Dreaming Psychotherapy into Fiction

DSC_0519Sometimes I wake up and I can’t get here, present, out of some forest I’ve never been to before and into the space where my body is. It’s as if my dreams, the ones I can never remember, even though I’m told that “we all dream” “keep a pen and paper by your bed” “write them down” have wrapped their gauzy claws around me and demanded I stay in character, just as I’m supposed to be –  there – wherever, a million miles away, another galaxy, as if I’ve been snatched to perform in someone else’s dream. That’s how I feel today.

I’ve just finished reading this fantastic book that I couldn’t put down called Love’s Executioner, Other Tales of Psychotherapy. It’s a book that had its moment of recognition quite some time ago even though, honestly, the stories of people’s lives and their problems revealed within it are timeless and amazing.

Written in 1989 by a somewhat famous Existentialist, an M.D. psychotherapist, Professor Emeritus from Stanford and writer Irvin D. Yalom.  

There’s nothing like being a voyeur into other people’s problems and other people’s therapy to learn that life truly is the stuff of fiction and truth can be at least equal to those carefully woven fictional plots.

I’ve been discovering that for myself in my own student counselling and I can see how peeling away the layers of another person, their story, their unique take on the world, their true life dramas can become quite addictive to learn about – trophy hunting revelations – maybe especially if you’re also a writer.

I find myself not just listening and trying to respond, with empathy, while trying to utter something that will lead them deeper into themselves, into insight and clarity and mostly failing, but suddenly, there’s an even more compelling layer where I’m imagining what I might do with that nugget they’ve just shared, how it could be changed and woven into some story into the future. Stop that!   


  1. Hi Anne, Yes, my bad for being out of touch. I’ve been taking courses and as part of the course on Individual Counselling we have a student client we spend six sessions with and that’s videotaped and it’s humiliating and fascinating and learning ramped up. 🙂 I have these delusions that I might apply to get a Masters in Counselling Psych that requires quite a few pre-requisites and just the other day I was in the Education building at UBC where you and I first met all those years ago in 1989 was it? I could picture us there and many others as I walked the halls. We looked so much younger (and in my case, thinner).

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