The second reason is this: As I was reading, I found much to chew on...but I thought if I highlighted what really jumped out to me, I may reveal my issue. :) I mean, this is book club, right? Not therapy? Then again, maybe there are aspects of book club that dovetail therapy -- see questions #3 and #17.
Drop us a line and let us know if we can hope to see you!
1. Did you like this book?
2. Is this a memoir or a self-help book? What did you make of the format?
3. What stood out to you from the text?
4. Did it change your perspective on therapy (or a bad breakup)? He [Wendell] knows what all therapists know: That the presenting problem, the issue someone comes in with, is often just one aspect of a larger problem, if not a red herring entirely. He knows that most people are brilliant at finding ways to filter out the things they don't want to look at, at using distractions or defenses to keep threatening feelings at bay. He knows that pushing aside emotions only makes them stronger, but that before he goes in and destroys somebody's defense -- whether that defense is obsessing about another person or pretending not to see what's in plain sight -- he needs to help the patient replace the defense with something else so that he doesn't leave the person raw and exposed with no protection whatsoever. As the term implies, defenses serve a useful purpose. They shield people from injury...until they no longer need them. / It's in the ellipsis that therapists work. (47-8)
5. Have you ever associated numbing behavior with being overwhelmed? People often mistake numbness for nothingness, but numbness isn't the absence of feelings; it's a response to being overwhelmed by too many feelings. (56)
6. Lori describes a therapist's work as imagining her patients down the line. We do this not just on that first day but in every single session, because that image allows us to hold for them the hope that they can't yet muster themselves... (58) What does holding hope look like in your line of work?
7. What do you make of her concept that the future is also the present? We tend to think that the future happens later, but we're creating it in our minds every day. When the present falls apart, so does the future we had associated with it. And having the future taken away is the mother of all plot twists. But if we spend the present trying to fix the past or control the future, we remain stuck in place, in perpetual regret. By Google-stalking Boyfriend, I've been watching his future unfold while I stay frozen in the past. But if I live in the present, I'll have to accept the loss of my future. / Can I sit through the pain, or do I want to suffer? (66-7)
8. Did anyone else want her to name her Boyfriend? At least a pseudonym so we wouldn't have to keep reading Boyfriend?
9. Did anyone else feel a certain irony when she quotes Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Worried All the Time, suggesting, as these sources do, that there's no need to write yet another helicopter-parenting book when it's already been written (132)...except that she is writing another memoir about a breakup...that surely has already been written! Plus, I gather she would never tell her parents to just "get over it" when they present with common problems that ail the human condition. To me, it seemed like she was searching for a more "legitimate" reason for not writing the parenting book than the simple fact that she didn't want to. She wanted to write a therapy book.
10. Recently, one of my pastors suggested that we don't lash out because we are angry. We lash out because we are empty. That really resonated with me. Lori echoes the sentiment here: So many of our destructive behaviors take root in an emotional void, an emptiness that calls out for something to fill it. (135) How does this concept sit with you?
11. Lori writes that she is: a writer - it's not just what I do but who I am -- and if I can't write, then a crucial part of me goes missing. (130) What do you do regularly that you would consider to be a crucial part of yourself?
12. Was it just me or was it hard to read (aka cringe-worthy) the sexual references in descriptions of therapy? (John saying Lori was his hooker (5); Wendell suggesting she could have an orgasm but it wouldn't help her long-term (124) or her calling Skype "doing therapy with a condom on" (136))
13. Not that we can't talk about sex. But maybe a better place to start would be to consider her point that touch is: a deep human need. It's well documented that touch is important for well-being throughout our lifetimes. Touch can lower blood pressure and stress levels, boost moods and immune systems. Babies can die from lack of touch, and so can adults (adults who are touched regularly live longer). There's even a term for this condition: skin hunger. (168) So...along that theme, have you read a good sex book that you'd recommend?
14. Lori says she made the best decisions of her life when she was nearly forty -- to have a baby and to become a therapist. What have been the best decisions of your life?
15. Did you lose interest at all throughout this long text? Where there places you wanted to edit? For me, I slowed down a bit in Part 2. But she hooked me again on p.214: It takes awhile to hear a person's story and for that person to tell it, and like most stories -- including mine -- it bounces all over the place before you know what the plot really is.
16. There are several pastors at my church and a different one from the one I mentioned above once recommended that we (the congregation) listen to his sermons and consider their application to us personally. He knew that too often we tended to identify someone else in our lives who would really benefit from the message (an "ah, this sermon must be for him!). And so, I wonder... As you read Lori's book, did you reflect more on your own life? Or did you more often find yourself wishing you could pass along her advice and insights to other people in your life? (Did you think of recommending the book to those people?!)
17. What do you like about book club...and why do you keep coming back? :) (I know it's not the low-budget wine because there's always plenty of that left over!)
Thanks so much to Lara for hosting a lovely discussion of Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb.
Thank you to Angelica for pointing out this book's focus on connection. In the opening line to her acknowledgements, Lori Gottlieb stresses the importance of understanding how our lives are "peopled", as she calls it. I may be paraphrasing a combination of Lori Gottlieb and also the authors of another book I'm reading right now (Making Small Group Work), but I think both highlight the truth that we grow through our connection with others.
We spoke last night about the importance of acknowledging our individuality, and how that sense of self might not be as black and white as traditional options offer. I agree with the importance of the individual.
But I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest a philosophical thought that perhaps isn't well defined at this point...
I also think of individuality as a double edged sword, a place where we can too often focus on our problems and fail to see the good in ourselves and in the world around us. Is it not our sense of feeling alone (our disconnection) that is drawing our society (and young people) towards addiction and depression and suicide?
I think movements that support individuality are worthwhile...but I am very curious to see how our culture develops ways of connecting to each other and bridge the gaps across the distance between our islands of self-reflection. Sebastian Junger's Tribe comes to mind.
And so, in the spirit of building connection, I will confess what I was too tongue-tied to say last night -- that I too, like Lori Gottlieb, let a bad break-up direct my emotions and my life for a long time. For sure, her idea of having the future being taken from you really resonated with me. And I would love for my ex-boyfriend to read her book!
For next month, please join us as we journey to understand connections across culture and time in Rebecca Makkai's acclaimed work The Great Believers. (N.B. This is on the longer side, apologies...and is in high demand at the library. I just ordered a copy off Amazon -- it's cheaper in hardcover ironically...and would be happy to lend it after I finish...)
And, for those of you who like to read ahead, in November we will discuss The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes The World by Melinda Gates.
Hope to see you there!
The Tipsy Mamas' Book Club is co-hosted by Corinne Foster and myself, though the spirit of our discussions is flavored by many readers.