Love's Executioner by Irvin D. Yalom

A few weeks ago, my licensing supervisor for me to become a licensed counselor gave me this book as a late birthday gift. When he gave it to me, he told me that after working with me for a year, he thought that I’d relate a lot to Yalom’s theoretical views as a counselor and would enjoy the book. I read this one slowly and savored it, taking in everything that Yalom has to offer through this book – on a professional, personal and entertainment level. This book is truly one of the best gifts anyone has given me. The sentiment behind it, that anyone could even compare me in the slightest bit to Yalom, is humbling. And the knowledge and the experience of reading it is something I won’t soon forget.

In Love’s Executioner, Yalom gives us an intimate view of his time spent with ten different patients of his throughout his career. In the field of psychology, Irvin Yalom is best known for his theory of existentialism and for his work in group therapy. Personally, I’ve never laid much on theories. I don’t think you can take one particular theory of counseling or humanity and say “yes, this is how everything works and this is the only way to look at things.” And Yalom doesn’t either despite having developed his own theory. It’s what I love about him. But I do certainly appreciate what his theory says. It seems grim at first…it’s basically that we must all accept that death awaits us and that we must make of our lives what we will. That we are ultimately responsible for our own lives…no one else is, we’re ultimately alone in that. Sounds depressing, eh? But accepting that can be quite liberating.

The cases that Yalom describes in Love’s Executioner are so very interesting! In fact, reading them made me excited for my own upcoming therapy sessions. I couldn’t wait to see my next clients. I found myself growing a new love for the field of psychology. Not that there was ever a lack of it to begin with, but Yalom seems to have expanded my desire to understand people more. His cases range from an elderly woman who has put her life on hold for the last ten years due to being in an obsessive form of love with her ex therapist to a man with end stage cancer who treats other’s with disregard; An obese woman who covers her sadness with humor to a mother who shockingly utters in therapy that “the wrong one died” when speaking of one of her children who passed away.

When describing these cases, what warmed my heart more than anything was the relatability factor that Yalom has. First of all, he easily relates to all of his clients. But more than that, he relates to the reader too. As I mentioned, Yalom is very well known in the psychology field, but he is not above saying that he doesn’t have all of the answers. That he’s sometimes lost as to where to go next in a session. That he’s still surprised after doing therapy for years. That he himself has his own issues that he needs help with. I can’t tell you how comforting it was to read this as a counselor who is only 3 years out of graduate school.

Who would I recommend this book to? Anyone and everyone. Fear not, it’s by no means a “psychology textbook”. It’s nothing like that at all. It’s something that can be read and enjoyed by anybody and I think that anyone could get something out of it. In it’s pages are stories that we can all relate to in some way, regardless of which side of the office we’re sitting. Perhaps it changes with each story. There is something to gleam for everyone in this book I’d imagine and I feel rewarded for having read it.

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7 Responses

  1. This sounds so fascinating, and your review of it was just perfect Chris. πŸ™‚

  2. I didn’t find his theory depressing at all. If I’m understanding correctly, it makes complete sense to me. But I admit, that as much as I agree, sometimes owning that knowledge can be harder than I would think. (Hope I’m making sense.)

    Anyway, this is definitely going on my wish list, Chris! What a wonderful, incredibly thoughtful gift that was.

    Ooooh, and I just realized–that’s another book for your summer reading. πŸ˜€ Off to add to chart.

  3. I agree, that’s a good philosophy. To understand and accept what’s coming and your own actions – that’s a wonderful thing!

  4. Wow, this sounds fascinating and stunning, Chris. Beautiful review, too. I hope I can get hold of it at the library, on Nook, or just buy the darn thing. πŸ™‚

  5. I don’t know anything about this dude, but the book sounds wonderful. My father’s been a therapist (he’s a social worker and has done therapy but doesn’t right now), so I’m very interested in different ways that therapists work. I bet this book would make me miss volunteering at the crisis hotline at home.

  6. Beautiful review, mostly because you share so much of yourself. You come across to me as someone who has a huge capacity for compassion and respect and consideration of FEELINGS. I bet you are an incredible counselor.

    The title, however, of this book seems ominous!

  7. Yup. This is a great book! Glad you enjoyed it as much as I did.

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