Thoughtful Therapy

  Helping women find freedom and peace



Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson, MD

Posted on 4 August, 2015 at 9:00 Comments comments (1557)

Who Moved My Cheese? is a motivational book by Spencer Johnson. It is made up of a story he used to help himself deal with change in his own life. According to the introduction, his friends and colleagues noticed how much better his life was and asked for his secret. He shared with them the story of the cheese. It's a very simple story. Many people find it helpful, but some do not understand why such a simple story can be effective.

The cheese represents whatever we want to have in life. It could be a job, a relationship, money, a big house, freedom, health, recognition, spiritual peace, or an activitiy like jogging or golf. Everyone has his or her own idea of what is important, and pursues it because he or she believes it makes him or her happy. If we get the cheese we often get attached to it, and if we lose it, it can be traumatic. The maze represents where you spend time looking for what you want. This is, perhaps, the place you work, your community, or the relationships you have in your life.

A short summary: Two mice, Sniff and Scurry, and two people, Hem and Haw, make up the characters. Their names ultimately define their roles and behavior. All four live in a maze and eat cheese to survive. Every morning they all put on their running gear and race through the maze looking for cheese. They eventually find some and settle in to eat. The mice keep their running gear nearby, knowing that eventually they may need to wear it again to continue the search for cheese. The people become too comfortable and forget this possibility. The rest of the story details how each of the characters handles change.

This story is often used in the workplace as a way to help employees deal with and embrace change, but may also show them that they no longer fit into the company if they are unwilling to make changes in how they do things. The story can be applied in everyday life, too. Are you a "Sniff," who sniffs out the situation and sees change early? Or maybe a "Scurry," who goes into action immediately? Perhaps you are a "Hem," who insists on keeping things the same as they always have been, even when outside circumstances are changing. Or are you a "Haw," who resists change at first, but eventually comes around? Once you figure out how you naturally react to change, you can choose a different tactic, if needed, that might make life a little smoother.

Below are Haw's inspirational phrases, written on the maze wall along the way.

Change Happens. They keep moving the cheese.

Anticipate Change. Get ready for the cheese to move.

Monitor Change. Smell the cheese often so you know when it is getting old.

Adapt to Change Quickly. The quicker you let go of old cheese, the sooner you can enjoy new cheese.

Change. Move with the cheese.

Enjoy Change! Savor the adventure and enjoy the taste of new cheese!

Be Ready to Change Quickly and Enjoy it Again and Again. They keep moving the cheese.

How to Prepare to Leave

Posted on 14 July, 2015 at 8:00 Comments comments (7421)

Sometimes when you are in a relationship you know it is time to leave. The relationship may be over even though you are still in it. It may be time to go because of a variety of reasons:

You're tired of being cheated on.

You're done putting up with verbal or emotional abuse.

You don't want to be hit and pushed anymore.

You long to emotionally connect with someone.

When it's time to go, you may know it's time, but still feel trapped. How do you get out of it? What do you do to get ready to go? Is it really possible to leave, or will you have to stay in this place forever?

Yes, it really is possible to leave. You may feel trapped now, but you don't have to continue to feel this way. I will detail below a few ways to prepare. For a full description of what to do, how to prepare, and other information, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. You can also visit their website at

Develop a Network of Supportive People. You need friends now, more than ever. You may feel isolated or paralyzed, but you must find the courage to act. Now is the time to join a club or a Bible study, meet your neighbors, reconnect with old friends, make current acqaintances into friends, reach out to your family. These people can support you as you prepare for your new life. You may be able to ask them for help in finding a job or a new place to live, or transportation to a shelter.

Save Money. One of the biggest concerns for many people is money. Of course there are worries about supporting yourself and your children, or whoever may be with you. Money may be a way that the person you are leaving controls you, but nonetheless, you must find a way to save up. Open a bank account in your own name. Create retirement funds if possible (Roth IRA is my recommendation, but speak to a financial advisor to verify what is best for you). You will need money to be out on your own.

Get a Job. This is, of course, a great way to make money. If you already have a job, this one may be taken care of. If it's been a while since you have worked outside the home, remind yourself of your skills. Reinforce to yourself that you have value and worth. You can do this. Look over your resume and update it, or create one from scratch based on your skills and any previous jobs or positions you have held. You can include volunteer work. One website I have used in creating my own resume is the Rockport Institute. This site also has other helpful career info about finding a career that is a best-fit for you.

Go Back To School. This is a sub-heading of getting a job. If you find you need to add to your skill set, check out the local community college or online courses to see what might be of help and of interest to you. Colleges often have career counselors who can help you figure out what you might like to do, and give you some guidance toward a particular field.

Figure Out Where You Will Go. This may be an area where your support network can help. Do you need to stay at a shelter for a while? Or is it safe to stay with a friend or family member? Maybe you are ready to rent an apartment. Whatever the case, pick this place out before you leave. Plan how you will get there, what route to take, if you will take yourself or if someone will pick you up. Figure out as much in advance as possible.

It may take some time to make your exit plan, but have courage that life can be better for you. You don't have to stay in a dead or abusive relationship. You deserve more. You deserve better.

Resolution Check In: The Halfway Mark

Posted on 7 July, 2015 at 9:00 Comments comments (2811)

July has just started, which means we are about halfway through 2015. It's time, once again, to check in on your resolutions. Remember resolutions? Those ideas you had in January for how to improve yourself and your life? Somehow they don't seem nearly as exciting and motivating in the hot summer as they do at the beginning of the year.

All the same, it's a good time to evaluate the progress you have made toward those goals.

Think back to January, or pull out your list of resolutions.

What's on the list? What kind of progress have you made toward these goals?

Are these goals still valid, still something you want to pursue? Is there anything you want to change about them? Increase or decrease something, or add or subtract something?

Make sure to give yourself credit for anything you have accomplished, and don't beat yourself up for anything that has fallen by the wayside. If those resolutions in the gutter are ones you want to dig out and restart, do that. Tell yourself not to give up, that you can get back on track at any time you choose. You don't have to wait for the beginning of a year to start, start again, or pick up where you left off.

Don't give up!

Examples of Routines

Posted on 12 May, 2015 at 8:00 Comments comments (459)

As a follow-up to my blog about the necessity of routines, here are a few examples of routines you might put into practice. These are only examples; you should modify them to suit your needs, and create other routines that are helpful to you.


Try picking one day (or two or three, if needed) per week for doing laundry: the same day every week. This can help minimize worries of running out of clean clothes. Sort clothes into light, dark, etc., as you put them in the hamper, or maintain different containers for each category. This cuts down on sorting on laundry day. After the clothes have been washed and dried, go ahead and fold or hang them and put them away. Consider this part of doing the laundry and just do it.

Morning Routine

Get up at the same time every day, and allow yourself at least an hour (or two) to get ready. Plan what you will wear the night before, and lay it out so that you don't have to think about it in the morning. Eat breakfast. Make sure you have food on hand that you will actually eat at breakfast, and plan the meal (even if it's just cereal and milk) so that you don't wind up staring wistfully into the refrigerator or pantry, wasting precious time. Have a place near the door (kitchen counter, washing machine, hall table) where you put things you need to take with you to work or school. Always put your keys in the same place (preferably not in the bottom of your purse), so you will be able to find them easily. Make a rule for yourself that you don't watch television until you are fully dressed and ready to walk out the door. Knowing what the plan is can help reduce anxiety that you will forget to do something or take something with you when you leave.

Bedtime Routine

About an hour before bedtime, turn off all devices that emit blue light (cell phone, television, computer). Take a warm bath if that is relaxing to you. Wash your face, brush your teeth, and put on your pajamas. Take some time to choose your outfit for the next day and lay it out for tomorrow. Spend time doing something relaxing, such as reading or listening to soft music. If you have difficulty turning off your brain, make a list of worries, tasks for the next day, or anything else that is on your mind. Turn out the light and sleep.


Make this a priority. Set a regular time to move your body, and write it into your calendar. It could be first thing in the morning, after work, or on your lunch break, but get it done. Even though it is hard to get started, you will not regret doing it after it is over.

Grocery List

Put items on the grocery list as soon as they are used up, or when they are running low. This keeps you from forgetting what you need to get next time you go to the store. You might even organize your list by areas of the store: produce, frozen, canned goods, dairy, etc. It can also be helpful to pick a certain day of the week to go grocery shopping. That way you don't have to worry about running out of food or worry about when you will be able to get to the store because you know you will be going on [chosen day of the week for grocery shopping].


As you plan your grocery shopping, start planning in advance your meals for the week. Ask your family, or yourself, what you want to eat in the coming week. Evaluate which meal is appropriate for which day based on who will be home, and when, and what other activities need to be worked around. For example, on a night when the kids have soccer practice, or you have to work late, you don't want to have planned a complicated meal that will take a couple hours to prepare. That might be the night to pop a frozen pizza in the oven, make scrambled eggs and toast, or heat up planned-overs (leftovers you planned to have again). On a night where everyone will be home, you might want to involve the whole family in cooking dinner or make something a little more complicated or that takes a little longer. Knowing in the morning what you are having for dinner that night takes the pressure off, and also reminds you if you need to thaw something in order to be ready to cook when you get home or throw something in the crock pot right now.