Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Partial Book Review




Partial book review: Maybe You Should Talk to Someone


The author, Lori Gottlieb, has short snatches relevant to the different clients from authors of different therapists. Her book is no text book, scholarly, and academic account of these therapist nor does she cover the field. My training and experience in pastoral care could generate too much writing. I will limit myself to a few areas.


She has the stages of Eric Ericson. Her focus is on his 8thstage, integrity vs. despair. What she leaves out is his noted approach to psycho social history where his analysis his own story from and unwed mother to becoming a Harvard professor without a PhD. A one of a kind and the story is in his psycho social history. He does the same in his book on Gandhi. It is a great read and I recommend it as another example of therapy. Ie understanding.


At the end of her book in acknowledgments the author says, “we grow in connection with others.” She then thanks her patients, “They teach us so much.” As a chaplain I can say the same, patients, staff, administration, caregivers, community, etc. all have given me new insights and understandings that are passed on to others. 


This insight is in Dr. Alfred Adler’s book “Social Interest.” An essential in mental health and overcoming mental illness. Adler is the third psychiatrist in the Freud, Yung, line. He did not probe the unconscious as the first two. He stayed more with the conscious mind through stories. In therapy an ealy question is, “What are your earliest recollections.” He starts with stories. These stories will help explore where the client has made mistaken interpretation that are becoming troublesome. Adler was also interested in birth order. I am the classic dethroned king. An only child for six years on a farm, and a brother was born with health issues. The attention that centered on me was abruptly gone. Fast forwarding I moved to see all are my equals as brothers and sisters. My thanks to Willard Beecher, Adlerian Therapist, and co author of Parents On the Run and Beyond Success and Failure. 


She is Adlerian without naming Adler with all her acknowledgments.


In the same page she gives Wendell a special acknowledgement. “thank you for seeing my neshama, even (and especially) when I couldn’t.” We are into the Hebrew bible. 


With that small insight I say we have two Jewish therapists who have left out the heart of the discussion. They already knew what the heart is. I will refer you to this article if you want to know more.



She has one other reference to Scripture otherwise the transcendent is mainly absent as is the mystical.  Over my lifetime I have become a Christian mystic. My brother had the experience before me. My mystical experience came while I was celebrating the Eucharist on a Sunday morning. That is one way to bewilder a congregation. Most though I was getting sick, I turned white, some said. 


William James, early American psychologist, who wrote the “The Varieties of Religious Experience” for the Gifford Lectures. You can read the Gifford Lectures on the internet. He says 65% of the people have a mystical experience. I would agree. It is the elephant in the room for most. I count “out of the body experiences” under this heading. I have heard a number  of stories as a chaplain to know the reality.


She has a chapter counseling and therapy where the word neshama appears. She gives examples where she wants Wendell to counsel and how he wisely responds with a story about his father. Then the paradoxical intervention. She is wanting an answer (fix it) about writing the book she doesn’t want to write. Wendell’s fix is to give the question back to her. An important chapter where neshama comes up again.


Big insights here, learn by doing, “as I heal inside, I’m also more adept at healing others.” And “once you know the basics, you can skillfully improvise.” That is Jazz folks. That is learning to live Jazz. And my discovery of that came after the mystical experience for the two sides were in my mystical experience, structure and improvise. 


When you professionalize reality you can also lose touch with reality. My approach with lay people was to train them in part to be a lay therapist. They do that anyway in ordinary conversation when they drop the necessity of having to fix the other persons story.  That requires a disciplined way of listening.


Blogs located here are a beginning at describing that discipline as the art of story metaphor listening.



Marlin Whitmer


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