“I do not like to work with patients who are in love. Perhaps it is because of envy—I too, crave enchantment. Perhaps it is because love and psychotherapy are fundamentally incompatible. The good therapist fights darkness and seeks illumination, while romantic love is sustained by mystery and crumbles upon inspection. I hate to be love's executioner.” (from the opening of the title story)

In this rare glimpse of the thoroughly engaged therapist at work, a master psychiatrist openly confronts not only his own feelings and errors but the uncertainty at the heart of the therapeutic encounter.

Dr. Irvin Yalom breaks through that uncertainty to a patients ultimate truth-to the fear of death, say, behind the life denying nostalgia of Thelma, the elderly patient of the title story who is possessed by a long past love affair; or behind the macho behaviour of Carlos, a middle aged man compulsively lustful in the face of his fatal cancer.

It is, says Dr. Yalom, only by recognizing the stark facts of human existence, only through full awareness of oneself as mortal, that any one of us, not merely patients in therapy, can come to live as whole creatures.

Indeed, these enthralling tales go beyond therapy to speak to the human condition in all its poignant oddity. And in them, Irvin Yalom achieves a pathos and humor worthy of Chekov himself.

Copyright © by Basic Books, Inc.

 
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