Becoming Myself: A Psychiatrist's Memoir

Basic. Oct. 2017. 352p. photos. ISBN 9780465098897. $30; ebk. ISBN 9780465098903. PSYCH
OrangeReviewStarPsychiatrist, Stanford professor, and prolific author (Love's Executioner; When Nietzsche Wept) Yalom, a self-described disturber of the peace, engages the reader therapeutically. That term, from Greek, means healing: quoting Nietzsche, "what doesn't kill me makes me stronger." In 40 chapters, from "The Birth of Empathy" to "A Novice at Growing Old," the author writes with authority, energy, and humility. Of his mother we learn, "She never had a positive word for me, and I returned the favor." He addresses family, religion, encounter groups, world travels, and death, and is a fine example for writers, teachers, parents, and would-be leaders. He lets readers get to know him well through a personal, therapeutic dialog showing vulnerability along with strength. He recalls risky motorcycle tours, an experiment with LSD, his first psychiatric patient, and an unhelpful analysis followed by three happy years of training in psychiatry. He also notes that memoirs are "far more fictional than we like to think."
VERDICT An honest, engaging, and rewarding autobiography. For Yalom's admirers and those interested in the philosophy of psychology and memoirs.
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