Monday, July 25, 2011

The pocket therapist: An emotional survival kit

By Therese J. Borchard

Book review by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.

The reviews of Borchard’s book at are outstanding — all nine of them as this review is being written — and I am not going to deviate from this trend.  I am truly impressed with this book.

First, I enjoyed Borchard’s writing style.  She is direct, straightforward, and to-the-point.  She is forthright and honest.  She really confesses a great deal in trying to help her readers.  I was so impressed with her insights that I read the book almost in a single setting.  It isn’t just her suggestions and ideas, it is, indeed, her sense of humor as well which shines through.  Answering the question,: “Is there any rule that is absolute?” Borchard uses the example about making rules for the kids, “‘Absolutely no candy before six o’clock.  Except when Dad is away and I need to bribe you with Kit Kats and Skittles.” (p. 99).  Delightful!

Self disclosure?  Lots of it.  “As a recovering alcoholic,” Borchard writes, “I know that you’re much more likely to relapse if your pals frequent drug rehabs more than grocery stores, and as a manic depressive, I have learned that staying sane is an easier job if you avoid those who talk doom and gloom, because once the negativity is out there, it’s up to me to tell my brain not to dwell on it” (p. 129).

Second, I appreciated her upbeat approach.  No matter what illness, malady, or trial you may be facing (even dizziness and nausea), Borchard’s stories, examples, and references are positive and uplifting.  You don’t have to have something as severe as mental illness (or a malignant tumor and undergoing chemotherapy and radiation) to get something from this 197-page book with 144 entries.  She is simply engaging.

Upbeat?  All the time.  “. . . Once I listen to an angry voice mail or receive a discouraging piece of news,” Borchard writes, “I start counting: one one-thousand, two two-thousand . . . and see how far I can get before breaking into hysteria.  When I’m able to squeeze in at least five seconds between the event and my reaction, I can respond more appropriately and appear more . . . um . . . chemically balanced” (p. 145).

Third, admittedly, much of her advice may simply reinforce things you already know, but that neither makes it trite nor unnecessary.  I first read this advice from Sydney Harris, when he was asked why he doesn’t become angry when the man who gives him a newspaper mistreats him: (and I am paraphrasing broadly here) I am not going to let him determine how I am feeling.  Borchard writes, “Never ever bequeath your authority to a person not named ‘I,’ ‘me,’ or ‘self.’  When a doctor hands you a prescription for a drug you haven’t heard of, research it before popping it into your mouth.  Or when a Blockbuster Video employee insists you pay $543 to replace their copy of Finding Nemo, buy a copy at Best Buy for $9.99 and hand it to him with a smile” (p. 151).  Basically, the advice is, take responsibility for your own actions and feelings.

Fourth, I loved the broad range of sources she has read, absorbed, and quoted from.  Some she mentions include The Little Prince, We: Understanding the Psychology of Romantic Love, Touching Peace, The Four Agreements, Finding the Deep River Within, Letting Go of the Person You Used to Be, Cutting Loose, Ten Days to Self-Esteem, Joyful Wisdom: Embracing Change and Finding Freedom , What Happy People Know, and The Addictive Personality to name some of them.

Overall I found her Catholic upbringing acceptable.  Although it shows up occasionally throughout her 144 entries, it is neither intrusive nor cumbersome.  For some, knowing this may encourage them to read the book.  Many would already know this from reading her daily blog “Beyond Blue.”  Others may have read one of her previous books, I Like Being Catholic.  This is not a religious book, and it is not necessary to be a religious person (Christian, Jew, Muslim, or other) to gain from her insights.

Not being mentally ill, mentally unstable, or mentally compromised in any way (that I know about!), and having never visited a therapist, I want to share an insight from DS, whose review on, gives a perspective I cannot: “As someone who has spent thousands of dollars on therapy, partial and full psychiatric hospitalization programs, and who takes the time to self-educate, I can't say enough wonderful things about this book. The advice is practical and graciously compassionate to the ups and downs of managing mental illness like bi-polar and uni-polar depression. The reader will benefit from Ms. Borchard's brave review of her own ‘Ark of the Covenant’: her bin of journals, notes, and therapy worksheets covering the last twelve years.”

I think you will find this book interesting, useful, and . . . short.

This book can be found at The pocket therapist: An emotional survival kit

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