When Nietzsche Wept

The first fiction I read after graduating from my Couples & Family Therapy masters program was the novel by Irvin Yalom, When Nietzsche Wept. I loved it and read it out loud to Reanna directly afterwards. I was fully engaged and deeply moved each time I read it. Yalom imagines a pre-Zarathustra Nietzsche becoming involved therapeutically with a mentor of Freud’s in 1882.

Before rushing out to get it, consider my caveats: I am a therapist and this is a novel about therapy. I am a fan of Yalom’s from having loved two of his clinical books, An Open Letter to New Therapists and The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy. (The Group book split my cohort–most hated it. I never understood why. It was great.) I am also very interested in existential philosophy.

If you do read it, consider a doing a couple things that helped me enjoy it. I created a Pandora station for the 1880s out of Wagner, Mahler, and Strauss. It really shifted the tone of the book to be listening to the ultra-dramatic German music of the time. Second, all of the major characters are historical figures with images available online–Nietzsche and Freud, of course, but also Bertha Pappenheim, Lou Salome, and Josef and Mathilde Breuer. That was fun to see.

[First published on Nathen’s Miraculous Escape, on August 3, 2011.]

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Irvin Yalom’s Existential Factors

Existential psychotherapist (and the author of Lying on the CouchWhen Nietzsche WeptandThe Schopenhauer Cure) Irvin Yalom suggests that humans face five existential factors that play a large role in our lives and in the success of psychotherapy. This is how he describes them in The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy, on page 98:

1. Recognizing that life is at times unfair and unjust

2. Recognizing that ultimately there is no escape from some of life’s  pain or from death

3. Recognizing that no matter how close I get to other people, I must still face life alone

4. Facing the basic issues of my life and eath, and thus living my life more honestly and being less caught up in trivialities

5. Learning that I must take ultimate responsibility for the way I live my life no matter how much guidance and support I get from others

[First published on Nathen’s Miraculous Escape, June 14, 2010.]