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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exhilarating tales from the couch., 4 May 2014
By 
Graham Mummery (Sevenoaks, Kent England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Love's Executioner (Paperback)
Freud's case studies have become famous not least because they are well written. There have also been arguments that they are largely fiction. Yet case studies often are fictionalised because there is a need to protect patient confidentiality. In the early pages of this book, Irvin D Yalom, explains this, suggesting nobody would guess the true identity of the patients stories he tells, with their permission.

In the first chapter, Yalom explains his own theoretical bent which is existentialist, stating:

"I focus on what is going at the moment between a patient and me rather than on the events of his or her past."

He has explored the fuller theoretical implications of this kind of therapy in more detail for therapists in his larger volume Existential Psychotherapy. But the chapter here gives a good brief account of this, which will suffice for most people. This is followed by the ten cases described.

Yalom is an excellent, literate, and, at times, even exuberant writer. There is an honesty which reveals itself in his descriptions of patients, which are not always flattering. In one, for example, he mentions he has a prejudice against fat women, and his description fully unravels the extent of it though at the end he does come to like the patient he has taken on. All through he examines his own feelings and what they might tell him about the patient in front of him, something a therapist often has to do. In this we get an excellent picture of what it is to be a therapist.

The details of patient symptoms are described, and make for fascinating reading rather like Oliver Sachs' neurological portraits. In all of them there are fears of isolation, and seeking for personal meaning that he states none of us can completely escape. This is very existentialist, and shows also in Yalom's quoting and referring to Sartre and Nietzsche, the latter whose ideas, he admits later, carry a great deal of weight with him.

In his pursuit of truth, Yalom can perhaps sound ruthless, as for example, in the title case history when he says he is "love's executioner," someone who has to break through enchantment. Yet there are also flashes of humour, for example mentioning how sometimes good therapy gets wasted on patients. He tells the reader of how moved he is with many of the people's stories, and there is a genuine compassion for their suffering, but he also shows that therapists also can get impatient with this. Perhaps there is a hint of arrogance here, but he is aware of that too.

These are all beautifully written. Perhaps the best written case studies since Freud's. But a lot has been learned since the origins of psychoanalysis, and so this updates on them. But most of all they are enlightening reading for students of psychotherapy and the general reader.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Living with the givens: Isolation, Meaninglessness, Mortality, Freedom, 24 May 2013
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This review is from: Love's Executioner (Paperback)
I value Irvin D. Yalom's books on his psychotherapy work hugely, because the weight of his arguments go far outside the field of psychotherapy, and explore what the beingness of human entails. Much of what he explores in the one-to-one sessions can be translated into the relationship each of us has, firstly, with ourselves, and secondly, with 'the other'. This to me is the fascination of the existential approach : how we deal with these givens: isolation, meaninglessness, mortality and freedom.

These are not just problems for those society might perceive of as 'unwell' and needing help - they are the bedrock of being a self-conscious embodied being, and flow, like a deep river, more or less acknowledged and observed, through our day to day moment to moment lives

The wonderful and shocking title of the book refers to the role of therapy in helping us to see clear and live outside denial - the denial of the challenges of those four givens. The psychotherapist is here cast as the executioner of illusion - not of love itself, but the giddy, distorting, exhilarating, wondrous 'being in love' state. We all crave and enjoy this - but it is an illusory state, a kind of unreal, seductive, beautiful madness; it is intoxication, and is possibly the most potent of intoxicants. The broken illusions and despairs of the Western Romantic Tradition bring many into therapy. How do we live with the loving, which will always bring losing (through mortality, if nothing else) when the champagne intoxication of blissfulness (in love) loses the bubble, and we taste it without that giddy sparkle

What I particularly like, from the psychotherapeutic encounter considerations of this book is that Yalom is able to say 'this is where I got in the way, this is where my own agenda inhibited the client's journey and progress' He is not afraid to step outside of the illusory framework of 'the objective, non-judgemental practitioner' and say that though this is what we may aim for, in theory, in the reality of practice as human beings we cannot help but bring our own prejudices into the treatment room. Far from being appalled by (for example) his honesty about his inability to see the real suffering individual behind his stereotypical very overweight client, I am impressed that he is honest enough to look at himself and his prejudices, and how they impact, negatively or positively, upon the process for the client, and offer that honesty to us, his readers. What is important is to be able to acknowledge our prejudices, not pretend we don't have them, or be in denial about the buttons clients (or any other human being) may push. We need to know what is our stuff, in order to really see our clients (or any other)

Some fellow professionals have criticised Yalom for writing so much about himself, however I think this is the strength of the book. It shows the willing, but inevitably imperfect practitioner in action. Self-reflection is always crucial, and its great to see such an obviously highly revered practitioner and teacher showing where he fails his clients, as well as where he supports them beautifully. The perfect therapist/client encounter (for the client) is an ongoing journey in process, sometimes practitioners and clients manage a session almost perfectly, sometimes the dynamic isn't quite right; its great to see honesty, rather than the great guru displaying his perfection. The really great guru is the one who lets us see his imperfections!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent., 14 April 2014
This review is from: Love's Executioner (Paperback)
Having just read Stephen Grosz's book I was hungry for more. This did not disappoint. Utterly compelling at every step. And I was surprised and refreshed by Dr. Yalom's frank and open attitude about his own life and his response to his patients. Beautifully crafted recreations of therapy sessions. Literary and psychologically eye opening. I would highly recommend this.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazingly revealing, 9 May 2014
By 
Geoff Watts (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Love's Executioner (Paperback)
Incredibly insightful look into the world of therapy. Yalom is painfully honest at times and the stories themselves are incredibly powerful
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and well written, 2 May 2013
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This review is from: Love's Executioner (Paperback)
Irvin Yalom blends psychological theory with a personal description of interesting cases. Filled with humour and hope, an interesting read for anyone who has a desire to learn more about how behaviour relates to experience and the possibility of changing for the better.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Super interesting!, 7 July 2014
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This review is from: Love's Executioner (Paperback)
Great book!
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5.0 out of 5 stars enjoyable, 3 April 2014
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Loved it! This book was so easy to read would like to read more like it. This really flickered an interest in me.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Simplifies therapy., 1 April 2014
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This review is from: Love's Executioner (Paperback)
Good read. Clearly written and from the heart. Gave me great ideas on simplifying therapy. It doesn't have to be read from cover to cover, I picked out chapters that I was interested in and found it very helpful.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read, 11 Feb 2014
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This review is from: Love's Executioner (Paperback)
I really enjoyed reading this - I am studying counselling and it is a really refreshing point of view - very honest!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring, 8 Feb 2014
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Yalom is a great wordsmith and a fascinating, talented psychiatrist. I struggled to put this fantastic read down. Utterly inspiring.
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Love's Executioner
Love's Executioner by Irvin D. Yalom (Paperback - 4 April 2013)
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