Rita keeps saying I’ve been laughing more. Last night we were watching an Australian soap opera featuring an overly aggressive goat. I got the giggles. Maybe it’s all this focus on happiness lately. Then again, we’re also writing a suicide assessment and treatment book, which partly translates into living in and cherishing every moment. So who really knows what’s up with me thinking angry goats are funny?
Last week I did a Zoom appearance in Dr. Julia Taylor’s theories class at the University of Virginia. As usual (this is my third year visiting her class), Julia had her students well-prepped; we had a fantastic discussion. One student, much to my delight, said our theories text was the funniest text ever, and that she learned more from it than she had in four years of reading undergraduate textbooks. I, of course, heartily agreed and thanked Alexis (I still remember her name) for her wonderful comments.
As a textbook writer, I don’t get a ton of positive feedback, but when I do, it tickles my heart and makes my day.
Today, after doing a private consultation with a mental health counselor in Denmark, I sent out a copy of the CBT chapter from our theories text. Before sending it, I read the first paragraphs, and laughed out loud. I’d forgotten that we somehow left my free associations about cognition in the chapter opening. I laughed partly because the prose was hilarious and partly because of a tinge of embarrassment that my irreverent writing might be just too much for some readers. Oh well. I hope not.
More importantly, reading that paragraph made me decide to feature three IMHO hilarious excerpts from our Counseling and Psychotherapy Theories in Context and Practice textbook (Yes, it’s funnier than it sounds, but then, that’s a very low hurdle). https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1119473314?pf_rd_p=ab873d20-a0ca-439b-ac45-cd78f07a84d8&pf_rd_r=FT4RVJG8794EET839Y97
Excerpt One: Free Associating to Cognition
Chapter Eight starts with the following magic.
We have many ideas about how to open a chapter about cognition. John wanted to say something pithy like, “You are what you think,” but Ralph Waldo Emerson got there first. Rita was considering, “As a woman thinketh” (a feminist version of James Allen’s 1903 book titled, “As a man thinketh”), but John countered with “As a person thinketh” and by then we’d grown weary of the word thinketh. Then Rita waxed Shakespeare-esk, saying, “There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so” which seemed a little better than the Buddha’s, “What you think you become” until we found the writings of Hafiz (a 14th century Persian poet):
Is where the Real Fun starts
There’s too much counting
(Ladinsky, 1996, p. 47)
Although Albert Ellis might respond to this poem by asking, “What the Holy Hell are you thinking,” we thought it was about clearing a cognitive space for meditation. Let’s start with zero.
Okay. Just in case you’re not ROTFL now, here’s a clip from the existential chapter that will knock your socks off. This comes under the heading, “The I-Am Experience”
Excerpt Two: Existentialists and Hyphens
Existentialists like to use hyphens to capture the interconnectedness of phenomenological experience. For example, in contrast to May’s I-am experience, Boss (1963) and Binswanger (1933) used Dasein (which is translated to being-in-the-world) to describe the sense-of-existence. Also, the phrase, “Dasein choosing,” which is translated to the-person-who-is-responsible-for-his-existence choosing is used. We should note that this practice is in no way related to our own hyphenated last names, although it has inspired John to consider adding a hyphenated middle name so he can refer to himself in the third person as, “John-who-is-responsible-for-his-existence-Sommers-Flanagan,” which he thinks sort of rolls right off the tongue.
It follows, as-if-anything-really-follows-from-the-preceding, that existential therapy is nearly always in the service of self-awareness or self-discovery. However, unlike psychoanalysts, existentialists expand and illuminate client self-awareness rather than interpreting client unconscious processes. This is because existentialists believe the entirety of an individual’s human experience is accessible to consciousness.
And now, the grand finale (although there are many more where these come from), and my personal favorite, from Chapter 11: Constructive Theory and Therapy
Excerpt Three: I’m Not Afraid of Philosophers
In this chapter, we de-emphasize distinctions between constructivist and social constructionist perspectives. Mostly, we lump them together as constructive theories and therapies and emphasize the intriguing intervention strategies developed within these paradigms. This may upset staunch constructivists or radical social constructionists, but we take this risk with full confidence in our personal safety—because most constructive types are nonviolent, strongly preferring to think, write, and engage in intellectual discussion. Therefore, within our own socially or individually constructed realities, we’ve concluded that we’re in no danger of bodily harm from angry constructive theorists or therapists.
I’m sure many of you haven’t gotten the delight out of these hilarious counseling and psychotherapy theories humor that I have. Maybe that’s a sign that you too, should start studying happiness. On the other hand, reading theories books may have permanently warped my sense of humor. Either way, I hope you find sparkling moments and laughter here and there in your lives.