Top 10 Lessons to Learn From ‘What About Bob?’

A few months ago I wrote that taking small, comfortably active steps can lead to change.

If you have seen the movie What About Bob?, you know that this can also be called “Baby Steps.” In the movie, taking “baby steps” is a big theme for Bob Wiley (played by Bill Murray) who is a highly manipulative obsessive-compulsive patient of psychiatrist Dr. Leo Marvin (played by Richard Dreyfuss).

The movie revolves around Bob taking baby steps to conquering his many fears.

What About Bob? is such a goofy comedy movie but there are actually many good things to learn from it. Here’s what I found…top 10 style.

Top 10 Lessons to Learn From ‘What About Bob?’

10. Acknowledge What You Are Truly Afraid Of

In their first meeting, Dr. Leo Marvin asks Bob the following question, “What is it you’re truly afraid of?” Dr. Marvin can’t begin to help Bob until he knows what he is dealing with. And Bob can begin to get help until he acknowledges his fears. Same goes for you and me.

9. “If I fake it, then I don’t have it”

As a hypochondriac, Bob always thinks that he is susceptible to disease. One way he learns to deal with this is to fake many diseases. Bob fakes having Tourettes Syndrome because he says that if he has to fake it, then he knows that he doesn’t have it. The scene where he fakes Tourettes is hilarious, but on a serious note, I think it shows that there are many different ways to deal with fear. Find yours. Even it is includes yelling obscenities.

8. Don’t Talk With Hand Puppets

The more we learn about Dr. Marvin, the more we see that he is odd guy who doesn’t deal with his kids very well. Instead of talking to them like humans, he tries to speak to them via hand puppets. This doesn’t work and his kids hate it. Don’t deal with your problems by using hand puppets. Take off the gloves and deal with your issues first hand.

7. “Take A Vacation From Your Problems”

Dr. Marvin suggests that Bob take a vacation from his problems. Every time Bob thinks a problem arises, Dr. Marvin says he needs to tell the problem that he is on vacation and he won’t be bothered while on vacation. Don’t let your fears bother you. Be on vacation.

6. You Are Your Best Psychiatrist

Bob starts to get withdrawals when Dr. Marvin goes on vacation. Bob feels that missing a few weeks of appointments will cause him to take a step back in his progress. Dr. Marvin tells Bob, “The best psychiatrist in the world is the one right inside of you.” Whether is a doctor or a self help book, so often we look for others for help. We need to remember that we can help ourselves.

5. Your Bladder Won’t Explode

Bob is afraid of everything. He even fears that his bladder will explode. He has no reason to think that it really will explode, but he has convinced himself that is it something to fear. Just like that fear, many of our fears seem silly when we take a step back and really look at them.

4. Find Something Else To Fear

Dr. Marvin’s son Siggy is very afraid of death. To help him get over this fear, Bob tells Siggy that he should fear Tourettes instead. He turns it into a joke and they both start yelling curse words. Siggy has a great quote when he tells his dad that “Bob gave me a great thing to be afraid of instead of death.” If you feel the need to fear something, give yourself another (funnier) fear and choose to be afraid of that instead.

3. Keep Sailing

Bob goes sailing with Dr. Marvin’s daughter Anna. Since Bob is afraid of sailing, Anna ties him to the sail. Bob considers this a win over his fear and is thrilled to tell everyone that he is now a sailor. Seeing this, Dr. Marvin sarcastically says, “keep sailing.” While Dr. Marvin didn’t mean it, “keep sailing” was actually great advice. Next time Bob thinks he can’t do something, he should remember to keep sailing.

2. Treat People Like They Are Telephones

Bob says that he treats people like they are telephones. He says, “if I meet somebody who I don’t think likes me I say to myself, ‘Bob, this one is temporarily out of order.’ Don’t break the connection just hang up and try again.” The movie was made in 1991 when phones would be out of order. In today’s world, you won’t often find an out of order phone. Instead the line might read, “if someone doesn’t answer, all I can do is leave a message and try again.” Give someone your message. Try again and they might just come around/call you back.

1. Take One Little Step At A Time

“All I have to do is take one little step at a time and I can do anything!” That is what Dr. Marvin teaches Bob to say. What great advice! Nothing else needs to be said.


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