It is such sweet anticipation knowing a book by Irvin Yalom awaits me.
Title: Creatures of A Day and Other Tales of Psychotherapy
Author: Irvin D Yalom
Publishers: Piatkus (5 March 2015)
Genre: Literary Non-Fiction; Psychology
What’s it about?
Once again, Irvin D Yalom does not disappoint. On the contrary he proves (not that he needed to J) yet again his mastery in conveying the complexity of the human psyche into short stories designed to engage the imagination and to teach. For those who do not know, Yalom is an eminent existential psychotherapist and author. He is Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at Standford University who is cautious of the perils of diagnosis and pathology, rather preferring to delve into human psyche. At the age of 82 (when the book was written), Yalom’s curiosity and ‘work’ on himself lies with the reality of impending death.
In ‘Creatures of a Day’, Yalom explores through ten tales (of real cases) the existential theme of ‘death’ or ‘existential death’, and how we, no matter our age, experience and respond when confronted with our own mortality. There is no formula, no correct answer – just a deep appreciation for the complexities that is the human psyche. Yalom’s humility and candour shine in the short stories. Though a master therapist, Yalom does not shy away from owning his missteps in therapy sessions, nor his judgment, non-engagement and not-knowing. What is important, as he highlights in ‘Creatures of a Day’, is the therapeutic relationship between him and his clients, one that is authentic, honest and transparent. He demonstrates the transformative power of this healing relationship.
If there is one ‘flaw’ it is that ‘Creatures of a Day’ through Yalom’s exquisite storytelling makes the psychotherapeutic process seemed a ‘natural’ process and can be attempted with ease. Here is the paradox – the therapeutic process is hard work and difficult for the client and the therapist; it is never simple.
As Yalom states,
“The patients in these stories deal with anxiety about death, about the loss of loved ones and the ultimate loss of oneself, about how to live a meaningful life, about coping with aging and diminished possibilities, about choice, about fundamental isolation.”
Yet this book provides such an uplifting, hopeful perspective to our humanness and our capacity for growth.
Would I recommend it?
So would I recommend this book? A resounding ‘yes’.
And the book’s audience?
I will quote Yalom. “I write for those of you who have a keen interest in the human psyche and personal growth, for the many readers who will identify with the ageless existential crises … and for the individuals who contemplate entering therapy or are already in the midst of it.”
Savour the book not just its entertaining tales but take time to explore the nuanced interactions between Yalom and his patients.
Realistic Characterization: 4.5/5
Made Me Think: 4.5/5
Overall enjoyment: 5/5
Overall Rating: 5/5
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