10 Reasons why you need The Emotional Extremist’s Guide to Handling Cartoon Elephants book this holiday season

1. The Cartoon Elephant book, after being temporarily unavailable through Amazon, is now back on the market. The retail price is $26.95, but sometimes Amazon will let it go for a bit less.

2. Cartoon Elephants approach painful emotions with humor. If there is an elephant in the room in your family, this book is the starting point for approaching avoided conversations. You will recognize yourself and others in this book. There is no finger pointing or blaming.
3. Cartoon Elephants is something you can put on your coffee table. Because it is a graphic book with pictures and fun fonts, it is an easy read. The elephants will fit nicely next to big picture books about Africa and Asia.
4. The Cartoon Elephant book is being used to teach people in Dialectical Behavior Therapy skills groups about emotions. Loaded with psycho-educational material and teaching points, it cleverly accomplishes the task of making people think they are reading something fun yet giving them something valuable.
5. This book is not hard to read. There is no “plugging away” at chapters. If you want to bring something to someone’s attention in a way that is universally applicable, this book will do the trick. You don’t need to have painful emotions to appreciate elephants- you just need to have emotions.
6. If you are going to buy someone a self-help book for Christmas, this is safe bet.
Whether they believe it or not, everyone has cartoon elephants. The research proving this to be true is cited in the back of the book.
7. This book can be used and re-used, read and re-read. You can share it with family members, friends, or long lost relatives. It won’t go out of style. Emotions, as a rule, will be with you as long as you live.
8. You will get some food for thought about how and where you see yourself in relationship to your elephants. This is great for discussion groups, weekend retreats, and writing workshops.
9. This book is great for people of all ages. If you’re trying to get your kid to read something important, heavy, and deep, you can give them this book. It won’t take long to read and it is much more fun with illustrations.
10. The book will be the perfect introduction for my live series on emotions starting January 20, 2014. Of course you don’t need the book to sign up, but if you have the book you will have a better appreciation for cartoon elephants in general.



The cartoon elephants are here!

Click here for The Emotional Extremist’s Guide to Handling Cartoon Elephants: How to solve elephantine emotional problems without getting run over, chased, flattened, squished, or abandoned by your true cartoons.

Here is a sneak preview of the book chapters:

Part I: The problems of cartoon elephants

  • The non-existence of cartoon elephants
  • The weight of cartoon elephants
  • The equilibrium of cartoon elephants
  • Stampeding, out-of-control elephant situations

Part II: The basic steps for solving elephantine problems

Part III: When your cartoon elephants are in danger: How to cope with critical obstacles

Part IV: When solving elephantine problems seems impossible: What to do when stuck beneath an elephant’s foot

Part V: What to do when elephants end up on your back

Part VI: What to do when your cartoon elephant turns blue

Here are some FAQ’s about the book:

Is this book for children? The intended audience for this book is adults (hey, adults need cartoons too!) and is fine for adolescents. Younger age ranges may have some difficulty with the abstract reasoning and the metaphors, and may not grasp all the concepts and big words. However, the big pictures, changing fonts, and fun graphic design makes this an attractive book for young kids (my 9-year nephew zipped right through it).

Why are the elephants in the male gender form? I used “he” and “him” when referring to the elephant to make the book simple and less wordy. I did not have any gender specific intentions. If you experience your elephants in the female form, you are welcome to take your own copy of the book and change all the pronouns.


You don’t have to be an Olympic vaulter in order to handle elephantine sized emotions!

That’s right!

I have been working very hard on my book The emotional extremist’s user’s guide to handling cartoon elephants: How to solve elephantine emotional problems without getting lost, stuck, run over, chased, flattened, squished, or abandoned by your true cartoons.

What a project! As the author, illustrator, and graphic designer of the cartoon elephant project, I have to tell you this is no easy task. I have been working on the cartoon elephant book for some time now. It actually started in 2008 when I was looking for creative ways to teach people how to handle emotions. And it’s already 2012!

Why is this project taking me so long? Mostly because I’ve never written anything that is mostly graphic design. In this journey I’ve created a lot of watercolor paintings, learned Adobe InDesign, and made may way through multiple revisions with ongoing feedback from clients, colleagues, peers, and family. The current working draft is approximately 180 pages.

Yes! I have a lot of cartoon elephant tips to share. I’m aiming for the cartoon elephants to have their very own website near the end of August. I keep thinking…I’m almost done with this book…But when I start editing, arranging, and laying out pictures I realize that I’ve got to give it my best. Sometimes I get overwhelmed. But I keep plugging away. And that ends up taking time. I am persistent. I have not given up.

So if you have been patiently waiting on the cartoon elephants… know that I have not forgotten you. In the end, it will be worth it.

How to track elephantine-sized emotions


Foot StuckLast week, I posted a blog about tracking behavior change. One way in which I get clients to assess progress, notice changes, or pay better attention to their feelings is to get them to notice and track emotions. Emotions can be intense. They can be not-very-intense but-still-stressful because they last over time. Often people minimize the impact and significance of emotions. When clients get better at regulating emotions, they get better at identifying what sets off emotions, identifying the significance of what they feel, figuring out what emotions are telling them, and finding ways to cope ahead, minimize the impact, prevent, or make use of emotions.

For instance:

Notice how big your emotion is (elephantine sized?)

Notice how intense your emotion is (how pink is pink?)

Notice your relationship with your emotion (are you stuck beneath an elephant’s foot?)

Notice if you are avoiding your emotion (are you running away from stampeding elephants?)

Notice how long it takes for the emotion to change or leave (holding on to elephantine problems can create even more problems.)

If the emotion isn’t changing, can you change your relationship to your emotion? (make peace with your cartoon elephants- an open invitation.)

What is your emotion trying to tell you? (believe me, elephants have things to say!)



When the horse throws you off, should you get back on right away?

Deciding to confront your fear can be a helpful thing; however, the manner in which you do so can potentially make the fear worse. Here are some thoughts about getting back in the saddle:

1)   Fear is functional- therefore it may be perfectly adaptive for you not to get back on the horse. If you could get hurt, you may be better off staying on the ground! Figure out what the benefit is of having the fear before you decide to approach the horse again.

2)   If your fear causes you impairments in having the life you want to lead and is NOT useful to you (ie, if the benefit to riding the horse outweighs the costs of walking away), consider your approach:

3)   DON’T grit your teeth, tense every muscle in your body, and actively ignore your skyrocketing anxiety. The horse may experience you as pushy, demanding, intrusive, controlling, or even coercive. There is a difference between approaching what you are afraid of and trying to overcome anxiety by pretending you don’t have it.

4)   Facing fears effectively takes openness and willingness. Practice relaxing your body, softening your tone of voice, and opening your palms so the horse can come over and check you out. The important thing is that you make space and allow for all the fear that you feel. And your relaxed posture will help to relax the horse.

5)   Keep your eyes open! Take in everything around you. Look at the horse’s posture and body language. See if he has his ears forward (curious, listening) or his ears back (irritated).  The better you are at reading a horse’s body language, the more information you will have. This will help you pay attention to when the horse is receptive to having you on its back.

Notice the difference:

You: Anxious, fearful, scared, and determined to get back in the saddle.

You: Calm, receptive, and willing to wait until the horse is ready.

If you were the horse, which person would you want on your back?



On dialectics: Perspective and truth with the shark and the jellyfish

In the great deep ocean, there was a shark and a jellyfish.

The jelly was made of flotsam and jetsam and floated around in an aimless manner. He was not made of substance and lived mostly at the whim of the currents and waves. He was mostly transparent and extremely shy.

The shark had big pointed teeth and yellowish eyes and would jet through the ocean, eating up the little sea creatures and fishes for dinner. He was bold and daring and liked to think he ruled the Pacific and the Atlantic, the Aegean and Indian the Mediterranean and the Baltic.

One day the shark swam up to the jellyfish and bellowed, “You brainless, spineless, heartless creature!”

The jelly was stung by the mean words of the shark, but the jelly couldn’t think of a single thing to say. In fact, the jelly had to admit, he had no heart, no spine, and no brain. The jelly wanted to sink into the depths of the ocean, never to return, believing in the mean harsh words of the shark.

At the bottom of the ocean the grenadier fish told the jelly “You are known for getting taken advantage of, agreeing with everyone, and not standing up for yourself. You need some perspective.”  And the jelly thought of all the things he had seen and heard in the depths the ocean and decided that perspective might be a better idea than blaming himself and feeling bad.

So the jelly, despite having limited control of his direction of float-ability, blobbed himself back to the non nether-regions of the ocean until he saw the shark again.  And then he said, “Perhaps it is true that I have a hard time standing up for myself. But it appears to me that you are a mean bully shark and do not have any friends.  I have lots of friends. Perhaps life would be better if the mean bully sharks of the ocean stopped trying to get their point across and the jellies of the ocean stopped being completely invisible, then reality could not only be seen more clearly but ocean life  would be more bearable.”