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Becoming Myself summary

Irvin D. Yalom

A Psychiatrist's Memoir

3.8 (137 ratings)
15 mins

Brief summary

Becoming Myself is a captivating memoir by Irvin D. Yalom that delves into the complexities of self-discovery and the transformative power of therapy. It offers profound insights into the human psyche and the journey towards personal fulfillment.

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    Becoming Myself
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    The son, husband, and father

    “You killed him! You killed him!” To this day, Irvin D. Yalom can hear his mother’s shrill voice as she screamed these words at him. 

    Yalom was just 14 when he woke at night to find his father, Benjamin, writhing with chest pains. The family doctor had been called, but waiting for his arrival proved as agonizing for the young Yalom as it did for the elder. Irvin’s mother, consumed with fear, redirected her distress and aimed it at her son. They’d never been close, per se, but this event marked a line in the sand. His father eventually recovered, but for the next few years, Yalom barely uttered a word to his mother. It would be a relief for everyone when Yalom left home for medical school at 22. 

    Looking back now, Yalom tears up thinking about his fraught relationship with his parents. His life and theirs were worlds apart. They had arrived at Ellis Island from Russia with no money or English, and worked 17-hour days for the remainder of their adult lives. Yalom, on the other hand, was born and raised in Washington, DC, and though his early years were far from the American Dream, they were the best his parents could offer. Unfortunately, Yalom and his parents were never to completely bridge the divide between them – one of his few harbored regrets. 

    Fortunately, however, Yalom found a constant saving grace in Marilyn, his high school sweetheart and then, until her death in 2019, his wife of over six decades. 

    Yalom describes meeting Marilyn at 15 as the moment his life turned technicolor. She became the sun around which he revolved. Both ultimately became teachers and prolific writers – as we’ll explore further in the coming sections – and also went on to have four children, and their familial dynamic couldn’t have been more different from Yalom’s. Their home was a lively haven for their kids and their kids’ friends, they enjoyed a long tradition of holidaying together, and they even collaborated on several artistic and literary projects later in life. 

    Many of us can relate to complicated and challenging family dynamics. These relationships are some of the most influential we’ll experience, and yet, it’s just as easy to get them wrong as right. 

    Yalom’s weak ties to the past are a pain point that plagues him. Perhaps it’s little wonder he’s sought to make his present ties so strong. 

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    What is Becoming Myself about?

    Becoming Myself (2017) is a rare peek behind the curtain at the personal and professional life of one of the world’s most prominent psychotherapists. Weaving intimate anecdotes with therapeutic insights, it offers a unique, strikingly candid perspective on the human condition and the transformative power of psychotherapy. 

    Becoming Myself Review

    Becoming Myself (2017) is a captivating memoir by Irvin D. Yalom that chronicles his personal journey of self-discovery and growth. Here's why this book is definitely worth reading:

    • By sharing his deeply personal experiences and life lessons, Yalom offers invaluable insights into the process of self-reflection and personal transformation.
    • The book explores the universal themes of identity, purpose, and the search for meaning, making it relatable and relevant to readers from all walks of life.
    • Through vivid storytelling and introspection, Yalom takes readers on an enlightening and thought-provoking journey, ensuring that the book is anything but boring.

    Who should read Becoming Myself?

    • Practicing psychotherapists and psychiatrists 
    • Individuals curious about a therapist’s personal and professional experience
    • Those interested in existential psychotherapy and self-discovery

    About the Author

    Irvin D. Yalom is an American psychotherapist and professor emeritus of psychiatry at Stanford University known for his significant contributions to existential psychotherapy. He has written several best-selling fiction and non-fiction books, including The Spinoza Problem, The Schopenhauer Cure, and When Nietzsche Wept

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    Becoming Myself FAQs 

    What is the main message of Becoming Myself?

    The main message of Becoming Myself is about embracing personal growth and finding fulfillment in life.

    How long does it take to read Becoming Myself?

    The reading time for Becoming Myself varies depending on the reader, but it typically takes hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Becoming Myself a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Becoming Myself is worth reading as it provides valuable insights into personal development and the journey towards self-discovery.

    Who is the author of Becoming Myself?

    The author of Becoming Myself is Irvin D. Yalom.

    What to read after Becoming Myself?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Becoming Myself, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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    • The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine N. Aron
    • The Simple Path to Wealth by J L Collins
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