Pathways to Hope is a wealth of practical advice and positive messages presented in an easy to digest manner. It is a slightly more analytic approach to metaphor as a healing technique than Dr. Harish Malhotra’s earlier book, Metaphors of Healing. However, Pathways is still an accessible and powerful tool to help those with personal difficulties on a self-help basis, and yet comprehensive enough to be a guide to those professionals who want to add new methods and techniques to their patient communication skills.
Dr. Malhotra proposes 23 essential pathways, all with playful titles, ranging from “Go on with Your Best Face,” “Leave Nothing Unturned” to “Change the Storm into a Breeze.” As the titles imply, the author employs ordinary experience to deal with extraordinary issues that afflict humans. Again, Dr. Malhotra offers a simple, but brilliant, idea: Use the healing language of metaphor as a therapeutic strategy and a curative approach for daily life. What do these pathways of hope offer therapists and patients?
He advises, that first, therapists should not depend on a single approach to solving problems, such as depending exclusively on standard psychotherapy or behavioral techniques. Dr. Malhotra believes in adjusting the style to fit the person, regardless of the type of therapy. For example: If a patient has hallucinations that tell him to cut himself, his behavior is unlikely to change by telling him to look at the origins of the behavior. He offers that instead of taking the “origin’s route” that the therapist shifting his patient’s attention to what voice the patient is actually listening to, and then guide the patient to determine whether that voice is using good judgment. This pathway may enable the patient to “deny the voice that is only loud thoughts” in his mind.
Second, Dr. Malhotra advises us to highlight the positives—thought, word and deed—so that we may “put different highlights in our life book.” How can one counsel a lonely patient, one who seeks but has no hope of meeting people? The author shows that by connecting to the social media, hundreds of different opportunities present themselves. We strike up friendships through slight measures: small talk, shaking hands, smiling and just paying attention to a person. A simple recipe: Grow a social network by taking small positive steps whenever and wherever you can.
Whether you are a therapist, patient or truth seeker, what can be learned from this book? We can summarize some major markers. Pathway l, “Go with Your Best Face,” emphasizes that we focus on our strengths, not our weaknesses. Pathway 8, “Search for the Silver Lining,” encourages the reader to pay attention to the joys of living rather than the fear of dying. Pathway 11, “Make Yourself a Happy Person,” clarifies that we all have choices, and that “happiness is an inside job.” One more illustration of metaphor, Pathway 12, “Leave Nothing Unturned,” focuses on good habits that inspire positive attitudes and healthy lifestyles—“neither of which require a copyright.” Ordinary people can live extraordinary lives by considering new pathways, by hearing new stories, by learning by metaphor.
Pathways of Hope and Metaphors of Healing are not theoretical psychotherapy books. As Dr. Malhotra makes clear, these are lighthearted stories to provide innovative insights and language to enhance our everyday lives. He seeks to empower readers with his decades of experience in helping people transform their lives and improve difficult situations in their daily lives.
As with Metaphors of Healing, this is not a book to be read in one sitting or all at once. It is one that the reader will find herself/himself picking up again and again taking in a chapter or a metaphor to ponder and, perhaps, adapt. It will become a gentle companion that guides and inspires. One will find, on reflection and on rereading, that these simple stories contain deep insight and wisdom. Clinicians and those seeking to increase their understanding of themselves and their fellow humans would benefit immensely from reading Dr. Malhotra’s gentle, healing stories.