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Love's Executioner (Perennial Classics) Paperback – September 5, 2000
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“Like Freud, Yalom is a graceful and canny writer. The fascinating, moving, enervating, inspiring, unexpected stuff of psychotherapy is told with economy and, most surprising, with humor.”—Washington Post Book World
“Here is the naked therapist, stripped of the armor of god-like omniscience, aware of his flaws…”—Chicago Tribune
“Inspired....Yalom writes with the narrative wit of O. Henry and the earthy humor of Isaac Bashevis Singer.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“Love’s Executioner is Yalom’s wise, humane, stirring and utterly absorbing account of how 10 of his patients try to cope with what he calls ‘existence pain’—the knowledge that death is inevitable, that each of us is ultimately alone, that life has no clear meaning, but that we nonetheless have the freedom ‘to make our lives as we will'....Irvin Yalom’s book is charged with hope and generosity of spirit.”—Newsday
“By his honesty and literary talent, Yalom convinces us that these are, in his words, ‘everyman, everywoman stories’ and that in each of these ‘crazies,’ in my word, is a little bit of you and me.”—Miami Herald
“Dr. Irvin Yalom ... bravely steps into this chaotic void in Love’s Executioner ... [H]e brings understanding, order, and the ‘feel’ of the process of psychotherapy as few before him have done.”—Toronto Star
“Dr. Yalom’s point is not to merely document psychological abnormality, it is to demonstrate that ‘it is possible to confront the truths of existence and harness their power in the service of personal change and growth.’ Read Love’s Executioner, and weep.”—Globe and Mail
“[Yalom’s] honesty can be unnerving ... Love’s Executioner offers a tragic, deeply felt vision of the human condition. In demystifying the therapist-patient encounter, Dr Yalom brings us into broader territory: he reminds us of our need for intimacy and trust and the struggle necessary to achieve them.”—Sunday Herald (Melbourne, Australia)
“The vicissitudes of neurosis and its treatment have always provided irresistible material for dramatic narratives. In Love’s Executioner Yalom demonstrates that in the right hands, the stuff of therapy has the interest of the richest and most inventive fiction.”—Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
“[I]nsightful.”—Monterey County Herald (California)
“In Love’s Executioner I marvelled at Yalom’s courage in writing about therapeutic relationships which had not been a great success and also at his skill in bringing these encounters to life.”—Existential Analysis (London)
“Irvin Yalom writes like an angel about the devils that besiege us. These beautifully wrought true stories go way beyond therapy; they are incisive and moving tales of life, by a wise psychotherapist.”—Rollo May
“Love’s Executioner is one of those rare books that suggests both the mystery and the poetry of the psychotherapeutic process. The best therapists are at least partly poets. With this riveting and beautifully written book, Irvin Yalom has joined their ranks.”—Erica Jong
“These stories are wonderful. They make us realize that within every human being lie the pain and beauty that make life worthwhile.”—Bernie S. Siegel
“This is an impressive transformation of clinical experience into literature. Dr. Yalom’s case histories are more gripping than 98 percent of the fiction published today, and he has gone to amazing lengths of honesty to depict himself as a realistic flesh-and-blood character: funny, flawed, perverse, and above all, understanding.”—Phillip Lopate
“These remarkably moving and instructive tales of the psychiatric encounter bring the reader into novel territories of the mind—and the landscape is truly unforgettable.”—Maggie Scarf
“Dr. Yalom is unusually honest, both with his patients and about himself.”—Anthony Storr
“I loved Love’s Executioner. Dr. Yalom has learned something that fiction writers learned years ago—that people’s mistakes are a lot more interesting than their triumphs.”—Joanne Greenberg
About the Author
Irvin D. Yalom, M.D., is the author of The Schopenhauer Cure, Lying on the Couch, Every Day Gets a Little Closer, and Love's Executioner, as well as several classic textbooks on psychotherapy. When Nietzsche Wept was a bestseller in Germany, Israel, Greece, Turkey, Argentina, and Brazil with millions of copies sold worldwide. Yalom is Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at Stanford University, and he divides his practice between Palo Alto, where he lives, and San Francisco, California.
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And what is existential psychotherapy? It begins with the idea that our fundamental psychological dis-ease results from difficulties baked into human existence, such as our fear of death and our ultimate aloneness. Or as Yalom writes in Love's Executioner prologue: There are "four givens that are particularly relevant to psychotherapy: the inevitability of death for each of us and for those we love, the freedom to make our lives as we will, our ultimate aloneness, and, finally, the absence of any obvious meaning or sense to life. However grim these givens may seem, they contain the seeds of wisdom and redemption. I hope to demonstrate, in these ten tales of psychotherapy, that it is possible to confront the truths of existence and harness their power in the service of personal change and growth." *
That paragraph captures the core blueprint of the book, but if you stopped there you'd be missing out. Like all great artists, Yalom brings those essential issues to life so you feel them in your bones. He stops our breath through the stories, intimate details, and insights into the lives of some of his extraordinary patients (or sometimes "ordinary"ish, but made extraordinary in Yalom's capable hands). The tender truth often shimmers in Love's Executioner. We see the art of psychotherapy, and thus living, practiced by a master, both as a writer and a guide to how to midwife psychological wisdom.
Other reviewers here have pointed out that Love's Executioner is must reading for therapists and those undergoing psychotherapy. This is true, and Yalom, is understandably a rock star among therapist, not just for his skillful prose (he is also an accomplished novelist), but his textbooks that have been read by at least two generations of therapists. But it would be a shame if this masterwork--and I do believe it's fair to call Love's Executioner his master work--weren't read by everyone. For it has something for everyone: whether you like fiction or non-fiction. Lovers of fiction get the storytelling and intimacy of a great novel. Readers of non-fiction know these are stories of real patients and get actionable take-aways. As noted, I plan to reread or relisten to this book periodically, knowing I'll pick up something new each time. Books don't get much better than this.
* In Love's Executioner, Yalom notes that he doesn't belong to a psychological school of thought. Since I see existential psychological dilemmas as true for everyone, regardless of your philosophical or religious beliefs, I tend to agree with him. That said, I do believe this is still an outlook, and that there will be others with a different outlook that will consider existential therapy a school of thought. -I originally got a promotional/review copy of the audiobook, but think it is so good, I got extra copies and have given copies to friends and coworkers.
“If we stare too hard into the past, it’s easy to be overcome with regret. But now the important thing is to turn towards the future. We’ve got to think about change. What must not occur is that five years from now you look back with regret over the way you’ve lived these coming five years.”
are like parables really of people like us who are looking to get through that which paralyzes them. And lucky us! We get to listen in to their conversations - we become witnesses to their transformation. Sometimes it is the client who is stuck, occasionally it is the therapist. There is one story in particular that sticks with me (it was maybe 6 months ago that I read this) about a nurse who attends to a difficult in attitude patient. The nurse eventually challenges the patient and has wondered ever since if she harmed or helped the dying woman in saying what she did, in saying what must be said. She suspects she has harmed. What she finds out in talking this through with her therapist (who, in fact, knew the woman himself) ends up transforming her and us who listen in.