How Cognitive Behavior Therapy Protects You From Vampires

It’s allergy season, the time of year when I go from being reasonably a disciplined person and instead become an excuse machine. This allergy season the article,  5 Steps to Developing a Healthy Relationship with Food,  keeps whispering to me.

The article  begins:

"Why is it so hard to stick to a healthy eating plan and a reasonable exercise regimen?"

"From the viewpoint of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), the reason isn’t hard to find: knowing what to do and knowing how to get yourself to do it are entirely separate skills. When it comes to changing behavior, especially long-term, habitual patterns, getting yourself to do something different, even when you know it’s good for you, depends largely on what you tell yourself: that is, on your thinking."

What kind of thinking leads to overeating?

"let’s say you’re at a dessert party and see five really delicious pastries. Will you end up eating too much? You probably will if you think, I don’t care. I don’t want to deprive myself. It isn’t fair that everyone else gets to eat whatever they want, and I have to settle for one small piece. By contrast, if you say to yourself, "I’m going to pick my favorite dessert. I’ll eat one small piece slowly and enjoy every bite. I know I’m going to feel so proud of myself," you stand a much better chance of not overeating."

The article explains in step-by step detail how first changing your own thinking patterns helps you to make lasting changes. It’s worth reading the whole piece.

Instead of overeating, my weakness is my complete unconditional love of serial dramas on TV.  While the article focuses on how to use CBT to help change eating habits, the technique is useful for changing any habits.   After reading this article I realized how often I’m able to convince myself that it’s okay to read or watch TV during my writing time in allergy season.  The conversation in my head goes something like this: 

Allergy season is so hard.  I feel horrible and can’t think.  I should give myself a break and watch an episode of The Vampire Diaries instead of writing my own story.  After all, the writers of that show are excellent at plotting, so watching an episode is sort of like studying plot, which is almost the same as writing, so watching an episode should totally count as writing. Right?  Watching 5 episodes is probably five times as good. Okay, I"m convinced. 

Is it bad that the fact that this type of thinking seems a lot like Damon compelling someone with his amusing vampire powers makes the excuses appeal to me even more? 

Conclusion:  CBT is a lot like Vervain and can totally protect you from vampires who are trying to get you to overeat or convince you not to write.

PS – I’ll be writing a review of seasons 1 & 2 of The Vampire Diaries as soon as season 2 is complete.  See, I’m writing a review.  I’m practically cured already. 

PPS – The last couple days have actually been really good allergy-wise, which made writing this post and avoiding episode 2.19 of The Vampire Diaries much easier.

What Buffy and Dollhouse Say About Feminism

Last week I rewatched both seasons of Dollhouse and remembered all over again how the show started out as a 21st century version of Charlie’s Angels and then transformed into a fantastically thoughtful show about free will, corporations, and a modern world that feels like it’s spinning out of control.  There were significant twists near the end so I was curious to see if the plot still held up now that I understood key new information about the characters. It did!  The reveals made sense and added a new perspective to my watching experience.

It was perfect timing then that I came across this interesting article that examines what Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dollhouse each contribute to the discussion of feminism.  While it’s easy to see what Buffy contributes to feminism, Dollhouse’s virtues are trickier to see at first.  As the author says:

"Dollhouse gives us just as much fodder for thinking about gender, feminism, and power as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which drew its appeal by resisting the very forms of systemic oppression, both male and female disempowerment, that Dollhouse sought to make explicit."

The whole article is worth reading.  Just be warned that there are a lot of spoilers for Dollhouse and probably Buffy too.

PS: Both seasons of Dollhouse  and all seven seasons of Buffy are currently available on Netflix Instant. 


Allergy Season 2011: The Wrath of Pollen

Every year is the same.  I’m happily taking care of my kids, writing, cleaning, cooking, and subbing. The last week of February rolls by and the plants cast their spell.  Abracadabra!   I inexplicably don’t like anything, I need to sleep all the time, and nothing is fun or easy.  Welcome to allergy season!

So far in my search for the antidote I fixed up the house, got allergy shots, eat a gluten-free diet, do saltwater rinses, and take allergy medicine around the clock. Every change has helped.  Still, I’m just not myself for 6 months.  Maybe I need to move north where the pollen season is shorter.  I wonder where I should live.

Book Review for City of Bones

Title: City of Bones
Author: Cassandra Clare
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Year: 2007
Rating: ** 1/2
Format: Listened to audiobook from
For: 7th graders and up

Fifteen-year-old Clary Fray is just a regular teenager hoping to find a little excitement at an all-ages dance club in New York City.  Instead she witnesses a life-changing incident that looks a lot like a murder, except the victim didn’t die, he exploded and vanished.  The teens at the scene are surprised Clary could even see them.  They’re not regular people, they’re shadow hunters; regular people aren’t supposed to be able to see shadow hunters or the demon they just killed.  So why could Clary see them?

I wanted to read City of Bones because of its controversial history.  The author started out as a fan fiction writer and wrote a popular series of fan fiction stories about the Harry Potter character Draco Malfoy.  City of Bones is a revision of that fan fiction story into something original on its own. It’s quite clear which character in the story is based on Draco, though the rest of the characters bear little resemblance to anyone in the Harry Potter world.

There are some entertaining details and fun soapy elements to the story. Overall though, City of the Bones taught me a lot about writing.  I knew the meaning of derivative– a story that seems a lot like other original stories– but it was only after reading this Harry Potter/Buffy the Vampire Slayer  knock-off that I truly understood what derivative feels like in an actual story. It’s also a good education on how many similes are too many and why a writer shouldn’t rely on adverbs or helping verbs.