Quotes by Irvin D Yalom

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Were not teaching our students the importance of relationships with other people: how you work with them, what the relational pathology consists of, how you examine your own conscience, how you examine the inner world, how you examine your dreams. more...

A curious thought experiment. . . Nietzsche's message to us was to live life in such a way that we would be willing to repeat the same life eternally more...

Death anxiety is the mother of all religions, which, in one way or another, attempt to temper the anguish of our finitude. more...

If we look at life in its small details, how ridiculous it all seems. It is like a drop of water seen through a microscope, a single drop teeming with protozoa. How we laugh as they bustle about so eagerly and struggle with one another. Whether here, or in the little span of human life, this terrible activity produces a comic effect more...

Life is a miserable thing. I have decided to spend my life thinking about it. more...

Religion has everything on its side: revelation, prophecies, government protection, the highest dignity and eminence. . . and more than this, the invaluable prerogative of being allowed to imprint its doctrines on the mind at a tender age of childhood, whereby they become almost innate ideas. more...

The path to decision may be hard because it leads into the territory of both finiteness and groundlessness-domains soaked in anxiety. more...

If you want to choose the pleasure of growth, prepare yourself for some pain. more...

Never take away anything if you have nothing better to offer more...

I think my quarry is illusion. I war against magic. I believe that, though illusion often cheers and comforts, it ultimately and invariably weakens and constricts the spirit. more...

Marriage and its entourage of possession and jealousy enslave the spirit. more...

Despair is the price one pays for self-awareness. Look deeply into life, and you'll always find despair. more...

If we climb high enough, we will reach a height from which tragedy ceases to look tragic. more...

The spirit of a man is constructed out of his choices. more...

Life is a spark between two identical voids, the darkness before birth and the one after death. more...

It is wrong to bear children out of need, wrong to use a child to alleviate loneliness, wrong to provide purpose in life by reproducing another copy of oneself. It is wrong also to seek immortality by spewing one's germ into the future as though sperm contains your consciousness! more...

Every person must choose how much truth he can stand. more...

If one is to love oneself one must behave in ways that one can admire. more...

Live right, he reminded himself, and have faith that good things will flow from you even if you never learn of them. more...

Love is not just a passion spark between two people; there is infinite difference between falling in love and standing in love. Rather, love is a way of being, a "giving to," not a 'falling for"; a mode of relating at large, not an act limited to a single person. more...

... sooner or later she had to give up the hope for a better past. more...

To care of another individual means to know and to experience the other as fully as possible. more...

Mature love is loving, not being loved. more...

To love means to be actively concerned for the life and the growth of another. more...

The pain is there; when you close one door on it, it knocks to come in somewhere else... more...

...the more unlived your life, the greater your death anxiety. The more you fail to experience your life fully, the more you will fear death. more...

There was a time in our lives when we were so close that nothing seemed to obstruct our friendship and brotherhood, and only a small footbridge separated us. Just as you were about to step on it, I asked you "Do you want to cross the footbridge to me?" - Immediately you did not want to anymore; and when I asked you again you remained silent. Since then mountains and torrential rivers and whatever separates and alienates have been cast between us, and even if we wanted to get together, we couldn't. But when you now think of that little footbridge, words fail you and you sob and marvel. more...

One thing I feel clear about is that it's important not to let your life live you. Otherwise, you end up at forty feeling you haven't really lived. What have I learned? Perhaps to live now, so that at fifty I won't look back upon my forties with regret. more...

Psychiatry is a strange field because, unlike any other field of medicine, you never really finish. Your greatest instrument is you, yourself, and the work of self-understanding is endless. I'm still learning. more...

I dream of a love that is more than two people craving to possess one another. more...

Despite the staunchest, most venerable defenses, we can never completely subdue death anxiety: it is always there, lurking in some hidden ravine of the mind. more...

It's not easy to live every moment wholly aware of death. It's like trying to stare the sun in the face: you can stand only so much of it. Because we cannot live frozen in fear, we generate methods to soften death's terror. We project ourselves into the future through our children; we grow rich, famous, ever larger; we develop compulsive protective rituals; or we embrace an impregnable belief in an ultimate rescuer. more...

I feel strongly, because a man who will himself die one day in the not to distant future and, also, as a psychiatrist who spent decades dealing with death anxiety, that confronting death allows us, not to open some noisome, Pandora's box, but to re-enter life in a richer, more compassionate manner. more...

Death, however, does itch. It itches all the time. It is always with us, scratching at some inner door. Mirroring, softly, barely audibly, just under the membrane of consciousness. Hidden in disguise, leaking out in a variety of symptoms. It is the wellspring of many of our worries, stresses, and conflicts. more...

Death loses its terror if one dies when one has consummated one's life! more...

As we reach the crest of life and look at the path before us, we apprehend that the path no longer ascends but slopes downward toward decline and diminishment. From that point on, concerns about death are never far from mind. more...

Absolute power, as we have always known, corrupts absolutely; it corrupts because it does not do the trick for the individual. Reality always creeps in-the reality of our helplessness and our mortality; the reality that, despite our reach for the stars, a creaturely fate awaits us. more...

Psychotherapy is a cyclical process from isolation into relationship. It is cyclical because the patient, in terror of existential isolation, relates deeply and meaningfully to the therapist and then, strengthened by this encounter, is led back again to a confrontation with existential isolation. more...

Live your life to the fullest; and then, and only then, die. Don't leave any unlived life behind. more...

I think we ripple on into others, just like a stone puts its ripples into a brook. That, for me, too, is a source of comfort. It kind of, in a sense, negates the sense of total oblivion. Some piece of ourselves, not necessarily our consciousness, but some piece of ourselves gets passed on and on and on. more...

The death anxiety of many people is fueled ... by disappointment at never having fulfilled their potential. Many people are in despair because their dreams didn't come true, and they despair even more that they did not make them come true. A focus on this deep dissatisfaction is often the starting point in overcoming death anxiety. more...

None of my patients are really troubled by the idea that some part of what they say might be in a book in the future. Some have expressed the very opposite feeling-the fear that they would not be interesting enough to write about. more...

Therapists need to have a long experience in personal therapy to see what it's like to be on the other side of the couch and see what they find helpful or not helpful. And if possible, get into therapy at different stages of their life with different kinds of therapists just to sample a bit. more...

Death cures psychoneurosis. In a sense all these neurotic concerns-fear of rejection, interpersonal concerns-seem to melt away, and people get another perspective on their lives. The important things are really important, and the trivia of life is trivialized. more...

One doesn't do existential therapy as a freestanding separate theory; rather it informs your approach to such issues as death, which many therapists tend to shy away from. more...

You know, I think everybody I've seen has come from some other therapy, and almost invariably it's very much the same thing: the therapist is too disinterested, a little too aloof, a little too inactive. They're not really interested in the person, he doesn't relate to the person. All these things I've written so much about. That's why I've made such a practice really, over and over to hammer home the point of self-revelation and being more of yourself and showing yourself. Every book I write I want to get that in there. more...

In a study we did of bereavement, we found that rather impressive numbers of widows and widowers had not simply gone back to their pre-loss functioning, but grown. This was due to a kind of increased existential awareness that resulted from this confrontation with the death of another. And I think it brought them in touch with their own death, so they began to experience a kind of preciousness to life that comes with an experience of its transiency. more...

One reason patients are reluctant to work in a therapy group is they fear that things will go too far, that the powerful therapist or the collective group might coerce them to lose control-to say or think or feel things that will be catastrophic. The therapist can make the group feel safer by allowing each patient to set his or her limits and by emphasizing the patient's control over every interaction. more...

If people in their 20s had more death awareness, would that in fact temper their ambition or drive? My hunch is yes. It would certainly do something for those who are most ruthless, who tend to make others most miserable. Some sort of greater awareness of their own finiteness and what their time on earth really is, and what they really want to do with their lives, could help improve them. more...

I don't let any personal views about religion cause me to want to take away something that's offering the patient comfort. I never want to take away something when I don't have anything better to offer him in a way. more...

I must stop him from being one of those who call themselves good because they have no claws. more...

To the best of my knowledge, every acute inpatient ward offers some inpatient group therapy experience. Indeed, the evidence supporting the efficacy of group therapy, and the prevailing sentiment of the mental health profession, are sufficiently strong that it would be difficult to defend the adequacy of the inpatient unit that attempted to operate without a small group program. more...

Specialness as a primary mode of death transcendence takes a number of other maladaptive forms. The drive for power is not uncommonly motivated by this dynamic. One's own fear and sense of limitation is avoided by enlarging oneself and one's sphere of control. There is some evidence, for example, that those who enter the death-related professions (soldiers, doctors, priests, and morticians) may in part be motivated by a need to obtain control over death anxiety. more...

If I had to pick out a therapist in a movie that I'd like to go see as a personal therapist, it would be Robin Williams in Goodwill Hunting. more...

Heidegger makes the distinction between being absorbed in the way things are in the world and being aware that things are in the world. And if you do the latter, you're not so worried about the everyday trivialities of life, for example, petty concerns about secrecy or privacy. more...

The more unlived your life, the greater your death anxiety. more...

Some day soon, perhaps in forty years, there will be no one alive who has ever known me. That's when I will be truly dead - when I exist in no one's memory. I thought a lot about how someone very old is the last living individual to have known some person or cluster of people. When that person dies, the whole cluster dies,too, vanishes from the living memory. I wonder who that person will be for me. Whose death will make me truly dead? more...

Only the wounded healer can truly heal. (97) more...

He had learned long ago that, in general, the easier it was for anxious patients to reach him, the less likely they were to call. (107) more...

What? 'Borderline patients play games'? That what you said? Ernest, you'll never be a real therapist if you think like that. That's exactly what I meant earlier when I talked about the dangers of diagnosis. There are borderlines and there are borderlines. Labels do violence to people. You can't treat the label; you have to treat the person behind the label. (17) more...

A sense of life meaning ensues but cannot be deliberately pursued: life meaning is always a derivative phenomenon that materializes when we have transcended ourselves, when we have forgotten ourselves and become absorbed in someone (or something) outside ourselves more...

The ultimate goal of therapy... it's too hard a question. The words come to me like tranquility, like fulfillment, like realizing your potential. more...

I think all kinds of meanings in life transcend your self. They're linked to other generations of people around us, to our children and our family. We're passing on something of ourselves to others. I feel that's what makes our life full of meaning. more...

We're not teaching our students the importance of relationships with other people: how you work with them, what the relational pathology consists of, how you examine your own conscience, how you examine the inner world, how you examine your dreams. more...

When people don't have any curiosity about themselves, that is always a bad sign. more...

Therapists need to have a long experience in personal therapy to see what it's like to be on the other side of the couch and see what they find helpful or not helpful. more...

The creative members of an orthodoxy, any orthodoxy, ultimately outgrow their disciplines. more...

Perhaps the single most important therapeutic credo that I have is that the unexamined life is not worth living. more...

Look out the other's window. Try to see the world as your patient sees it. more...

To the extent that one is responsible for one's life, one is alone. more...

Though the physicality of death destroys us, the idea of death may save us. more...

Does a being who requires meaning find meaning in a universe that has no meaning? more...

If one is to learn to live with the dead, one must first learn to live with the living! more...

Life as a therapist is a life of service in which we daily transcend our personal wishes and turn our gaze toward the needs and growth of the other. We take pleasure not only in the growth of our patient but also in the ripple effect-the salutary influence our patients have upon those whom they touch in life. more...

You will search the world over and not find a nonsuperstitious community. As long as there is ignorance, there will be adherence to superstition. Dispelling ignorance is the only solution. That is why I teach. more...

If I'm among men who don't agree at all with my nature, I will hardly be able to accommodate myself to them without greatly changing myself. A free man who lives among the ignorant strives as far as he can to avoid their favors. A free man acts honestly, not deceptively. Only free man are genuinely useful to one another and can form true friendships. And it's absolutely permissible, by the highest right of Nature, for everyone to employ clear reason to determine how to live in a way that will allow him to flourish. more...

The act of revealing oneself fully to another and still being accepted may be the major vehicle of therapeutic help. more...

Self-awareness is a supreme gift, a treasure as precious as life. This is what makes us human. But it comes with a costly price: the wound of mortality. Our existence is forever shadowed by the knowledge that we will grow, blossom, and, inevitably, diminish and die. more...

Not to take possession of your life plan is to let your existence be an accident. more...

Look out the other's window. Try to see the world as your patient sees it. more...

Living safely is dangerous. more...

One comprehends oneself in order not to be preoccupied with oneself. more...


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