“You’re in pretty good shape for the shape you are in.”

~Dr. Seuss

Are you having a Grinch day? Are your problems as faithful as an elephant?  Are your worries taking you places you do not want to go?

Well, don’t you fear. The doctor is here.

And he has a prescription all ready: 1 dose of nonsense, taken as needed.

Dr. Seuss may not have been a medical physician, but his advice is good for what ails you. Especially, if what ails you is the prospect of making sense of your life.

Feeling bored or ignored? Greedy or needy? Scared or unprepared? Sad or mad?

It happens.

You know it. I know it. The Doctor knows it.

He knows something else, too.

He knows that negative, emotion-driven thoughts are extremely contagious. He knows that one case of irrational thinking can easily lead to another and another.

Fear. Anger. Depression. These outbreaks can quickly escalate to the state of epidemics in our lives. Unless, of course, we treat them.

But how do we treat them?

The answer is not the same for everyone. However, a general, over-the-counter remedy that seems to alleviate the pain for most people, is a good thought. And a good thought that leads to laughter? Well, that’s extra strength stuff. That requires specialist thinking.

And Dr. Seuss? He’s a specialist thinker. When it comes to bad days, his nonsense is fast-acting.

Let me tell you why.

The Doctor knows that it is only by turning our worlds upside down every once in a while that we can stay thinking on the upside.

“Nonsense, play, and paradox,” Susan Stewart (1978) notes, “as activities that discourse on the nature of discourse, are built into the generic system as methods for innovation and evaluation” (p. 50).

In short, when Seuss writes nonsensical stories about nonsensical creatures, he usually does so for a purpose. The Doctor is conducting a physical examination of our thoughts. He’s listening to the rhythm of our ideas, looking for our creative reflexes, and testing the state of our imaginations.

In Oh, the Thinks you Can Think!, for example, he states: “Oh, the THINKS you can think up if only you try! If you try, you can think up a GUFF going by.”

In this playful discourse on the topic of our thoughts, the specialist uses nonsense to alert us to all of the amazing, mundane, and possible things we can think. In doing so, he subtly asks the question:

Of ALL the wonderful, amazing, incredible, unbelievable things we could be thinking, what are we thinking? What are we choosing to think about?

The Doctor waits for an answer. After all, what makes more sense? Trying to think up imaginative, funny, lighthearted creatures like a GUFF? Or not trying to think of anything good at all and being stuck with our problems? Which is more nonsensical?

Especially, when there are so many incredible “thinks” to think! Seuss reminds us that we can find joy in thinking of simple things like “gloves,” funny things like “BEFTs,” or interesting things like the amount of water fifty-five elephants can drink.  As each turn of the page shows, we can think of anything that we want to think about.

After all, we have the imaginations to do it.

And healthy imaginations, the Doctor points out, need exercise. They need to play.

Seuss’s nonsense helps our imaginations do both. It helps our minds get in shape. It trains us to re-evaluate things from different perspectives, to escape the “generic system” of unproductive thoughts in exchange for new, innovative ones.

And when our imaginations are stronger, our problems don’t look quite so overwhelming.

So the next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, just remember this thought, given by the Doctor himself:

“You’re in pretty good shape for the shape you are in.”

And if you are feeling like your thoughts could be in even better shape, go take some time to exercise your imagination. Go play. Remember, it makes a lot of sense.

Wishing you a day full of awesome thinks!


Seuss, Dr. (1975). Oh, the thinks you can think! Toronto: Random House.

Stewart, Susan (1978). Nonsense: Aspects of intertextuality in folklore and literature. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press.