Jblog Book Club

A place for discussing interesting books, including those on Judaism, parenting, and general fiction and non-fiction.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Oriented toward practical solutions

O’Hanlon, Bill. Do One Thing Different. New York: William Morrow, 1999.

I read this book because it was one of the ones mentioned by a local rabbi who conducts a weekly marriage workshop/shiur for men. (The other one he mentioned is an Arscroll book that is not at my local library.) The interview is in the winter 2006 issue of Kallah Magazine.

The premise behind this book is that of “solution oriented therapy,” that it is possible to solve problems quickly by changing behavior. Change your action –even if it is literally trying to get out of bed on the other side – to achieve your goal to feel better or to keep a fight from escalating. The advantage of this, obviously, is that it offers a way to fix things without protracted sessions in therapy that could last for years. The book offers some great quotes and some easy to follow directives, as well as entertaining (and sometimes somewhat strange) stories to illustrate his approach in action.

Many of the illustrative examples refer to couples. He even has practical solutions with regard to intimacy. (I wonder if that’s what the rabbi refers to.) Yet, I think that this idea of changing one’s approach could work well when applied to children. As the quote at the beginning of the book says, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” I know that as a parent, I’ve been guilty of this, and I’ve observed it in other parenting styles, too. You know how some parents repeatedly nag their children to clean their room, etc., so they do not achieve what they really want, which is for the child to do it without being berated, cajoled, or threatened.

Children do come up in his extended story of the teacher who turned the class no one could endure into accomplished students. It was the result of her misreading their locker numbers as their IQ scores and treating them like the brilliant people she thought them to be. That is a very important lesson about labeling and expectations. Today, I believe, schools (based on my experience with yeshivas) are very quick to label a child an underachiever based on very little evidence. This can easily become a self-fulfilling prophecy. The topic is treated in a short piece called “The Clever Hans Phenomenon,” about how a horse can appear to know math and how children can appear not to, based on the cues of expectation they pick up on.

But all is not sweetness and light. Those among us who tend to identify with Hamlet can not dismiss analysis so easily. Of course, Hamlet can be pointed to as the exemplar of analysis-paralysis. However, we can’t help admiring that he is, after all, more perceptive than all those around him. In fact, when he advised by his uncle to accept his father’s death and move on, we know that he is concealing the thing that is rotten in the state of Denmark. Also, as the author focuses on just making things work – accommodating – some of his suggestions actually capitulate to the person in the relationship who is excessively controlling. So the surface can be worked smooth, but there are still depths beneath. He admits he is not concerned with those depths—only with practical solutions.

In sum: I think some of his suggestions can work well to improve certain conflicts. However, for those who are of a very analytical nature, it may seem too facile.


Post a Comment

<< Home