Narrowing the Gap


Narrowing the Gap

Striving for Honesty in the Therapy Room

By Irvin Yalom

March/April 2015


Charles, a personable business executive, had the right stuff behind him: a sterling education at Andover, Harvard, and Harvard Business School; a grandfather and father who were successful bankers; and a mother who was head of the board of trustees of an eminent women’s college. And the right stuff around him: a San Francisco condo with a panoramic view from Golden Gate to the Bay Bridge; a lovely, socially prominent wife; a mid-six-figure salary; and a Jaguar XKE Convertible. And all of this at the advanced age of 37.

Yet he had no right stuff inside. Choked by self-doubts, recriminations, and guilt, Charles always perspired when he saw a police car on the highway. “Free-floating guilt searching for a sin—that’s me,” he joked. Moreover, his dreams were relentlessly self-denigrating: he saw himself with large weeping wounds, cowering in a cellar or cave; he was a low-life, a lout, a criminal, a fake. But even as he demeaned himself in dreams, his quirky sense of humor shone through.

“I was waiting in a group of people who were auditioning for a role in a film,” he told me, describing a dream in one of our early sessions. “I waited my turn and then performed my lines quite well. Sure enough, the director called me back from the waiting area and complimented me. He then asked about my previous film roles, and I told him I’d never acted in a film. He slammed his hands on the table, stood up, and shouted as he walked out, ‘You’re no actor. You’re…

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2 Comments

Tuesday, January 15, 2019 4:43:06 PM | posted by Dale
Self-disclosure is something I monitor closely. I was surprised to read Yalom disclose so much of his own life and feelings. There is a lot here; drawing out the client's story and feelings without judgement, knowing how to use self-disclosure in service of the client, getting to recognize the "How am I doing?" in building a trusting relationship, tapping the issue of secrets. I have a lot to think about from this article. Thank you.

Thursday, September 3, 2015 2:44:38 AM | posted by martha wilson
The degree of presence in the therapy by the therapist is awe inspiring. I have new goal after reading this article. To check in more often with the client to see how we are doing. Thank you for this poignant and timely reminder.