IRVIN D. YALOM QUOTES

American existential psychiatrist (1931- )

Certainly as I've grown older, I've been thinking a lot more about the end of my life, which may not be too far away. My father and his brothers all died relatively young because of heart conditions. So I think, Well, life is finite. I don't have unlimited years left, and I want to know what is more central to me and my life right now. Above all, I don't want to do anything that feels repetitious.... I don't want to belong to any more committees or teach anymore, because the field is becoming drugs, pharmacotherapy. The next generation of therapists isn't going to be trained for psychotherapy because the insurance companies aren't going to be paying for it any longer. What feels most central for me is being creative and looking at the way in which I have creative talents and gifts that I haven't used. I basically see myself as a storyteller engaged in ideas that have to do with an existential, deeper approach to life. I feel very uncomfortable with the idea of these gifts being unused.

IRVIN D. YALOM, interview, Salon Magazine

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

IRVIN D. YALOM, When Nietzsche Wept

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Tags: life


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

IRVIN D. YALOM, When Nietzsche Wept

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Tags: love


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

IRVIN D. YALOM, The Schopenhauer Cure

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Tags: Friedrich Nietzsche


Every person must choose how much truth he can stand.

IRVIN D. YALOM, When Nietzsche Wept

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Tags: truth


Where I am, death is not; where death is, I am not.

IRVIN D. YALOM, Staring at the Sun

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Tags: death


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.

IRVIN D. YALOM, interview, Wise Counsel

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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.

IRVIN D. YALOM, interview, Wise Counsel

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Tags: Robin Williams


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.

IRVIN D. YALOM, I'm Calling the Police

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

IRVIN D. YALOM, The Schopenhauer Cure

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

IRVIN D. YALOM, When Nietzsche Wept

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Tags: despair


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.

IRVIN D. YALOM, Staring at the Sun

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Tags: dreams


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.

IRVIN D. YALOM, Existential Psychotherapy

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Tags: power


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.

IRVIN D. YALOM, "Seven Questions for Irvin Yalom", Psychology Today, Mar. 25, 2009

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Only the wounded healer can truly heal.

IRVIN D. YALOM, Lying on the Couch

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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.

IRVIN D. YALOM, Love's Executioner and Other Tales of Psychotherapy

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Tags: illusion


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.

IRVIN D. YALOM, Staring at the Sun: Overcoming the Terror of Death

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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.

IRVIN D. YALOM, When Nietzsche Wept

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Tags: children


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

IRVIN D. YALOM, When Nietzsche Wept

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Tags: marriage


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.

IRVIN D. YALOM, Love's Executioner and Other Tales of Psychotherapy

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