t already have”, what was it that he gave to him?

Belief in himself.  Frank Baum, the creator of Dorothy’s experiences, has her acquiring emotion, cognition, and courage – and each of these attributes have their own complexities, not to mention the need for interaction and integration.  Exactly how this works is an adventure that takes a lifetime to unfold, and continuously evolves.  In contemporary thought we might even see the oil can as a metaphor for plasticity and the conversations in self-awareness along the various paths and roads as metacogntiion.

I’ve been occupied recently with addressing misconceptions about vision therapy as working primarily due to a placebo effect.  As I’ve pointed out elsewhere the placebo effect is something physicians have traditionally used to help patients, and is factored into studies that have looked at the benefits of vision therapy beyond placebo effects.  I’ve also noted that invariably, when patients come to us they have already received many other interventions.  So not only has the placebo effect or “TLC” as the primary basis for change been filtered out, but the patient with performance issues comes with a litany of labels and expectations of difficulty (if not failure) in the course of treatment that we prescribe.  It’s as if the deck is stacked against them for success, not the other way around.

America’s song filtering through the speakers of my cinnamon Camaro SS rental on the way back from Starbucks in Clearwater this morning reminded me that so many of the patients who come to us are plagued by self-doubt.  They have lingering visual issues and continue to struggle despite having been told “your eyes are fine”.  In fact, being told that the eyes are fine because they’ve been oiled properly (see here for example) only adds to self-doubt when symptoms and performance problems with visual function linger.  Appropriate lenses, prisms, or active therapy procedures in some instances provide vindication to the patient that they aren’t “stupid” or “imagining things” as a basis for ongoing struggles despite plenty of remedial help and prior therapies.  Or the burden of labels borne of “not trying hard enough”.

The Tin Man already knew about the oil can.  What he lacked was the yes I can.


Some perceive wizardry in what we do.  After all these years, I’m not so sure that’s a bad thing, particularly in the vein of the Merriam-Webster definitionsomething that is very impressive in a way that seems magical.


4 thoughts on “What Did Oz Give to the Tin Man?

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