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.

The Death Class: A True Story About Life by Erika Hayasaki: A Book Review

Posted on 9 December, 2014 at 19:00 Comments comments (2681)

In The Death Class: A True Story About Life, Erika Hayasaki tells her experience of shadowing Norma Bowe, a professor at Kean University in New Jersey. What is unique about Bowe is the subject matter of her most popular course: Death in Perspective, affectionately called the "death class" by students. According the Hayasaki, the class has a three year waiting list and is one of the most popular courses on campus. Hayasaki reveals that Bowe allowed her to follow her for four years, including auditing the class, with the stipulation that Hayasaki "participate in the class as a student."

Hayasaki describes Bowe as a figure larger than life: a teacher, counselor, nurse, shoulder to cry on, activist, rescuer, mother, partner, and more. Bowe is there for her students whenever they need her, and they often call at all hours, desperate for help. Her dedication is present not only in the classroom, but also in the real world. Bowe helps many students with their crises, and Hayasaki chronicles eight of them, giving the reader greater insight into each struggle, something that would not have been possible had she included the stories of the dozens of students she interviewed.

We meet Caitlin, whose mother frequently attempts suicide, and who continually allows herself to be thrown into the role of rescuer. She battles her family issues while doing her best to finish her college degree. Her boyfriend Jonathan's story includes a horrific childhood event, sadly repeated in his adult life. Israel longs for a fresh start after a long history of gang membership. Jerzy grieves his wife, who was murdered in a tragic shooting. We meet others, too, dealing with equally difficult circumstances, and Hayasaki leads us through their stories, sometimes interweaving them, sometimes letting them stand alone. The common thread, however, is Norma Bowe and her "death class." Through this class, Bowe gives each student the chance to process his or her losses and life events, taking the group on field trips to cemeteries and autopsies, and assigning projects that, ironically, get to the heart of what it means to really live.

The Death Class is a book that seeks to explain both the biological process of death, and what happens to those left behind. It is touching and raw, but with an overarching theme of hope. The reader senses that somehow things will be okay, although perhaps different than before, while following each student's process of change over the course of the book. The lives of those included are not perfect, and Hayasaki does not pretend they are or will be in the end, but she tells the story in a way that is uplifting and inspiring.

Erika Hayasaki is a former reporter for the Los Angeles Times, and is an assistant professor at the University of California, Irvine.

Norma Bowe is a professor at Kean University in New Jersey and founder of the nonprofit Be the Change.