Love’s Executioner and Other Tales of Psychotherapy, by Irvin Yalom

Started reading this book of case studies by a psychotherapist whose position is that neurotic behaviors are caused by existential angst: they’re an attempt to turn away from the reality of death and life’s meaninglessness. In this therapist’s understanding, the purpose of the therapeutic relationship is to get his clients to break the cycle of avoidance and confront those fears.

I’ve never really thought much about therapy and psychology. Those seem, to me, like very early-twentieth century preoccupations. There was definitely a time when writers were very excited by psychology and by the prospect of tracing current behavior back to its initial roots. But I think that moment is passed. The problem with psychology is that it all happens inside the head. All of these case studies (while they are fairly exciting) are, at their core, about people sitting in a padded chair in a therapist’s office. They don’t need to actually go out and do anything. All they need is to understand themselves. And, from a novelist’s point of view, that’s a bit drab.