A distinguished psychotherapist reflects on his life and fulfilling career.
After a prolific string of publications including fiction, nonfiction, and collections of case files from his practice, Yalom (Emeritus, Psychiatry/Stanford Univ.; Creatures of a Day: And Other Tales of Psychotherapy, 2015, etc.) turns his perspective inward. Braided throughout client profiles are colorfully drawn anecdotes of his younger days as a self-proclaimed “disturber of the peace” whose disrespect and rebelliousness were always assigned primary blame for any unrest within the family household, including his father’s chest pain. Yet these are characteristics he regrets now, as an adult, as well as not being able to connect more emotionally with his frugal immigrant parents before time ran out. Valiantly leaving home for medical school meant seriousness and discipline, both of which Yalom mastered, even while making room for love. In smoothly conversational prose, the author ruminates on anger, his Jewish identity and the “ruins of my own religious education,” the “encounter groups” of the 1960s, the evolution of his relationship with wife Marilyn, a stint in the Army, international sojourns, and his psychiatry practice, which eventually landed him at Stanford. In the most touching chapters, Yalom chronicles how he has wrestled with the integrative role that death plays in the everyday lives of his patients (as well as with his own mortality). At 86, the author, an avid bicycler and poker enthusiast, still writes daily and sees patients in his San Francisco apartment. The author believes their intimate histories affect how he personally views his present life and memorializes his past, a notion that fortifies much of this fecund memoir. “My clients’ memories more often trigger my own,” he writes, “my work on their future calls upon and disturbs my past, and I find myself reconsidering my own story.”
Fans of this eloquent and introspective author will welcome this innermost chronicle of his history, passions, and the keys to unlocking a fruitful life.