At this point, I feel as though I’ve seen the words “go to therapy” a thousand times. Whether it’s Jameela Jamil telling an anonymous Twitter user to “go to therapy. It will help. I also used to be a miserable, mistrusting, little troll, just like you” because they called her annoying, or Balloon Guy asking for therapy invoices instead of nudes (literally, ugh) Therapy Discourse has become ubiquitous. What much of the discussion fails to reckon with is that therapy, or counselling, generally costs money and requires vast swathes of time.
This makes it inaccessible for a major portion of the people who could benefit from it. Instead, many turn to books and media. This is where bestselling author Gwendoline Smith comes in. Smith’s previous works, The Book of Overthinking and The Book of Knowing have helped readers understand their racing thoughts and anxiety. With her latest offering, The Book of Angst, Smith tackles Covid-19 and the feelings that come with it. Not knowing what’s going to happen in the world, whether we are going to change alert levels in a flash, whether employment will be lost, whether we ourselves will catch the virus, can send us into a spiral. Feeling this baseline anxiety for too long makes for angst.
In The Book of Angst, Smith breaks her down her expertise into three parts. In the first, she explores and explains the different kinds of anxiety a person can experience. In the second, she explores social anxiety. And in the third, she provides the reader with homework. It’s in this third section that we take our solitary, and free (aside from the price of the book) therapy sessions.
Filled with her signature illustrations and ease of language, The Book of Angst is a helpful read for uncertain times. Those who’ve read Smith’s previous work may not find much new material here, but anyone new to Gwendoline Smith will likely benefit from reading – if for no other reason than to further understand Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.
A section that resonated with me discussed perfectionism and broke down the difference between positive and negative perfectionism. With positive perfectionism, individuals aspire to excellence but are not driven solely by fear of failure. “They know when they have done their best, and are able to complete tasks without checking and rechecking into the small hours at risk of burning out.” With negative perfectionism, a person’s standards are high beyond reason. “These people strain compulsively and unremittingly toward impossible goals and measure their worth entirely in terms of productivity and achievement.”
We must remember, especially during a pandemic, that the purpose of life is to live – not simply to be productive.
The Book of Angst by Gwendoline Smith is available in bookstores.Support Villainesse