Slogans for Change

July 7, 2015

Recently, a colleague and I were talking between patient appointments, something that happens too infrequently in our shared space. She mentioned that a patient of hers had asked for some kind of saying or slogan to help remember what she was learning about herself in therapy—sort of like ones used in Alcoholics Anonymous, such as “One Day at a Time.”

Her idea of a slogan intrigued me. I was just working on a blog about the seeming inability of younger patients to introspect and to realize that what we experienced as children in our families of origin does not doom us to continue to live unhappily forever. Perhaps patients would benefit if they had some concrete saying, a mantra as it were, to remind themselves outside the therapy room of key lessons.

We began riffing on what slogans we would recommend. One of us remembered the autosuggestion saying popularized by a psychologist in the 1920s: “Every day in every way I’m getting better and better.” (We couldn’t remember who said it but, with a smartphone, found it was Émile Coué, a French psychologist and pharmacist).

One of us remembered something written by Viktor E. Frankl: “When we are no longer able to change a situation—we are challenged to change ourselves.” When we looked him up, we also found another good one: “An abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal behavior.”

Of course, we agreed that the apocryphal saying attributed to Sigmund Freud, “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar,” would be amusing and apt. But we were getting giddy and our time together was running out; we went to our next appointments refreshed from the shared camaraderie.

Later, I looked up a saying I remembered that forms the background or all-encompassing framework for the cognitive behavioral therapy I do: “What is past is prologue.” This slogan reminds us that, while it is essential to understand how we come to be as we are today, the real work of therapy is in the here-and-now, that is, how we enact those same scenarios in current relationships. I was surprised to learn this concept doesn’t come from an esteemed mind in psychiatry; it comes from William Shakespeare’s play, “The Tempest.” And I also learned that the saying is inscribed on a statue outside the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

Another slogan came to mind—on my bulletin board, out of sight of patients, I keep a cartoon of the proverbial patient on the couch, the therapist sitting behind. The therapist is saying “Don’t make me come over there.” It always makes me smile, especially after a challenging session.

There are so many slogans that might be useful—do you have one?  

Leslie Durr, PhD, RN, PMHCNS-BC is an advanced practice psychiatric-mental health nurse with a private psychotherapy practice in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The views expressed on this blog are solely those of the blog post author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Psych Congress Network or other Psych Congress Network authors.