Retrospective | Yalom’s legacy on the meaning of life

When I’ve heard about the possibility of seeing Irvin Yalom on more time, online, during an interview with The School of Life, I was thrilled about the possibility. Almost in an instant, I was drawn back in my early days of discovering this amazing puzzle, that psychotherapy represents for me. Yalom was a big part of that puzzle. His books, his approach, his wisdom, had all a big influence in the way I was dreaming about myself as a psychotherapist.

Somehow now, when I heard the news about his interview, I started thinking what it means for me to be an integrative psychotherapist and where in my work I can find Yalom’s influence. I’ve remembered reading in his book The gift of therapy that the practice of psychotherapy is much more close to practicing a form of art and that, as much as we need to build this profession on evidence based practice, we need to keep the former idea close to our mind and heart. I now realize that for me it is a subtle form of balance between these two points. It is a balance between being wholeheartedly present to receive and contain whatever my clients need to unload and gently wait for their availability and openness to try research proven strategies that promote wellbeing .

This interview may have been one of his lasts and Irvin Yalom looked back at his life long legacy and how he relates now, in the present moment, to his core ideas, stated throughout his life. As I told you, it made me think about my path. About how I am as a therapist like right now versus how I was painting my future career during my daydreaming, in my early years discovering psychotherapy. Not that I am now much more wiser or clever. But he, certainly, is. Let me share with you some of his pearls of wisdom, some of the main ideas that stayed with me after Yalom’s interview.

He is now 89 years old, he has countless of books written, both about psychotherapy practice, but also beautiful teaching novels and stories (you can find them on his website), he still offers consultations even after losing his wife almost one year ago.
He practices what he preaches, in this interview he is as raw and authentic as one could be, in sharing his grief process, his path in finding coping activities that give meaning to his existence after the passing of his life long partner, his wife.

His answers touched on his existentialist core interest:

On the meaning of life he gently states that there is no meaning of life, there only is the meaning that we give to life

On what gave meaning to his life he believes in making the people around him feeling better.

On the fear of making a choice in the face of infinite possibilities, he invites us to take a closer look at the obstacles in front of our choice.

On beginning to find oneself after the loss of a significant other, Yalom brings the question to look at what part of yourself that you lost, when losing that significant other.

On the topic of perfection, Yalom invites us to switch our perspective and gently look at ourselves as work in progress, we constantly create ourselves, we keep on writing our stories.

If you are curious to find out more for yourselves, I believe that you can have access to the recording of the interview for one more week here (until 25.10.2020).