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Hardcover: 432 pages
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1st edition (April 2, 2019)
I believe that every book calls to its reader at a particular time. Only when the reader is ready does he or she pick up the book and read it. At least this is the reason I attribute to why I sometimes leave a particular book unread for a while and pick up some other book: x over y.
I picked up ‘Maybe you should talk to someone’: A therapist, her therapist and our lives revealed by Lori Gottlieb.
Lori Gottlieb is The Atlantic’s ‘Dear Therapist’ columnist who captures her life and how it is interconnected with the lives of her patients and her therapist with appealing candour.
I read it over two weeks, and it was by turns, comforting, intense and a tear-jerker. It made me reflect quite a bit, which became a bit of a problem since I’m already by nature a reflective soul.
The book is about a therapist Lori and her relationship with a handful of patients. The patients are a motley crew. Lori also sees a therapist, and the book also explores the relationship she shares with her therapist.
There is John, an Emmy Award-winning successful TV show writer, who exhibits narcissistic traits. His personal growth through the book made me think long and hard about how people who really want to change, can.
In another place in the book, Lori says, “Therapy is hard work— and not just for the therapist. That’s because the responsibility for change lies squarely with the patient.” It also made me realise why some people are the way they are and how they put on masks to protect themselves and are most afraid of being vulnerable. He came across as a bit obnoxious, but funny, too, and immensely talented.
Then there is the thirty-three-year-old university professor Julie who seeks help to deal with a cancer diagnosis. This story helps us as readers get a peek into the shift of perspective that takes place in someone who is faced with imminent death. How a person changes when her days are numbered and how she chooses to live her life is an inspiration to several who die a little each day even if only metaphorically speaking.
This book lets us know that therapists, too, are human. Sometimes, they are not able to help their patients much because their interactions with that patient remind them of a dynamic they share with someone in their own lives. As Lori says “ Sometimes a patient will basically be wearing a sign around her neck saying I REMIND YOU OF YOUR MOTHER!” “Our experiences with this person are important because we’re probably feeling something pretty similar to what everyone else in this patient’s life feels.”
Some of the patients discuss their dreams with Lori. We find that some of these dreams are about universal themes that come up in therapy.
Rita, another patient, is a sixty-nine-year-old depressed, divorced woman who expresses regret over what she believes were bad choices and a life poorly lived. She tells Lori that she is trying therapy, and if her life doesn’t improve in a year, she will end it! How Lori deals with her and the stories about Rita’s life that emerge with subsequent sessions reads like a fiction novel, and make for interesting reading.
It made me realise that sixteen or sixty-nine, the feeling of love, and how it arrives or leaves someone’s life is always significant and changes the individual in some way.
Lori, the therapist, herself doesn’t have her life in order just because she is a therapist. She has an impending deadline for a book that she has to write; she has to deal with the sudden exit of her boyfriend from her life; she has to bring up her son well as a single mom and not let her personal challenges affect her therapy sessions with her patients. Lori googles her therapist after a few sessions with him and says it’s something natural that patients do. She discusses romantic transference that happens between patient and therapist.
Charlotte, another of Lori’s patients, is a twenty-five-year-old who says she is bored with her job and has been anxious for a few months. She has difficulty with her parents, has a busy social life but no significant romantic relationships in her life. Through her story, we learn about how people have an “ uncanny attraction to people who share the characteristics of a parent who in some way hurt them.” This is also the reason why some people are attracted to unavailable “partners”. It reminded me of the song ‘Daddy Issues’ by Demi Lovato.
These stories of Lori and her patients and her therapist would be appealing to anyone interested in psychology. It would also be of interest to patients, therapists, and to others who consider people their poison. As far as I’m concerned, it is easily the best book I have read in the last decade. In my mind, it even trumps ‘ Viktor Frankl’s ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’, which I’d considered a stellar book and which, incidentally, the author does discuss in a chapter.
I’d recommend it to everyone since we all have to deal with people whether we are introverts or extroverts or ambiverts. While not everyone chooses to go into therapy (although many are in desperate need of it), every human being stands to learn something from this book. Those who are intent on turning over a new leaf would benefit the most from it.
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