With The Dark Tower movie trailer release this week, I have been thinking about rereading Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. It is one of my favorites series, and I am looking forward to the cinematic take on it. I pulled out my old copy of The Gunslinger, and I was hit with a wave of memories. I remember the first time I read The Gunslinger. I had picked it up at my favorite used bookstore in my hometown on some trip back, and one night, sitting on a lounge chair beside my parent’s pool I read by firelight, “The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.”
I was immediately hooked for several reasons. First, sillily enough, I thought of Lost–the tv series. I really like Lost; it is in my top 10 (maybe top 5) tv series. And the man in black is an important character in Lost. I knew that Lost had a lot of literary inspirations and references, and I immediately assumed (correctly, I believe) that the man in black from Lost was named after the man in black from The Dark Tower series. Second, westerns make me think of my grandfather and some of the great classic western films I watched in a film course in college. I had both fond nostalgia and a little bit of background knowledge concerning the genre. And I had read that King chosen to incorporate the western genre partially based on some classic western films.
Third, I was already a fan of both Stephen King and some classic fantasy series like The Lord of the Rings. When I was roughly 13 I started reading some adult books. One of the first was a recommendation from my dad: The Shining. I scared me so much that one night I remember throwing the book across the room because I was so freaked out and sleeping with the lights on. I loved how much it affected me! It was a rush! I had never been so scared by a book. Since then, I have really enjoyed everything I have read by Stephen King, but my favorite is The Dark Tower series, I think.
I posted a picture of my copy of The Gunslinger on my instagram page talking about how I’m about to give it a third read, and a friend commented that she had just finished it and thought it was a really great escape. And I totally agree with her. One of the best things about book series that create new worlds is that they are perfect for escaping our daily lives.. We all need to escape sometimes; in fact, escaping into a book world is a great way to distract yourself from ruminating on depressive or anxious thoughts. In behavioral therapy it is often referred to as a form of distraction. Sometimes with mental illness, we need to redirect our thoughts by distracting ourselves with some other activity that requires thinking about something different.
Some other ways I distract myself from ruminating on negative thoughts are tv, writing, beadwork, cross stitch, spending time with my pets, cooking, cleaning, playing games with my daughter, listening to music, watching YouTube videos, putting on makeup, window shopping, meditation, and even sometimes exercise. In the Dialectical Behavioral Therapy class I took in 2012, we received a list with like 200 ways to distract yourself. It was fantastic. I am sure that you could find something comparable through a google search. You could even search for “DBT distraction techniques”. But it is extremely useful to find ways to distract yourself from negative thought loops.
If you are struggling with negative self talk or anxious thoughts, find a therapist to help you deal with your issues and find a personalized plan to improve your mental health and your ability to better control your thoughts. Something as simple as purposeful distraction can really be good for you! Taking time to reread a favorite book or listen to a new album or any number of fun things can help take your mind of of what is stressing you out. And if you work with a therapist, you can hopefully deal with your bigger issues as well as figure out what type of therapeutic techniques will best help you live a happy life. Of course, on the flip side, some of us, myself included, have the tendency to turn distraction into full on escapism–where we spend too much time escaping the real world by immersing ourselves in fictional worlds. Again, that is why working with a therapist is so useful. You can work with a therapist to formulate a personalized plan that allows you to use distraction when needed while also helping you avoid becoming too detached from the real world.
I think I may go start reading now. I feel fine, but I have a little time for myself today. I don’t need to distract myself now, but if I do in the near future, I will be ready. Sending you all good vibes. I hope you are able to find something enjoyable to do this weekend. ❤️