Quote of the Day – August 10, 2017: Lies on the couch – Irvin D. Yalom
Ernest loved being a psychotherapist. Every day, patients invited him to the most intimate rooms of their lives. Day by day, he brought them comfort, worried about them, eased their despair. And instead, he received admiration and appreciation. Also, money, although Ernest often thought that if he didn't need the money, he would have practiced psychotherapy for free.
Lucky he's the one who likes the job he does. Indeed, Ernest considered himself lucky. Even more than lucky. Happy. He was a man who had discovered his vocation, a man who could say: I am exactly where I want to be, in the whirlwind of my talents, interests, passions.
Ernest wasn't a believer. But every morning, when he opened his agenda and saw the names of his eight or nine loved ones with whom he was going to spend the day, he had a feeling that he could only describe as religious. At that time he was given the deep desire to thank a person or something for guiding him to this profession.
There were some mornings when he looked up through the skylight in the Victorian building on Sacramento Street, through the morning fog, and imagined that the ancestors of psychotherapy would be suspended in the aurora dawn.
– Thank you, thank you, he delights. He thanked everyone, all the healers who had alleviated his desperation. First, ancient ancestors, with their silhouettes barely visible on the celestial canopy: Jesus, Buddha, Socrates. Beneath them, slightly better shaped, great forebears: Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Freud, Jung. And even closer, to the parents of psychotherapy: Adler, Horney, Sullivan, Fromm, the sweet and smiling face of Sándor Ferenczi.
A few years ago, they had responded to his desperate calls when, after completing his residency, he had acquired the ideal of all ambitious young neuropsychiatrys and devoted himself to neurochemistry – the science of the future, the golden arena of personal opportunity. The ancestors knew then that he had gone the wrong way. He didn't belong in a science lab. Not even in a psychopharmacology clinic where he prescribes drugs.
They sent him a messenger, a funny messenger of power, to help him fulfill his bear. To this day, Ernest could not explain how he decided to become a therapist. But he remembered when. He remembered that day with astonishing clarity. And he also remembered the messenger: Seymour Trotter, a man he met once and who completely changed his life.
Six years ago, the director of ernest's department had given him a temporary term on the Stanford Hospital Medical Ethics Committee, and his first disciplinary action was the case with Dr Trotter. Seymour Trotter was seventy-one, a patriarch of the psychiatric community and one of the former presidents of the American Psychiatric Association. He had been accused of sexual misconduct towards a patient in his thirties and two years old.
At the time, Ernest was an assistant professor of psychiatry and had finished his residency just four years ago. Working full-time as a neurochemistry researcher, he knew absolutely nothing about what was going on in the psychotherapists world and, in his naivety, did not suspect that this case had been entrusted to him because no one else wanted to deal with him. All the older psychiatrists in northern California worshipped him enormously and knew for Seymour Trotter's fear.
Ernest chose an austere office on the administrative side of the hospital for the first meeting and tried to make it as official as possible, staring at the clock while waiting for Dr Trotter, with the file containing the accusatory evidence in front of him on his desk Unopened. In order to remain as impartial as possible, Ernest had made the decision to question the accused without first informing him of his case, to listen to his story without any preconceived idea. He was thinking about reading the file afterwards and scheduling a second meeting, if he thought it was necessary.
He immediately heard sleet shavings echoing in the corridor. Was Dr. Trotter blind? No one had told him anything about it. Babbling in the floor, followed by a dragged noise, were heard more and louder. Ernest stood up and walked out into the corridor.
No, he wasn't blind. He was lame. Dr. Trotter was coming around in the corridor, leaning, in a precarious balance, on two crutches. He was bent from the waist and kept his crutches away from his body, each about a metre away. His cheekbones and chin, strong and healthy, were still firm, but all the soft parts had been spowed by wrinkles and excrescences specific to senectutions. Wide folds of skin hung on his neck, and tufts of white hair were coming out of his ears. And yet, age had not brought him down, something youthful, even childish, had preserved himself. What's that? Maybe his hair, gray and often, short haircut, or clothing, a blue denim jacket covering a white t-shirt with a rolled collar on his neck.
They met on the doorstep. Dr. Trotter went to the room two more steps, then suddenly lifted his crutches, twisted vigorously and, as if with a blind luck, sat with a pirouette on his chair.
The Book of Lies on the sofa can be purchased from: