Becoming Myself: A Psychiatrist’s Memoir Hardcover – 3 Oct 2017
|New from||Used from|
- Choose from over 13,000 locations across the UK
- Prime members get unlimited deliveries at no additional cost
- Find your preferred location and add it to your address book
- Dispatch to this address when you check out
Frequently bought together
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Wonderful, compelling and as insightful about its subject and about the times he lived in as you could hope for. A fabulous read (Abraham Verghese, author of Cutting for Stone)
Irvin D. Yalom is the psychiatrist who thinks like a philosopher and writes like the fine novelist he also happens to be. Becoming Myself delivers not only the engrossing story of one exceptional individual's life, it shines with revelations regarding life as it ought to be lived (Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, author of Plato at the Googleplex: Why Philosophy Won't Go Away)
This is a book to read and reread for years to come, a memorable journey through Yalom's time and ours (Jay Parini, author of The Last Station and New and Collected Poems: 1975-2015)
A candid, insightful memoir by one of the world's most important and accomplished experts on the human soul (Daniel Menaker, author of The Treatment and My Mistake: A Memoir)
When Yalom publishes something - anything - I buy it, and he never disappoints. He's an amazing storyteller, a gorgeous writer, a great, generous, compassionate thinker, and - quite rightly - one of the world's most influential mental healthcare practitioners (Nicola Barker, Guardian Best Books of 2017)
A significant and eagerly anticipated memoir from one of the world's leading therapists.See all Product description
Customers who bought this item also bought
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Yalom tells his life story, from the memories of his childhood, to his reflections on growing old - he's now 85. He laced his accounts with attempts to analyse himself, sharing his personal analysis with the world, inviting each of his readers to do the same with their lives; and importantly, guiding them, teaching them, just how to do so. He has incredible stories and analysis. One of my favourites is his account of his meeting with Victor Frankl, the author of 'The Meaning of Life'. Yalom had reached out to him seeking help with his own, growing anxieties, only to find Frankl to be an ego maniac. Years later, reading and thinking about Frankl again, Yalom realised Frankl's true greatness.
The themes underlying this book are memory and its recollection; the distortion of what comes through when we recall past events; the types of psychiatric techniques and an assessment of how they function; and finally, the influence of Marilyn (Yalom's wife), literature, and existentialism (in that order) on Yalom's life. The most important subject of the book, perhaps, is death, and how we can deal with its inevitability. His reflections and study of death cuts across all the three broad themes.
After having enjoyed the book, I listened to the audio cd version read by Peter Berkrot, and found hints of egoism in the book that I had only sensed lightly when I read the book. Perhaps it could be the tone and manner of Berkrot’s reading. There are too many instances in which a less excited and self-satisfying tone may not have the effect of a self-conscious speaker. Perhaps Berkrot’s style might be suitable for a biography. Should he have been more conscious of the fact that he was reading an autobiography – that he was speaking as Dr Yalom, and not about Dr Yalom; but this does not detract from the five-star quality of the book
Yalom says that Roth's book, 'The Radetsky March' is the one book he will keep forever on his shelf as one that he will read over and over again. 'Becoming Myself' may itself become our Radetsky March
Given that he has dedicated much of his working life to philosophizing about such issues, “Becoming Myself” provides a unique opportunity to learn about what he knows about how events in his own life informed and fueled the evolution of these ideas. In life, as with most good stories, the early chapters often have a disproportionately large influence on the shape of what is to come. We learn that Irvin didn’t enjoy his life during childhood. With hardworking but uneducated immigrant parents living in squalor conditions, he faced constant threat as the only Jew amongst Christians and the only white kid in a black neighbourhood. He dreamed of a better life and of being rescued. He later marveled at the pride of self-creation but also acknowledged the inherent loss within that. With the luxury of hindsight, Irvin reflects back on his life and introduces us to a whole host of people who though not his primary carers, did serve as mentors to him without him knowing it fully at the time. The most significant of these being his wife Marilyn.
A pivotal moment in Irvin’s history was when he faced the full wrath of his mother at 14 years of age. His relationship with her was always fractious, but when his father awoke with severe chest pains, the blame was turned immediately on to him. He describes his mother shouting “you killed him”! The kindness of the visiting Doctor who relieved him instantly from that responsibility was a defining moment. Irvin knew from this point on that he would like to become a Doctor and have the power to deliver that same kind of comfort to others. The contrast between his mother’s lack of concern for him and the Doctors intuitive empathy set him on a career path whereby the ability to “empathise” would play centre stage indeed! This orientation was corroborated further during his own analysis when recounting this very episode in his life. The warm response that he received from his otherwise reserved and stony analyst, crystalized his position over empathy being as effective as any “interpretation” when treating patients. Of cause, the more Irvin developed and fine-tuned his ability to empathise with others, the more guilt he experienced over his earlier inability to empathise with his own parents predicaments whilst they were alive.
Later accounts in the memoir of his encounters with eminent therapist Viktor Frankl provide further opportunities for him to examine his relationship with empathy. We learn that timing also plays a big part in a person’s ability to be fully open to what they are hearing in any encounter. Irvin retrospectively noted how during his time spent with Viktor, he wasn’t ready to fully embrace and take on board the horror of Viktor’s stay in Auschwitz. He made a conscious note to himself when meeting other leading experts in the field to not miss that chance for a fuller more empathic meeting of minds. He was able to achieve this with Rollo May. Later still in the memoir, the issue re-appears again. This time Irvin discusses a life-long friend who had asked him to help write about his life experiences during the Nazi occupation of Budapest. Irvin was painfully aware that they were speaking of these experiences, 50 years into their friendship when they hadn’t done so until this point. His friend knew Irvin wasn’t ready to digest this information until then. With familiar integrity and ever growing empathic capacity, Irvin was able to turn both his friends experiences, together with something of their own friendship into an ebook novella.
Irvin continuously re-evaluates the validity of his approach to life, relationships and work. He has done this not only through research and clinical work, but via the characters in his many stimulating novels. This is where Irvin has really had free reign to creatively explore the big questions to the fullest. When first reading “The Schopenhauer Cure”, I fantasised about whether the dialogue between Julius and Philip was similar to one that would have gone on internally between Irvin and his shadow self. Irvin, like Philip and Schopenhauer is deeply intellectual but has also been uncomfortable in his own skin for periods of his life. Like his protagonists, he also remembers the tortures in adolescence of unfulfilled sex drive. This theme appears again in “Lying on the couch”. Ernest is an earnest man but still not invulnerable to the power of seduction. In his real life, Irvin tells us that his wife Marilyn’s book, “The history of the breast” was a nod to her husband’s fascination with the subject. I found myself thinking how useful writing may have been as an outlet for these explorations. Unlike with actors in a movie, the consequences of the dramas can remain safely on the page. In his actual life, Irvin has remained married and devoted.
I also imagined Nietzsche representing Julius interchangeably with Irvin at other times. Reading “Becoming Myself”, I hypothesized a Nietzsche versus Schopenhauer philosophical battle of the titans! If the ending of Irvin’s book was to be a battle of identifications between Schopenhauer’s perspective in one corner and Nietzsche’s in the other, I was pleased that Nietzsche’s perspective won. Whilst Schopenhauer concluded that “At the end of his life, no man if be sincere and in possession his faculties, would ever go through it again”, Nietzsche’s contrasting ”Was that life? Well then, once again”, resonated deeper with Irvin.
To engage with any book means at one level accepting the journey of a beginning, middle, and end. As with life, however, Irvin has illustrated how this is not a straight forward linear process. He describes the process of circling back more in old age. In much the same way, I was pleased to discover on finishing the book, that my fears about finishing the book were ameliorated when I found myself circling back many times to earlier chapters! Irvin draws our attention to the fact that different lessons can be gleaned from the same words depending on how ready we are to receive them. He also sheds light on how unreliable our own versions of reality are, even when talking about our own lives. He is mindful when recounting his own history, of how easy it is to construct stories. Indeed, we often end up remembering the constructed stories more easily than the actual events.
One of Irvin’s previous books was called “The gift of therapy”. Reading his memoir feels a lot like being given a gift, but this time it isn’t just the gift of therapy but the gift of human authenticity, from one human to another. Through his own accounts of key periods in his life, we get to see the wider context of what was going internally and externally as each book idea materialized. If you are a fan of his work, it is very satisfying to learn more about the process from conception to germination and to see his views on that process retrospectively. In addition, we are even treated to an imagined enactment of what the “him” now would say in conversation to his younger self. This was a real highlight of the memoir for me.
This book reveals a man who has actively participated in the joys of life and who has lived it fully. From his extensive travels around the world and his elected Sojourns, to his pleasure in life-long friendships and family, here is a man who has lived his life thoughtfully and consciously. His unconscious life (in the form of the many dreams he describes), equally informs him and adds to the quality of his conscious life. We learn that he has few regrets, but that even a life well lived will still have some sorrow in it that can’t go completely.
When I finished reading this memoir, I was surprised to realise that so much of what he explicitly describes about himself, already came across strongly from reading any one of his many enriching books and novels. So much of him is there, present, in any one piece of work.
The over-riding lasting feeling from this memoir is that of an opportunity being offered. For those of us who are not ready to stare straight into the sun, reading this book allows you to perhaps face it in fragments. Irvin has stared at the sun for a long time now, and he has not yet got burned! I feel that his ability to stare at the sun can sometimes be mistaken for an orientation towards it. In contrast, the memoir reveals a man heavily invested in life and the living of it.
He may have written his last book but I suspect he will still continue to write in one form or another, if he wants to. I look forward to reading anything further that he does write but I’m also very satisfied with the wealth of offerings here.
I only pray I can learn from his wisdom and beauty..
regardless of your background.. read this book