I’ve been told “the only books you like are long and boring.” Ha! Well…it’s somewhat true. I like a fast, zippy read as much as the next guy. But I also like 1000+ page Civil War histories, endless Ulysses-style literary fiction, and epic fantasy. I enjoy a challenging read. Plot doesn't get going for 400 pages? Sign me up! I’ve even referred to myself as a “book masochist.” And I’m only kinda kidding!
Sometimes people will say “how do you do it?” I hate to invoke a cliché, but the answer is pretty simple: one page at a time. I like to be fully absorbed in the world that I am reading about, and a long book allows an author to fully explore the subject matter, whether it is North vs. South or orcs against goblins. The story can unfold gradually, a bit like therapy. And if I read a little (or a lot) each day, eventually the end of the book will come. Even if it takes a while.
When people come to therapy, they have often reached a point where they are at the point where change is needed NOW and they want to turn things around immediately and move on from whatever challenges they are facing. I understand this, and want to help them get there. But in order to enact lasting change, the change must be sustainable and often the way to make this happen is the same way I read a long book: a page at a time.
Consider the person who wants to get in shape and maybe lose a few pounds. Many of us have been there. We get out of bed that first day and run our hearts out. We’re feeling the pain! It’s great! Maybe we do it a second day, too. But by that third day, your muscles are crying out in agony and you can barely move. Then we lose our momentum and BOOM! that’s the end of our new exercise regimen.
For change to be long-lasting and sustainable, you have to change your thought patterns a day, an hour, a minute at a time. As a therapist, I find myself asking “what is the smallest change you can make that will be a step towards your goal?” Sometimes clients get impatient and they want to run their hearts out. I think slow and steady is the way to go here, for the reasons outlined above. Make that enthusiasm for change last. After all, a page a day is a page a day, and eventually that last page arrives along with that happy ending you’re waiting for.
Now go read a long book!
Therapy Goes POP
Perspectives on therapy and mental health as viewed through the lens of popular culture