Archive for March 12th, 2015

Yalom’s Cure: Stanford’s famous psychotherapist onscreen – and it’s fun!

Thursday, March 12th, 2015
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With Vienna’s mayor Michael Häupl in 2009 – and lots and lots of his books

André Malraux once asked a parish priest who had listened to confessions for half a century what he had learned about mankind. On the first page of his 1968 Anti-Memoirs, the French writer recorded the priest’s reply: “First of all people are much more unhappy than one thinks…and then the fundamental fact is that there is no such thing as a grown up person.”

Not a bad starting point for this week’s Stanford premiere of Yalom’s Cure, an hour-long film about Irvin Yalom, one of the world’s most celebrated existential psychotherapists. Irv is now a well-known author as well, leveraging psychology into literature with Love’s Executioner and Other Tales of Psychotherapy, When Nietzsche Wept, The Schopenhauer Cure, The Spinoza Problem, and others. (We wrote about the Viennese “Eine Stadt. Ein Buch” celebration of his book here and here – 100,000 copies of When Nietzsche Wept were distributed throughout Vienna.)

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The Yaloms enjoying Vienna’s Freud Museum.

Stanford’s Irv was obviously guest of honor for the screening, along with his wife Marilyn Yalom, one of the founders of the Clayman Institute for Gender Research and author of the acclaimed How the French Invented Love – which, I’m told, is as big a hit in France as it has been on this side of the Atlantic. (We wrote about it here and here and here.) The screening was also attended by a number of Stanford luminaries we’ve written about – among them Gerhard and Regina Casper, John and Mary Felstiner, Myra Strober, Marguerite Frank, and also Georgia May, widow of the eminent existential psychologist Rollo May.

Writer/director Sabine Gisiger and her film crew filmed hundreds of hours of the Yaloms and their family – the result? “This movie is making me squirm. I feel very exposed,” the good doctor said. But I came to the event cold, with no expectations, and was both exhilarated and moved by the film, which premiered in Zurich and already has been featured in San Francisco and Mill Valley film festivals. For locals, it features an awful lot of Stanford and Palo Alto, and brought back memories of my previous visits to their idyllic Palo Alto home… well, I didn’t need much in the way of memory… I had visited a few days ago.

The doctor turns 84 this June, and said that facing death has been a “long odyssey… I’m much less terrorized by it.” He explained part of his attitude towards psychotherapy with Thomas Hardy‘s words: “If way to the better there be, it exacts a full look at the worst.”

Don’t be puzzled by the German. The trailer is in English. Want the whole movie? Try here.