Thursday, September 14, 2017

Irvin D. Yalom - Love's Executioner

The collection of ten absorbing tales by master psychotherapist Irvin D. Yalom uncovers the mysteries, frustrations, pathos, and humor at the heart of the therapeutic encounter. In recounting his patients’ dilemmas, Yalom not only gives us a rare and enthralling glimpse into their personal desires and motivations but also tells us his own story as he struggles to reconcile his all-too human responses with his sensibility as a psychiatrist. Not since Freud has an author done so much to clarify what goes on between a psychotherapist and a patient.

Comment: I knew about this book at a book fair I try to attend every year in the capital of my country. I look at it as older people, for instance, look at bus trips everywhere, it's a day for fun. Last year I was talking to some people about books and I heard someone mentioning this book, that is was quite amazing and it portrayed an interesting vision of therapy situations. I decided to investigate and added it to my reading list. This month I finally picked up my Portuguese edition.

In this novel, we read from dr Yalom's own voice how he approached the therapy of ten of his patients and why they looked for his help and how they improved. Often it was a matter of listening to the right people at the right moment for the right reasons. Every tale, however, proves that what is in our heads and our hearts can be much stronger than conventions and reality, especially if people isolate themselves from those notions.

I don't usually look for non-fiction for my leisure reading but there's something about real tales/situations presented to us as a story that make us interested and curious. Often, the formality of academic or more"considered" serious texts is that there's nothing the reader can empathize with so that there's is a connection. Reading non fiction and impersonal notes can be truly boring, something any student can certainly attest to. This book is the opposite, it has true stories about real people who live or lived in the same world we do but apart from their names and specific traits, they could be anyone out there. I guess one could almost say there is a little side in all of us who is a bit of a voyeur, who likes to know about others but...I suppose gossiping can be quite similar.

All the stories focus on a specific theme although the perception of who we really are is always something to question about. I thought some stories were more interesting than others, some stronger in terms of the impact they cause.
I think the first and the last are the more complete and focus, probably, on the most difficult issues to be worked out. Interestingly, the first doesn't end up easily and the last one can be considered a successful therapeutic process.

What I found here that make me take notice was the identity of the therapeutic as a vibrant part of the equation. This is not a book only about the patients and their tribulations. This is not just a story to make us think about that issue in particular. The psychologist is a key element not only because he is the tool that helps the patients but he has a vibrant voice in all this. In fact, I was surprised to have the personal approach and not just the thoughts as a professional. At the same time, this is probably why I didn't like the stories more, I guess I'd have preferred the attention to be in the patients, in their problem, their thinking, and not as much the very personal impressions the psychologist offered, like why treating the obese Betty was difficult or how frustrated he was about the out-of-reality Thelma. This can all be very interesting but it distracted me and I didn't appreciate that much. I suppose I imagined this more in the lines of having the story, the therapy and a final note about the general outcome instead of (it seemed) the slight mocking voice of the therapeutist, both about himself and about the patients.

All in all, this was a fascinating collection of psychological cases, it does make you think but I totally imagined something more complex and detached from reality when it came to the cases. Our minds can certainly be tricky to control when out attention changes and we can no longer function properly but it's quite fascinating to see and read about.
Grade: 7/10

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