By Lori Gottlieb, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, April 2, 2019, 1328662055

I thoroughly enjoyed this excellently-written book. It gave me insight into myself, my past therapy sessions, and people.

This is different than “pop psych” books. It doesn’t offer easy answers. There are none. Rather, it’s a deep look into psychotherapy. If you want to know what therapy is like, this book will let you in on the secret: hard work smattered with humor.

I first heard about this book on You are not So Smart Episode 160.

[k581] Study after study shows that the most important factor in the success of your treatment is your relationship with the therapist, your experience of “feeling felt.”

[k607] Studies show, and common sense dictates, that most therapists prefer to work with patients who are verbal, motivated, open, and responsible–these are the patients who improve more quickly.

[k755] As the term implies, defenses serve a useful purpose. They shield people from injury . . . until they no longer need them. It’s in this ellipsis that therapists work.

[k895] But therapists don’t have an immediate cure because these people are complete strangers to us.

[k894] So they sit on the therapist’s couch and look up expectantly, hoping to find some understanding and, eventually (but preferably immediately), a cure. But therapists don’t have an immediate cure because these people are complete strangers to us.

[k911] In time, they find out that they aren’t at war after all, that the path to peace is to call a truce with themselves.

[k1010] I think of a Flannery O’Connor quote: “The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.” What am I protecting myself from? What do I not want Wendell to see?

[k1031] The things we protest against the most are often the very things we need to look at.

[k1280] (the upside of being a therapist’s child is that nothing gets shoved under the rug; the downside is that you’ll be totally screwed up anyway).

[k1735] In therapy we aim for self-compassion (Am I human?) versus self-esteem (a judgment: Am I good or bad?). “

[k1821] But in each conversation, we sprinkle seeds of curiosity, because therapy can’t help people who aren’t curious about themselves.

[k1845] But as a supervisor drilled into us during training, “What you feel on the receiving end of an encounter with a patient is real–use it.”

[k2009] After all, two hundred years ago, the philosopher Johann Wolfgang von Goethe succinctly summarized this sentiment: “Too many parents make life hard for their children by trying, too zealously, to make it easy for them.”

[k2023] The regret I felt about having not done the parenting book was compounded by the fact that I continued to get weekly reader mail and speaking-engagement queries about the “How to Land Your Kid in Therapy” article. “Will there be a book?” person after person asked. No, I wanted to reply, because I’m a moron. I did feel like a moron, because in the interest of not selling out and cashing in on the parenting craze, I agreed instead to write the now-dreaded, depression-inducing happiness book.

[k2057] So many of our destructive behaviors take root in an emotional void, an emptiness that calls out for something to fill it.

[k2289] There’s a magnet that somebody stuck on the refrigerator in our office’s kitchen: PEACE. IT DOES NOT MEAN TO BE IN A PLACE WHERE THERE IS NO NOISE, TROUBLE, OR HARD WORK. IT MEANS TO BE IN THE MIDST OF THOSE THINGS AND STILL BE CALM IN YOUR HEART.

[k2296] But part of getting to know yourself is to unknow yourself–to let go of the limiting stories you’ve told yourself about who you are so that you aren’t trapped by them, so you can live your life and not the story you’ve been telling yourself about your life.

[k2863] The internet can be both a salve and an addiction, a way to block out pain (the salve) while simultaneously creating it (the addiction).

[k3963] For the past few weeks, every second has been linked to the next by worry.

[k4291] When I suggested that discussing the state of their relationship via text might be limiting–you can’t look into somebody’s eyes or take someone’s hand to offer reassurance even though you’re upset–she replied, “Oh, no, we use emojis too.”

[k4345] I couldn’t think of a single patient to whom Frankl’s ideas didn’t apply, whether it was about extreme trauma or an interaction with a difficult family member.

[k4347] I particularly liked this line from Frankl’s book: “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

[k4624] Like most patients, I want my therapist to enjoy my company and have respect for me, but, ultimately, I want to matter to him. Feeling deep in your cells that you matter is part of the alchemy that takes place in good therapy.

[k4992] “If you stay in therapy,” I say softly, “you might have to let go of the hope for a better childhood–but that’s only so that you can create a better adulthood.” Charlotte looks down for a long time, then says, “I know.”

[k5022] Suffering shouldn’t be ranked, because pain is not a contest.

[k5031] You can’t get through your pain by diminishing it, he reminded me. You get through your pain by accepting it and figuring out what to do with it.

[k5530] I think of something else Wendell once said: “The nature of life is change and the nature of people is to resist change.”

[k5746] I’ve told her about the many relationships I’ve seen implode simply because one person was terrified of being abandoned and so did everything in his or her power to push the other person away.