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Bestselling writer and psychotherapist Irvin D. Yalom puts himself on the couch in a lapidary memoir. Irvin D. Yalom has made a career of investigating the lives of others. In this profound memoir, he turns his writing and his therapeutic eye on himself. He opens his story with a nightmare: He is twelve and is riding his bike past the home of an acne-scarred girl. Like Bestselling writer and psychotherapist Irvin D. Yalom puts himself on the couch in a lapidary memoir. Irvin D. Yalom has made a career of investigating the lives of others. In this profound memoir, he turns his writing and his therapeutic eye on himself. He opens his story with a nightmare: He is twelve and is riding his bike past the home of an acne-scarred girl. Like every morning, he calls out, hoping to befriend her, "Hello Measles!" But in his dream, the girl's father makes Yalom understand that his daily greeting had hurt her. For Yalom, this was the birth of empathy; he would not forget the lesson. As Becoming Myself unfolds, we see the birth of the insightful thinker whose books have been a beacon to so many. This is not simply a man's life story, Yalom's reflections on his life and development are an invitation for us to reflect on the origins of our own selves and the meanings of our lives.


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Bestselling writer and psychotherapist Irvin D. Yalom puts himself on the couch in a lapidary memoir. Irvin D. Yalom has made a career of investigating the lives of others. In this profound memoir, he turns his writing and his therapeutic eye on himself. He opens his story with a nightmare: He is twelve and is riding his bike past the home of an acne-scarred girl. Like Bestselling writer and psychotherapist Irvin D. Yalom puts himself on the couch in a lapidary memoir. Irvin D. Yalom has made a career of investigating the lives of others. In this profound memoir, he turns his writing and his therapeutic eye on himself. He opens his story with a nightmare: He is twelve and is riding his bike past the home of an acne-scarred girl. Like every morning, he calls out, hoping to befriend her, "Hello Measles!" But in his dream, the girl's father makes Yalom understand that his daily greeting had hurt her. For Yalom, this was the birth of empathy; he would not forget the lesson. As Becoming Myself unfolds, we see the birth of the insightful thinker whose books have been a beacon to so many. This is not simply a man's life story, Yalom's reflections on his life and development are an invitation for us to reflect on the origins of our own selves and the meanings of our lives.

30 review for Becoming Myself: A Psychiatrist's Memoir

  1. 5 out of 5

    Petra-X

    Dr. Yalom makes some interesting points about diagnoses. (He is talking about patients who don't need the heavy drugs often prescribed for any mental issue whether they are really appropriate or not). He says that, "Diagnostic categories are invented and arbitrary: they are a product of committee vote and invariably undergo considerable revision," and that they are subject to social pressure and what the insurance companies want. He says that people are diagnosed by what the insurance companies Dr. Yalom makes some interesting points about diagnoses. (He is talking about patients who don't need the heavy drugs often prescribed for any mental issue whether they are really appropriate or not). He says that, "Diagnostic categories are invented and arbitrary: they are a product of committee vote and invariably undergo considerable revision," and that they are subject to social pressure and what the insurance companies want. He says that people are diagnosed by what the insurance companies will pay out on rather than the diffuse problems a person might be having. If you think of people with bi-polar disorder, this varies (in my personal experience with close friends) from people (like my grandfather) who need hospitalising because he would sleep for a month, getting up only for the necessaries, and wouldn't speak to people to neurotic people who get depressed and cry whenever things don't go their way. They are told they are bipolar because Americans are always running off to the doctor for pills and therapy if they have insurance cover from their employers (as encouraged by tv commercials which do their best to get people to self-diagnose and then go to their doctor and ask for the medication). Bush in his great wisdom allowed drug companies to charge whatever they wanted. When I was in Florida, couldn't get home because of Irma, I had to get my prescription through Walgreen's. At home the two medications come to $20 a month (with no insurance) in Florida it was $250! And doctors are visited regularly by drug company representatives who give them all kind of kickbacks for prescribing their drugs. Dr. Yalom feels that education in the field of psychology, again under the pressure of insurance companies, but also accreditation boards, consists of very brief, "empirically validated" therapies with specific techniques in addressing certain diagnostic categories, as " depression, eating disorder, panic attacks, bipolar disease, addictions, or specific phobias." There is no emphasis on looking at the patient in a humanistic, holistic way and there is no emphasis on the relationship between a therapist and patient, which, to him, is the crucial factor in determining the outcome of therapy. This is why I read Yalom and why I give more credence to existential psychotherapy than the ridiculousness of Freud or Jung. I have no time for "penis envy" and Oedipal complexes when I am feeling miserable and lonely without a best friend after she proved to be far less than that during Irma and Maria. We were friends for 20 years and it hard to lose someone that close and think of the future without them. That is an existential crisis, we all lose friends and lovers, it is not one that needs medication but a doctor will fit me into a category, probably "depression" and then prescribe the appropriate drugs because that is what the insurance companies approve of, rather than a talking therapy that will cost more. There was a moment of epiphany when Yalom was talking about Marcus Aurelius, the Roman Emperor/philosopher. Marcus Aurelius said that if you had no opinion about something, it couldn't hurt you. So I thought if I don't think the really rather awful behaviour my friend exhibited towards me and my family was directed at us in a malicious way, it was just what she did, if I refuse to interpret it personally, I just think instead, this is what she did, then I am no longer hurt by it. And I'm not but I'm still lonely. Four and a half stars not rounded up because the long chapters devoted to him writing some of his fiction books (which I don't like) were tedious to read. Other than that, a wonderful read from an inspirational man. _____ A rabbi had a conversation with the Lord about Heaven and Hell. “I will show you Hell,” said the Lord, and he led the rabbi into a room containing a large round table. The people sitting around the table were famished and desperate. In the middle of the table was an enormous pot of stew that smelled so delicious that the rabbi’s mouth watered. Each person around the table held a spoon with a very long handle. Although the long spoons just reached the pot, their handles were longer than the would-be diners’ arms: thus, unable to bring food to their lips, no one could eat. The rabbi saw that their suffering was terrible indeed. “Now I will show you Heaven,” said the Lord, and they went into another room, exactly the same as the first. There was the same large round table, the same pot of stew. The people were equipped with the same long-handled spoons—but here everyone was well nourished and plump, laughing and talking. The rabbi could not understand. “It is simple, but it requires a certain skill,” said the Lord. “In this room, you see, they have learned to feed each other.” ________________ Who would have guessed that the great existential psychotherapist, Dr. Yalom, ran a gambling book in school? He's such a romantic too, married his sweetheart from school who he took out on his very first date ever (and has been happily and gratefully married to her ever since). I'm enjoying seeing another side to this wise man.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Heather Anne

    I very much enjoyed this book, so I feel obliged to explain why only 3 stars. Yes, the author covers his career in psychiatry and psychotherapy from the 1950s to the 2000s and how the field and his own practice has changed. Yes, he discusses his marriage, his children and his travels. Yes, I enjoyed his stories and found myself reminded of my favorite educated grandfather. But I found myself wanting more...likely I am used to biographers who are more indiscreet. Irvin is ethical and I get the I very much enjoyed this book, so I feel obliged to explain why only 3 stars. Yes, the author covers his career in psychiatry and psychotherapy from the 1950s to the 2000s and how the field and his own practice has changed. Yes, he discusses his marriage, his children and his travels. Yes, I enjoyed his stories and found myself reminded of my favorite educated grandfather. But I found myself wanting more...likely I am used to biographers who are more indiscreet. Irvin is ethical and I get the strong feeling that before writing anything negative about anyone he has checked with that person -- a great quality in a friend, but it makes for a less interesting biography. I felt there was excessive name dropping and perhaps too much discussion on matters like the relative popularity of his books in different countries when he went on book tours. He mentions briefly some interesting things, covers them in a sentence or two and then drops them. If you have read his other books and seen the documentary on him, you will notice repetition of ideas, stories and themes. Some of that is to be expected, however I was hoping for more depth. That said, if his wife ever writes her autobiography, I'd be interested in her perspective.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Nima Morgan

    I have read all of Dr. Yalom's books and I have really enjoyed all of them. After reading his memoir I would now like to go back and read all of his books again!! I truly enjoyed reading about how rich is life is and how he has lived it to its fullest. A true life without regrets. I enjoyed reading about how he came up with his ideas for his books and feel truly enriched that he shared so much about himself. I hope Dr. Yalom continues to write.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jean

    Yalom the Memoirist is not as engaging as Yalom the therapist. Read Love's Executioner instead

  5. 4 out of 5

    Adrian Dinu

    An inspiring, encouraging book that also gave me a good idea what to read next and how to go about on my path both towards becoming a therapist and towards becoming myself :) Inspiring through Yalom's own story, encouraging through his openness and vulnerability, even after decades of helping others and examining and developing himself.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Stella

    I absolutely adore Yalom's books. However Yalom the author is very different from Yalom the person. I bought the memoir hoping to read about the struggles an adult faces and their existential questions and instead I found a bio of a psychiatrist and his professional life with few details about his perfect family life. This book might be better for the psychiatric community than for the literary community seeking to see what is hiding behind an amazing author. I would just recommend skipping this I absolutely adore Yalom's books. However Yalom the author is very different from Yalom the person. I bought the memoir hoping to read about the struggles an adult faces and their existential questions and instead I found a bio of a psychiatrist and his professional life with few details about his perfect family life. This book might be better for the psychiatric community than for the literary community seeking to see what is hiding behind an amazing author. I would just recommend skipping this one and reading his actual books.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Deea

    Yalom was the first that ignited my passion for philosophy. He is well-known worldwide as the father of existential psychotherapy. Every time I read his books I feel that I get to understand myself better and I find out that human nature hasnt changed much from the ancient times (he always makes reference in his writings to the Greek philosophy and he uses it therapeutically). I was expecting him to be a very confident, strong person, but he is in fact very sensitive, having self-doubts and Yalom was the first that ignited my passion for philosophy. He is well-known worldwide as the “father of existential psychotherapy”. Every time I read his books I feel that I get to understand myself better and I find out that human nature hasn’t changed much from the ancient times (he always makes reference in his writings to the Greek philosophy and he uses it therapeutically). I was expecting him to be a very confident, strong person, but he is in fact very sensitive, having self-doubts and weaknesses like all of us. He reads a lot (still) and I was amazed to see that David Mitchell is among his favorite writers (he is very much in touch with contemporary literature, as much as he is versed in the classic one).

  8. 5 out of 5

    Liza Fireman

    I really enjoyed When Nietzsche Wept and Irvin D. Yalom was a huge success in Israel, as he mentions also in the book. Overall, his life is interesting and I definitely found out a lot about him from the book. Also, the book is too long and too detailed. So, someone could be nice and cut a quarter of it. One of the parts that I loved the most was about his decision of where he should work. It was not an easy decision, the money was very different. In UCSF: was with a senior faculty member, Jacob I really enjoyed When Nietzsche Wept and Irvin D. Yalom was a huge success in Israel, as he mentions also in the book. Overall, his life is interesting and I definitely found out a lot about him from the book. Also, the book is too long and too detailed. So, someone could be nice and cut a quarter of it. One of the parts that I loved the most was about his decision of where he should work. It was not an easy decision, the money was very different. In UCSF: was with a senior faculty member, Jacob Epstein, who at the end of an hour offered me a clinical faculty position and an annual salary of $18,000. Since my third-year salary as a resident had been $3,000, and my military salary $12,000, I was inclined to accept. In Stanford: Dr. Hamburg offered me a junior faculty position (a lectureship) and a salary of only $11,000 a year—$1,000 less than my army salary. He also clarified the Stanford policy: full-time faculty members were expected to be scholars and researchers and could not supplement their income with private practice. And then came the inner-conflict, and the decision: The sharp salary discrepancy between Stanford and UCSF shocked me at first, but as I pondered my two offers, it ceased to be a factor. Though we had zero savings and lived from paycheck to paycheck, money was not a major concern. David Hamburg’s vision impressed me, and I wanted to be part of the university department he was building. I realized that what I really wanted was a life of teaching and research. Besides, if an emergency arose, I believed I had the security of my parents’ financial backing, as well as income from Marilyn’s potential career. After consulting with Marilyn on the phone, I accepted the Stanford position He wrote a bit into how he started writing historical fiction. One glimpse into his writing and how it mixes with his emotions was here: Though the novel is, of course, fiction, I attempted as much as possible to stay close to historical accuracy. But not in this passage: Baruch Spinoza never worked in his family store. There was no family store: his family had an export-import business but no retail outlet. I was the one who worked in the family grocery store.. As much as it was interesting to read about his life and his family, his career and the changing field, Yalom the memoirist is not as engaging as himself as a writer-therapist. Almost 3 stars, but I can't recommend much. And again, too long, and lack some authenticity, a bit too perfect for a psychotherapist.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Vanessa Bouna

    I'm going to echo the other reviewers and confirm their reflections. No matter how much of a fan you are of Yalom's work, you can really do without this memoir. Towards the end of the book, Yalom describes a group of therapist writers he is a member of called Pegasus. He gives them the manuscript of Becoming Myself to read, and they have the same criticism we do: the first third is the most interesting, we urge you to put more of your self into it. It's true: I don't know who he avoids offending I'm going to echo the other reviewers and confirm their reflections. No matter how much of a fan you are of Yalom's work, you can really do without this memoir. Towards the end of the book, Yalom describes a group of therapist writers he is a member of called Pegasus. He gives them the manuscript of Becoming Myself to read, and they have the same criticism we do: the first third is the most interesting, we urge you to put more of your self into it. It's true: I don't know who he avoids offending by not getting into any titillating experiences, but past the first third about his childhood, the rest of the book I remember as a blur of vacations and sabbaticals taken, speeches given and groups Yalom presided over. As a bonus though for readers from Greece, Yalom tells us of how well received and well known he is in Greece, how during one of his visits he signed thousands of books with fans lining up for multiple blocks in order to meet him, with more than fifty women whispering "I love you" in his ear. We are his biggest fans as Greece has the highest number of readers of Yalom per capita in the world!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ridzuan Rosli

    I often put in this way: though the reality of death may destroy us, the idea of death may save us. It brings home the realization that since we have only one chance at life, we should live it fully and end it with the fewest regrets possible Irvin D. Yalom, Becoming Myself: A Psychiatrists Memoir (2017) This is my first book ever of Irvin D. Yalom tho I have known his name since postgraduate studies. I unexpectedly found this book at Alor Setar (BBW) whereupon I bought it without a doubt. I I often put in this way: though the reality of death may destroy us, the idea of death may save us. It brings home the realization that since we have only one chance at life, we should live it fully and end it with the fewest regrets possible — Irvin D. Yalom, Becoming Myself: A Psychiatrist’s Memoir (2017) This is my first book ever of Irvin D. Yalom tho I have known his name since postgraduate studies. I unexpectedly found this book at Alor Setar (BBW) whereupon I bought it without a doubt. I bethink myself of my class days where I rarely paid attention to this name compared to Viktor E. Frankl. Hence, this memoir has enlightened me into the abyss of existentialism. There are forty chapters in this memoir. I believe these chapters have made concise of the significant moment of Yalom. His young days have shown me how hard he was to establish into a therapy practice. Tho me and him are difference in area of expertise, but we share a similar interest, existentialism. He is such a lucky man to meet some well-known figures such as Viktor E. Frankl, Rollo May, Carl Rogers, R. D. Laing and many more. Also, he is a fan of Nietzsche. His life as a full time academician has rekindled me to be more ambitious. I have always wanted to be a professor. His life at Stanford and John Hopkins has inspired me to plan for my own future. In spite of having the least time with his family, he has never stopped learning, teaching and consulting. He also has always cared about his family especially his wife, Marilyn. In this memoir, Yalom has given a brief introduction of Existential Psychotherapy. He makes concise of death, freedom, isolation, and meaning. I have yet to read his textbook tho I have it in pdf format. In therapy practice, he emphasizes the importance of philosophy. Hence, he continues to study in western philosophy at John Hopkins. He says the more he reads, the more he realizes how many profound ideas that psychiatry had ignored. Personally, I think the same, too. I believe philosophy is a foundation of a subject. Without it, you will have an empty framework. Well, I wish to talk no more regarding on this book. I recommend the others to read and experience his wonderful venture. I hope this book will help young mental health practitioners to emphasize the importance of academic discipline of a study.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ibrahim

    It was amazing reading. It is a completely different type of autobiography. It is juicy, tasty and memorable. Irvin Yalom is an extremely talented person both in his narrow profession and in fiction writing. The only reason why I did not give 5 stars is that there were some details that took a lot of energy and time. In my opinion, we - readers - could enjoy the narration even without them. I am not gonna list all of them but such detail as personal salary in various institutions of the author It was amazing reading. It is a completely different type of autobiography. It is juicy, tasty and memorable. Irvin Yalom is an extremely talented person both in his narrow profession and in fiction writing. The only reason why I did not give 5 stars is that there were some details that took a lot of energy and time. In my opinion, we - readers - could enjoy the narration even without them. I am not gonna list all of them but such detail as personal salary in various institutions of the author was really odd. He really nicely described how anti-semitism influenced his personal life and how he created his own school in the field of existential psychology. I totally recommend this book for reading. It is worth it and there is a high probability that you even won't feel how the time passes throughout the reading.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Mehrsa

    For fans of Yalom, this book is a nice behind the scenes on each of his wonderful books. But for non-fans, it's sort of a boring memoir. I am a fan so I enjoyed it, but I can't say there was anything in here that wasn't in the actual works.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Paula Lupu

    Amazing book. I loved it and every single page.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Ginny

    I'm a big fan of Yalom's writing - he's quite unique as a psychotherapist, as he writes as a storyteller rather than academically- which results in his books being accessible for all and also highly entertaining, simultaneously de-mystifying the process of therapy. I was curious to find out more about the man behind the books I've come to love, as he usually only writes about his patients lives. This is his final book (or so he says), as he is fast approaching his 90's, and the end of his rather I'm a big fan of Yalom's writing - he's quite unique as a psychotherapist, as he writes as a storyteller rather than academically- which results in his books being accessible for all and also highly entertaining, simultaneously de-mystifying the process of therapy. I was curious to find out more about the man behind the books I've come to love, as he usually only writes about his patients lives. This is his final book (or so he says), as he is fast approaching his 90's, and the end of his rather impressive career. For the most part, I found Yalom's memoir fascinating, particularly the first third of the book about his youth- his childhood and relationship with his parents, meeting his wife, growing from a young, insecure medical student to a well-established psychiatrist. Yalom is a lover of fiction and stories, and I found myself writing lists of books to read (because I needed more books to read) that he read across his life. The final half of the book, unfortunately, I didn't find as interesting- and his voice actually started to grate on me, as he talked about his many trips abroad, his mostly smooth sailing, happy marriage to a woman he's been with since the age of 15, his many book tours and signings, and his ever growing success and popularity (I'm probably just jealous). Yalom's had a very comfortable life, with very little upset or real trauma- which is in stark contrast to a lot of other memoirs I've read. He's had a wonderful life. I did enjoy reading about his writing process, and the stories behind each of his books- they made me want to pick up more of his fiction writing (that was clever of him...) I would only recommend this memoir if you are already a fan of Yalom, and know his books- otherwise I don't think this would have much meaning or interest. A brilliant man and story teller though.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Andreea

    A man who lived as he wanted to live and enjoyed life both personally and professionally. An easy to read book that is worth every page because we get to understand who Irvin Yalom is in his different stages of life and we also get to look at ourselves as well and think how we have changed along the years becoming, if possible, better versions of ourselves.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Charlotte

    I can count on the fingers of one hand how many books made me feel so passionately about what I have found on its pages and I am very happy to discover that this book is one of them. It made me see Yalom in a different light, in a more complex and holistic light that is. I am now so very curious to read his other books, something that I was reluctant to do before. And in terms of this one, I do recommend it as it is such an interesting and fascinating memoir.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Narges

    Inspiring; so inspiring!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Nafise

    I just cant resist my feelings for Dr Yalom as a mentor and not give him 5stars! As always I learned a lot from him and I really enjoyed walking with him through his memories. It was a wonderful experience! I just can’t resist my feelings for Dr Yalom as a mentor and not give him 5stars! As always I learned a lot from him and I really enjoyed walking with him through his memories. It was a wonderful experience!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Joan Lieberman

    Dr. Yalom is an extremely talented psychiatrist and writer, whose earlier books, including "Love's Executioner" and "When Nietzsche Wept," were among my favorites. He wrote a dozen others that were widely read in the United States and Europe. In the first ten chapters of "Becoming Myself" he uses dialogues with his patients as entry devices to his own childhood. Born in Washington, D.C. to Russian Jewish immigrants, his parents worked extremely hard to create opportunities for Irvin and his Dr. Yalom is an extremely talented psychiatrist and writer, whose earlier books, including "Love's Executioner" and "When Nietzsche Wept," were among my favorites. He wrote a dozen others that were widely read in the United States and Europe. In the first ten chapters of "Becoming Myself" he uses dialogues with his patients as entry devices to his own childhood. Born in Washington, D.C. to Russian Jewish immigrants, his parents worked extremely hard to create opportunities for Irvin and his older sister, his only sibling. But as Yalom begins describing his adult life, he seems to be treading in the shallow waters of his professional successes, as if writing a narrative resume. Only in the final chapter, "A Novice at Growing Old"does Yalom return to the intimacy I had hoped to find. From his descriptions of his marriage and family life, Yalom appears to have had a remarkably stress-free adulthood -- one that includes a seemingly perfect marriage to his childhood sweetheart and easy and compliant children. He made me want to hear what they had to say.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Rami Hamze

    Yalom is my favourite author, reading his memoir is a special treat indeed. First 30% is about mundane events of his early life so not my favourite, but as he moves to the stage of existential psychoanalysis and therapy journey, he takes it to another level... chapters about his writing of my fav philosophical books, Neitzsche, Frued, Shopenheur, isolation of human beings and fear of death... all were very interesting i didn't want it to end... I found particular interest in hearing what an 87 Yalom is my favourite author, reading his memoir is a special treat indeed. First 30% is about mundane events of his early life so not my favourite, but as he moves to the stage of existential psychoanalysis and therapy journey, he takes it to another level... chapters about his writing of my fav philosophical books, Neitzsche, Frued, Shopenheur, isolation of human beings and fear of death... all were very interesting i didn't want it to end... I found particular interest in hearing what an 87 year old existentialist advanced version of me has to say on approaching death vs what he told his patients few decades before... sharing his view in this below: "... all the experience I have had with death, all the patients i have escorted to the very end, all my supreme detachment and prose about the topic of death. all evaporated in the presence of my own terror..." I have highlighted many thoughts on death and aging that fits best for the novel that i plan to write one day Enjoyed the ride, but book is recommended only after reading few of Yalom's books/ thoughts

  21. 4 out of 5

    Becky

    This book reads exactly like an 80-year-old man recounting his life. It is eerily similar to my own grandfather's retelling of his life story. The writing focuses on the facts, paints everything in black and white, and offers a flat, uninspired chronological catalog of a life's events. The author probably benefitted from this retirement activity far more than you will benefit from reading it.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Marsha

    Having been an avid reader of Yalom, I was relishing reading his memoir. With the knowledge that he intended this memoir to be his last book, I suspected that would make it a more complex experience (both for him as writer and for me as reader). I often slow down when approaching the end of any of Irvins books, savoring the last pages and delaying the inevitable end. Knowing that this was intended to be his last book carried with it an in-built sense of loss from the outset as opposed to just at Having been an avid reader of Yalom, I was relishing reading his memoir. With the knowledge that he intended this memoir to be his last book, I suspected that would make it a more complex experience (both for him as writer and for me as reader). I often slow down when approaching the end of any of Irvin’s books, savoring the last pages and delaying the inevitable end. Knowing that this was intended to be his last book carried with it an in-built sense of loss from the outset as opposed to just at the end. Quite fitting then that Irvin provided this information publicly for his readers rather than shying away from it. Not only does that demonstrate the kind of transparency that he has long advocated in his therapeutic work, but it also serves as an example of a non-avoidant approach to an ending. To his readers then, not only to his patients, he is offering an opportunity to engage in something meaningful knowing that it will be finite. Irvin makes that choice himself not once, but many times throughout his life. Reflecting back through all his years of both group and individual work with terminally ill patients, we get to see the value in that choice for both him and his patients. In his personal life too, we get to see that the same choices are apparent. At 86, he has lost close friends, colleagues, family members and members of his unique leaderless support group of therapists. Irvin still chooses engagement over avoidance. Love and the accompanying loss win out each time over withdrawing from attachments in order to lessen the loss. 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 Shopenhauer 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.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Theresa Nicassio

    I cant rave enough about Dr. Irvin Yaloms recently released memoir. Becoming Myself: A Psychiatrist's Memoir is a book that at its core acknowledges the universal challenges of living, while simultaneously softening the edges of life through soulful tenderness and transformative insights. From the first line in this tell-all book, the reader is immediately invited into the personal inner and vulnerable world of the most influential psychotherapist of our time. Yaloms masterful ability to bridge I can’t rave enough about Dr. Irvin Yalom’s recently released memoir. Becoming Myself: A Psychiatrist's Memoir is a book that at its core acknowledges the universal challenges of living, while simultaneously softening the edges of life through soulful tenderness and transformative insights. From the first line in this tell-all book, the reader is immediately invited into the personal inner and vulnerable world of the most influential psychotherapist of our time. Yalom’s masterful ability to bridge the real with the surreal, shifting from present time observations to dreamlike musings of days gone by, creates a deliciously paradoxical sense of timelessness that is overlain with the poignant awareness of the impermanence of our existence. Irvin Yalom began his life in a roach- and rat-infested home where the raw realities of living in an anti-Semitic and dangerous neighborhood required that he become a courageous young renegade, coming by self-reliance and free-thinking honestly. While Yalom’s musings through the pages of this exquisite memoir frequently hone in on his longing for mentorship and compassionate connection since his childhood, it was the fire of sheer will and possibility thinking that ultimately carried him through the toughest times in his life. What moved me most deeply in this unlikely page-turner were the whispers of profound gratitude, love, and empathy that run through the very marrow of the pages of this book. Demonstrating his commitment to living a regret-free life, the author humbly shares his reflections of the few remaining regrets that arise through his introspective process, open-heartedly making amends in such a way that allows his readers to witness his most inner angst and subsequent freedom through this process. Irvin’s authenticity and compassionate personhood permeates the very fabric of this book, illustrating why his therapeutic relationships have served as such a safe and healing landing place for so many of the patients and students he has served in his career. Irv’s perennial love of literature and philosophy enriched his understanding and appreciation of the experience of living. Combining his professional and personal knowledge and observations as a psychotherapist with his insatiable love of the possibilities inherent in the imaginings of fiction, Irvin creatively blurred the non-fiction worlds of psychology and philosophy with the worlds of fantasy and fiction, creating an entirely new literary genre in his later works, including this memoir. In this soon-to-be classic masterpiece, Yalom’s innovative interweaving of imaginal therapy sessions and surreal dreams bring a prismed dimension to his autobiographical recollections, adding an unexpected twist of uncertainty to the mosaic of his retrospective process. By Irv’s unabashed acknowledgement of the uncertainty of his own perceptions and memories, as a reader I found myself tumbling into a land reminiscent of Alice’s land of wonderment, ultimately pondering with curiosity and delight about where the edges of reality and fantasy in fact actually begin and end. BECOMING MYSELF is literally one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read. As I moved through the pages, I found myself laughing, crying, curious, inspired, and enchanted, as though I was personally enjoying Irv’s life stories spanning his 86 adventurous years, right by his side. By openly sharing about his own personal struggles with his family, about his love of adventure, his struggles around stepping into his manhood, his internal turmoil around and his deeply felt appreciation for the love of his life, Marilyn, Yalom offers his readers the mentorship he always longed for and eventually found. In so doing, he invites us as readers to reflect upon our own lives in ways we may never have considered about coming to terms with the universal and ever-present paradox of living betwixt and between birth and death. Irvin Yalom's memoir is a book that I will not only continue to cherish and return to for inspiration and wisdom, but is also one that will be at the top of my list as a gift for those I care deeply about. The book is especially valuable for those who are amidst their own ponderings about life and meaning, isolation and freedom, who may find comfort in Yalom’s down-to-earth humanity, compassion, and insight. Becoming Myself: A Psychiatrist's Memoir Dr. Theresa Nicassio is a registered psychologist who is a health and wellness educator, a kindness advocate, radio show host, and the award-winning author of YUM: Plant-Based Recipes for a Gluten-Free Diet.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Scribe Publications

    Fans of this eloquent and introspective author will welcome this innermost chronicle of his history, passions, and the keys to unlocking a fruitful life. Kirkus Reviews I have been a Yalom fan for the longest time I always admired the deftness of his stories, the insights that came out of his obvious compassion and love for his characters. Of course psychiatrists are expected to have such insights, but it's not the rule that they can convey that as beautifully as Yalom does in his fiction. I've Fans of this eloquent and introspective author will welcome this innermost chronicle of his history, passions, and the keys to unlocking a fruitful life. Kirkus Reviews I have been a Yalom fan for the longest time — I always admired the deftness of his stories, the insights that came out of his obvious compassion and love for his characters. Of course psychiatrists are expected to have such insights, but it's not the rule that they can convey that as beautifully as Yalom does in his fiction. I've always wondered, as any reader would wonder, about the author, about the balance between the professional and the personal and how out of that alchemy the writing emerged. Finally, in Becoming Myself, we have the answer, and it is 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 Irv 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 Near the end of Becoming Myself, Irvin Yalom claims to be 'a novice at growing old' — to which I say, 'Oh, please! — you're as good at it as you have been at everything else.' This is 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 I loved reading Becoming Myself, having been a huge fan of Irvin D. Yalom for many years. This is the book we've been waiting for from him, his own deep journey into the self. This intimate and vivid narrative should, in fact, help readers to interrogate their own lives: Yalom shows us what an unflinching, clear-eyed self-analysis might look like. 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

  25. 5 out of 5

    Martin Mcshane

    This journey through Yaloms life completely engaged me. He reveals how his insights into therapy and literature drew him to explore the contribution philosophy can make. His ruminations on the way the muses brought him ideas for his own books is fascinating. I loved some of the quotes he uses and many from his own writing. The use of visual imagery is striking and I will not forget his description of Dawkins laser: Imagine a laser-thin spotlight moving inexorably along the immense ruler of time. This journey through Yalom’s life completely engaged me. He reveals how his insights into therapy and literature drew him to explore the contribution philosophy can make. His ruminations on the way the muses brought him ideas for his own books is fascinating. I loved some of the quotes he uses and many from his own writing. The use of visual imagery is striking and I will not forget his description of Dawkin’s laser: Imagine a laser-thin spotlight moving inexorably along the immense ruler of time. Everything that the beam has passed is lost in the darkness of the past; everything ahead of the spotlight is hidden in the darkness of that yet to be. Only that which is illuminated by the laser-thin spot of light is alive and aware. That thought always brings me solace: it makes me feel lucky to be alive at this moment.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Sheri S.

    Dr. Yalom's account of his life and work in the field of psychiatry are recorded in this well-written book. Dr. Yalom, in his eighties, reflects on growing up as a Jewish boy on the East Coast and his difficulty learning Hebrew (as well as other languages). He writes about how he chose his career path and individuals who were influential in his work. I especially liked learning about his patients (in both individual and group therapy) and how he was impacted by their stories. Dr. Yalom was Dr. Yalom's account of his life and work in the field of psychiatry are recorded in this well-written book. Dr. Yalom, in his eighties, reflects on growing up as a Jewish boy on the East Coast and his difficulty learning Hebrew (as well as other languages). He writes about how he chose his career path and individuals who were influential in his work. I especially liked learning about his patients (in both individual and group therapy) and how he was impacted by their stories. Dr. Yalom was willing to take risks and try new approaches in therapy which seemed to have positive effects. Instead of avoiding the topic of death with patients, Dr. Yalom confronted this topic and learned much from his patients while also helping them deal with death. While a highly accomplished psychiatrist, Dr. Yalom comes across as a kind and gentle man who is both a giver and seeker of knowledge.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Alin Pinta

    Yalom's final contribution to the timeless art of literature is his own story. From the golden era of 1930`s Washinton living in a poor colored neighborhood, he finds shelter in the public library in a wide sea of knowledge that will help him embark on the journey of becoming an ontological revolution in psychology. His insights from his vast experience in psychotherapy, friendship, love and pursuits of becoming a genuine, kind and empathic human being, offer an essential glance into the Yalom's final contribution to the timeless art of literature is his own story. From the golden era of 1930`s Washinton living in a poor colored neighborhood, he finds shelter in the public library in a wide sea of knowledge that will help him embark on the journey of becoming an ontological revolution in psychology. His insights from his vast experience in psychotherapy, friendship, love and pursuits of becoming a genuine, kind and empathic human being, offer an essential glance into the makings of a truly accomplished life that leaves room for little regret. One night, after the doc helped his dad who almost died from a heartattack, changed everything: I decided then and there, I wanted to be just like him. I wanted to be a doctor and soothe people's pains just like he had eased mine. I think it's safe to say Irv, you've done much, much more.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Mack Hayden

    In hindsight, I think I should've probably read some of Yalom's fiction or books on therapy before diving into his memoir. That may have increased my interest in his life itself, although I was definitely entertained and informed by this influential therapist / writer's colorful life and thinking. The anecdotes about Viktor Frankl in here are worth the price of admissionnever meet your heroes. I was a little put off by the dialogues Yalom wrote between his older and younger self; complimenting In hindsight, I think I should've probably read some of Yalom's fiction or books on therapy before diving into his memoir. That may have increased my interest in his life itself, although I was definitely entertained and informed by this influential therapist / writer's colorful life and thinking. The anecdotes about Viktor Frankl in here are worth the price of admission—never meet your heroes. I was a little put off by the dialogues Yalom wrote between his older and younger self; complimenting your younger self on his intelligence just seems a little bizarre to me. Overall, it was a breezy read and an interesting look into the story of one of the 20th and 21st centuries most popular psychological thinkers.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Giulia Zoppolat

    The amount of enjoyment one will derive from this book is likely dependent on the previous experience one has with the author. As a great fan and admirer of Yalom, I greatly enjoyed this biography, that sheds light on how his great work came to be. For someone not familiar with his work, I would recommend starting from another book, such as Loves Executioner. The amount of enjoyment one will derive from this book is likely dependent on the previous experience one has with the author. As a great fan and admirer of Yalom, I greatly enjoyed this biography, that sheds light on how his great work came to be. For someone not familiar with his work, I would recommend starting from another book, such as Love’s Executioner.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Joannmullis

    As do many in his field of work and beyond, I have the utmost respect for this leader. He is a person who puts people and relationships at the forefront of his priorities. I enjoyed reading about his journey.

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