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Archive for the ‘Thoughts and Musings’ Category

Picture 31A life-long dream has at last come true.  I’ve been profiled…in French!  Oui!  Little ol’ moi has made it into the pages of French Canada’s most prestigieux publication for lawyers, Droit-inc!

Yes, I know.  I am sooooo fabuleux.

Merci mille fois – et bisoux – to the vraiment formidable Marie Pâris of Droit-inc for adding immense glamour to my existence.  I feel so chic!

The interview was un peu scandaleuse…but you’ll have to pull out your French dictionaires to read it!

(or, of course, you could just use the Google Chrome browser and hit the “translate” button, but that’s cheating, now isn’t it?)

Click here to read the full article.

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Please check out The People’s Therapist’s legendary best-seller about the sad state of the legal profession: Way Worse Than Being a Dentist: The Lawyer’s Quest for Meaning

 

 

And now there’s a new Sequel: Still Way Worse Than Being a Dentist: (The Sequel)

 

My first book is an unusual (and useful) introduction to the concepts underlying psychotherapy:Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy

 

 

 

 

I’ve also written a comic novel about a psychotherapist who falls

in love with a blue alien from outer space. I guarantee pure reading pleasure: Bad Therapist: A Romance

Read Full Post »

24DB-PEARSON-master675The People’s Therapist just got profiled in The Financial Times (with a couple other therapists.)

To read the full article, click here.  (Yes, I know, it’s behind a pay wall…but go ahead and subscribe, it’s worth it to read The Financial Times!)  The headline of the piece is “Care from lawyers turned therapists”  and the sub-headline is “Behind a polished exterior can be anxiety, say those who listen to the angst of legal professionals.”

Many thanks to the lovely Emma Jacobs, and Annabel Cook, in London, and the estimable Pascal Perich, in New York City, who took that smashing photo of me with my senior colleague, Simon Dachshund.

Alas, I’ve had to take down my delightful screenshot of the article…the charming Barbara Volkar of the FT’s syndication sales department emailed me, and apparently it violates copyright to reproduce it.  Posting a legally sanctioned reproduction of the article would cost literally thousands of dollars.  And that’s why this post appears a bit truncated.

Sigh…damned lawyers.

Oh poop – here’s a teeny tiny screenshot, just so you can see what it looks like.  It’s hardly even legible.  Let ’em sue me!  They’ll have to tear this moment of glory (a profile in the FT!) from my cold, dead online fingers.

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…and here’s what it looked like in print (again, really teeny, to fend off the copyright police…)

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==========

Please check out The People’s Therapist’s legendary best-seller about the sad state of the legal profession: Way Worse Than Being a Dentist: The Lawyer’s Quest for Meaning

 

 

And now there’s a new Sequel: Still Way Worse Than Being a Dentist: (The Sequel)

 

My first book is an unusual (and useful) introduction to the concepts underlying psychotherapy:Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy

 

 

 

 

I’ve also written a comic novel about a psychotherapist who falls

in love with a blue alien from outer space. I guarantee pure reading pleasure: Bad Therapist: A Romance

Read Full Post »

enhanced-buzz-13963-1374365048-27This one really happened – and it happened to yours truly (as opposed to the usual disguised anecdote loosely based on a factually altered tale from one or more carefully anonymized clients.)

One night, (or morning, or sometime between night and morning, since we were working an all-nighter) shortly after my arrival at Sullivan & Cromwell, a fairly senior partner at the firm took a moment to lean back in his desk chair and impart the following to little junior associate moi:

“You hang on by your fingertips, kid.” He raised his hands and bent his fingers, as if to demonstrate. “Till it starts to seem normal. Just dangle there and wonder how long you can last – or what happens if you let go.”

Apparently that was all he had to relate on the topic, as he snapped back to focus on reviewing a purchase agreement. I recall wondering if he, after (presumably) a zillion sleepless nights just like this one, felt as bleary-eyed, sweaty and slightly sick to his stomach as I did. I’ll never know the answer to that question. Maybe partners don’t need sleep – maybe that’s their secret.

I also recall wondering if this guy was exaggerating with that whole “dangling by your fingers” routine to impress me – or if he was a little bonkers. In retrospect I think he simply meant it.

Working in biglaw is a straight-forward exercise: You’re paid a lot of money to sit at a desk and work long hours. Someone provides the work, and you do it. That typically means arriving at around 10 am, working on something complicated, with a short break (maybe) for lunch, and then (maybe) for dinner, until about 10 or 11 pm, every day. You also sometimes work all night and sometimes weekends and sometimes all night on weekends.

To review: You arrive in the morning, you sit at a desk, you work until late night. Then you do it again the next day.

An additional factor is that the work is hard. Not rocket science hard, but not stuffing cotton into little bottles either. Initially, there’s a lot of “running changes,” “creating a chart,” “putting it into a table,” “checking cites,” and that sort of thing. Even that stuff can freak you out when nothing you give them is ever what they want and they keep handing you more. “Firm culture” can take getting used to, as well. A junior associate client of mine closed her office door one night, as was her habit, so she could break down and have a good cry, only to realize (through the paper thin walls) that someone else was also weeping, in the office next door. There’s nothing like feeling part of a team.

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IMG_7201If, like everyone else, you’re an obsessive fan of the legendary underground humor magazine, Hausfrau, then you were perhaps extra-psyched this week when the latest issue, #9, was released and guess who was on the cover, in the guise of my alter ego, psychoanalyst extraordinaire “Franz Woyzeck,” accompanied by a celebrity known only by a single name, the notorious “Pico” (a.k.a. Anthony Gallegos.)

I am honored beyond words.

To grab an issue while it’s hot, and read the world’s most famous and amusing serialized photo saga, “The Pharmacologists,” (and lots of other good stuff, including “Force by Forcewest,” a comic book mashup of Hitchcock’s cinematic masterpiece and Star Wars (trust me on this one, it’s insanely amusing)) please visit www.hausfraumag.com.

Many thanks to reclusive cult leader cum “founder, editor” Stephen Kosloff, and his team of funny folks for writing me into the madness that is Hausfrau.
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Please check out The People’s Therapist’s legendary best-seller about the sad state of the legal profession: Way Worse Than Being a Dentist: The Lawyer’s Quest for Meaning

 

 

And now there’s a new Sequel: Still Way Worse Than Being a Dentist: (The Sequel)

 

My first book is an unusual (and useful) introduction to the concepts underlying psychotherapy:Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy

 

 

 

 

I’ve also written a comic novel about a psychotherapist who falls

in love with a blue alien from outer space. I guarantee pure reading pleasure: Bad Therapist: A Romance

Read Full Post »

Coming Out

6a00d83451aec269e201b8d1519196970cI was bracing myself for a session with this client. She was in a tough spot, and my job wasn’t easy – letting her vent, offering some support and, in essence, trying to counteract the toxic atmosphere of her big-city law firm.

It was bad. She was a sixth year senior litigation associate, and they were preparing to go to trial in a few months. The partner had announced “no more shore leave,” his clever way of making it known there were to be no more days off, not even evenings or weekends, nothing, not one day. My client was expected to work from morning to evening every day, seven days per week, until the trial, which might not happen (given the usual unpredictable delays) for several weeks or months. She’d already been working her “normal” schedule of twelve hour days, six-days per week, for a year or more. This was that final step on a slippery slope from horrific to unendurable. She’d begun referring to her firm during our sessions as “the veal pen.”

Today’s session (in part since she was trapped at her office) was via Skype. When the computer started ringing, I took a deep breath, and prepared for the worst.

To my surprise, she was smiling.

“Guess what!?!?”

Anything short of winning Powerball seemed inadequate.

“I quit!! Oh my God – I can’t believe it. I’m so happy!”

It turned out she was still working at the firm – she’d given them six weeks’ notice – and it was only a leave of absence, since they’d talked her out of actually quitting. In fact, she’d probably just take three or four months off, then return as a part-timer (lawyer-speak for a forty-hour week.)

But I couldn’t help being struck by the sheer joy on her face, the flip-the-switch effect of shifting in a moment from abject despair to soaring ecstasy. It felt like a dam had at long last burst, and she was free at last – free to be herself, to say something she’d been sitting on for a long time, that she wanted out, that this wasn’t her, that this wasn’t what she wanted for herself.

A surprising aspect of this interaction was the degree to which my client’s response reminded me of similar reactions I’d seen with gay clients coming out of the closet. It seemed unexpected, but there it was. I used to work with a lot of gay folks (I still see a fair number) and I’ve dealt with quite a few coming-out experiences over the years and, well, one of these things reminded me of the other.

On its face, the comparison seems absurd. What does quitting a law firm have in common with coming out as a gay person? But the deeper I looked, the more the analogy made sense, and when I’ve mentioned it to other people, especially lawyer clients unhappy in their careers, they’ve agreed it rings truer than you might think.

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SONY DSCI’m always hearing that I’m a downer, that all I ever write about is the negative side of law. Nothing could be further from the truth. If The People’s Therapist has one precept he lives by, it’s that old adage (okay, so maybe it’s a tenet) from management theory: Don’t bring me a problem unless you’re also bringing me a solution. It’s hardly my issue that all people ever seem to bring me (at least where law’s concerned) is problems. I’m drowning in their problems, and they must have the wrong guy, because I’m a constitutionally upbeat, constructive person – all about solutions, and upbeat ones, at that. Upbeat, constructive solutions are my forte. But these law people…what can I say? They just keep coming with the problems.

This dynamic plays out a lot when I do interviews. As an international celebrity, trend-setter and raconteur on all-things legal, I’m flooded – or, I should say my people (agents, managers, major domos, land stewards, footmen, grand viziers, and so forth) are flooded – with requests for interviews, podcasts, panels, speeches, award ceremonies, ribbon-cuttings, product endorsements, mall openings, ship launchings, red carpet appearances and the like. Of course, I always say yes, since I’m an upbeat, constructive guy. But in the course of these lavish, star-studded galas, my merriment is again and again interrupted by pesky, repetitive questions about anxiety and lawyers, depression and lawyers, suicide and lawyers, yadda yadda yadda. For whatever reason, these appear to be the favorite topics of whoever wants to chat about law in these situations, and so I find myself reluctantly fielding inquiry after inquiry regarding how common these phenomena are, why they occur and (just to drive home how ridiculous this all gets) if there’s something about law or law firms that might somehow be responsible for the sky-high rates of anxiety, depression and suicide that apparently seem to occur among lawyers.

I’m an upbeat, constructive, cosmopolitan kind of a guy, more flaneur than talking head, and this is downer, negative stuff coming at me when I’d rather opine about matters fun and hip. But I’m also a celebrity and a spokesmodel, with the attendant obligations (as well as a plain old, down-homey, profoundly decent and modest regular guy), and so I do the best I can to satisfy the peculiar one-track tunnel vision of certain persons out there with regard to this thing we all love that we call law.

At some point in these events, there inevitably arrives a juncture at which I’m expected to answer one key question: How can lawyers manage anxiety and depression (and thus stop committing suicide), because, you know…it’s getting to be a drag.

I get that, and as an upbeat and constructive person, I welcome this juncture when it arrives, because we need to fix this! We need answers here. I’m as positive and rah-rah and gung-ho about law as anyone – in fact, I’m Mr. Gung-ho, and I eat and breathe a love for law in everything I do, and I’m not too proud to admit that. And I totally agree that it is time to stop whining and griping and start finding solutions!

There’s just one little problem, though, and it’s a doozie…

(more…)

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if-you-think-those-christmas-cards-are-weirdWe all know the holidays can be tough – all that socializing amid eggnog and tinsel and mistletoe can generate stress and result in those awkward holiday party moments…which can get kind of…awkward.

The remedy? Why, advice from The People’s Therapist, of course!

57BVOqoPYou are sooooo in luck this holiday season, because the ever-delightful Gina Vivinetto, of Today.com, just interviewed me (as well as a couple other highly qualified expert advice-giver types) and, in her inimitable fashion, extracted every delicious holiday morsel of holiday party wisdom we could summon from the deepest recesses of what remains of our holiday party addled minds.

6355452726205049411482629133_awkward-christmas-photos-2The tantalizing results are now published and available for your eager holiday partying perusal.  The article, entitled:
Ho! Ho! Ho! 9 Tips to Help you Enjoy Holiday Parties this Season is certain to become an annual holiday tradition for your family as well as mine.

You’d better read each and every word, folks, and take them to heart, too.  It could be a lifesaver.  Remember, better safely advised by holiday party experts (whatever they’re condition) than…well, risking awkwardness.

 

==========

Please check out The People’s Therapist’s legendary best-seller about the sad state of the legal profession: Way Worse Than Being a Dentist: The Lawyer’s Quest for Meaning

 

 

And now there’s a new Sequel: Still Way Worse Than Being a Dentist: (The Sequel)

 

My first book is an unusual (and useful) introduction to the concepts underlying psychotherapy:Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy

 

 

 

 

I’ve also written a comic novel about a psychotherapist who falls

in love with a blue alien from outer space. I guarantee pure reading pleasure: Bad Therapist: A Romance

Read Full Post »

mikeMike DeBlis is an exhilarating interviewer. After chatting away merrily for nearly an hour, delving down into the issues in a refreshingly honest and unvarnished manner, he surprised me by nonchalantly announcing:  “Will, this is great.”  I, of course, enthusiastically agreed.  Then he added, even more nonchalantly, “So, shall we begin recording?” I couldn’t think of anything else to say, but “sure.”  And so we did.

logoI realized that’s the secret to how Mike gets such open, authentic, natural sounding podcasts for his series – he uses that first hour as the warm-up, to actually sit down and talk and talk and get to know his guests.

The good news is it really works.  We kept going, and going, and going, and I think – no exaggeration – we probably talked for about three hours, and covered a lot of meaningful ground in what was probably the most enjoyable and heartfelt interview I’ve ever participated in.

Happily, Mike, and Riche (Mike’s Social Media Director, who helps Mike produce the Emotion in the Courtroom podcast series) edited down the tapes to a mere hour of all the best bits…and here’s the result.  I hope you’ll enjoy listening in as much as we enjoyed spending those hours together getting acquainted, sharing ideas and digging into the issues surrounding depression, anxiety and the practice of law today.
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Please check out The People’s Therapist’s legendary best-seller about the sad state of the legal profession: Way Worse Than Being a Dentist: The Lawyer’s Quest for Meaning

 

 

And now there’s a new Sequel: Still Way Worse Than Being a Dentist: (The Sequel)

 

My first book is an unusual (and useful) introduction to the concepts underlying psychotherapy:Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy

 

 

 

 

I’ve also written a comic novel about a psychotherapist who falls

in love with a blue alien from outer space. I guarantee pure reading pleasure: Bad Therapist: A Romance

Read Full Post »

Screen Shot 2015-11-18 at 2.37.45 PMThere’s no escaping CLE – so why not make it fun, with The People’s Therapist!  I’ve just finished helping to create an hour-long CLE On-Demand course concerning law and mental health for the LexisNexis University CLE On-Demand program.  The title of the course is “Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy: Mental Health Awareness in the Legal Profession.”

1e28494I’m interviewed during the program by another attorney with a varied and interesting career, Julie Mallin, and the entire program was produced and edited by Lisa Carper, a legal editor at LexisNexis.113aed7  I was under strict orders not to wear a suit and tie – just a sweater, to make me look like a therapist (or maybe a therapist/lawyer) instead of just a lawyer.  We talked about anxiety and depression and other concerns affecting lawyers, as well as some issues involving legal ethics.

Thanks, Julie and Lisa, for putting this together!

To give you an idea what the course is like, here’s a “highlights reel” featuring several segments:

 

…and here’s a brief “biography” segment they put together with information about me:

 

To sign up to take the course (and receive your CLE credit!), and for more information on the entire LexisNexis University CLE program (which offers hundreds of CLE On-Demand courses), please click here.

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==========

Please check out The People’s Therapist’s legendary best-seller about the sad state of the legal profession: Way Worse Than Being a Dentist: The Lawyer’s Quest for Meaning

 

 

And now there’s a new Sequel: Still Way Worse Than Being a Dentist: (The Sequel)

 

My first book is an unusual (and useful) introduction to the concepts underlying psychotherapy:Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy

 

 

 

 

I’ve also written a comic novel about a psychotherapist who falls

in love with a blue alien from outer space. I guarantee pure reading pleasure: Bad Therapist: A Romance

Read Full Post »

minimeA client recommended a book, and I read it, only to be bowled over by the parallels between the author’s experiences and my own. It’s a novel, “The House of God” by Sam Shem, and my client alerted me to it, he said, because “the author reminded me of you.” I’m flattered by the comparison, and I have to admit, the parallels between our work, and our lives, are striking. I feel like I’ve stumbled onto – well, maybe a role model, maybe a hero, maybe a friend, if we ever manage to meet up.

“Shem” is the pen name of Stephen Bergman, a psychiatrist who wrote his novel about becoming a doctor – it recounts experiences drawn from his residency at Boston’s Mount Sinai Hospital (which is where Jewish kids from Harvard Med went in those days.) Bergman used a pseudonym because his book was controversial and still stirs controversy today in its honest depictions of sex and use of humor to expose the hypocrisy surrounding the practice of medicine and medical education. I employed a lot of the same tricks in my own book, turning my gaze on the practice of law and legal education.

Okay – let’s list a few of the striking parallels, because, as I said, they’re striking.HouseGod

Bergman didn’t want to go to medical school – he went to avoid the draft, and to please his father, a dentist who, as a Jew, couldn’t get into medical school himself, due to anti-semitism. Bergman wanted to be a writer, but thought medicine would earn him a better living.

I didn’t want to go to law school. I did it to satisfy my mother and in an attempt to earn money. I wanted to be a writer. Oh, and my family’s Jewish, too – and my father was a psychiatrist.

Bergman went to Harvard, a first-tier medical school, then to a top internship.

I went to NYU Law, a first-tier law school, then to train at a top law firm, Sullivan & Cromwell.

Bergman began practicing medicine at Mount Sinai, and I began practicing law at Sullivan & Cromwell. That’s when we experienced what we both refer to as the worst years of our life.
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TRANSATLANTIC PHONE SERVICE ANNIVERSARYYou’ll be delighted to hear that my Bloomsday-honoring webinar with Martin Underwood of Life Productions came off without a hitch.

Less successful, alas, was the process of recording a trans-Atlantic webinar held across “the pond” (as we trans-Atlantic types refer to “the puddle” that separates our nations) via the new-fangled inter webs.

The first webinar was, I’m certain, much-savored by the dozens of participants on the line while it was taking place…but the recording turned out rather…”dodgy” (as Martin might say.)

So we did it again. And this time the video came out…uh…”yucky” (as I might say.)bell-victoria

But rest assured, webinar fans – all is well!  We (meaning Martin’s technical folks) managed to pair the audio from the re-do of the webinar with the slides from the original webinar and the final, hybrid outcome is a very watchable, lively and I think useful hour or so of honest talk about career change for lawyers.

And so, without further ado…Here it is:

Many thanks to Martin, and Life Productions, and his technical wiz, Luka (who saved the day!) and to all the lawyers and legal professional folks who participated in the original incarnation of the webinar (we had a big, diverse crowd tune in, which was gratifying.)

If you’re interested in continuing to explore the stuff we’re talking about in the webinar, you might check out Life Production’s online course.  They have a lot of interesting ideas around how to find work that’s right for you, whether in law or in another field.

The Life Productions folks also did a great job of organizing everything – all that slide-producing and agenda-conceiving and scheduling and planning and so forth that I’m not especially “keen” on handling myself (I mostly like the talking and receiving accolades part.)

And especial thanks – or, uh, “cheers” – to all our UK participants tuning in from Fair Albion. I look forward to continuing our “special relationship.”

So stay calm and carry on – and find that job that really makes you happy!

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My latest book is a comic novel about a psychotherapist who falls in love with a blue alien from outer space. I guarantee pure reading pleasure: Bad Therapist: A Romance

Please also check out The People’s Therapist’s legendary best-seller about the sad state of the legal profession: Way Worse Than Being a Dentist: The Lawyer’s Quest for Meaning

My first book is an unusual (and useful) introduction to the concepts underlying psychotherapy: Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy

Read Full Post »

gaslight_3 copyThe verb “to gaslight” comes from a 1938 stage play (which was then made into two movies, one starring Ingrid Bergman.) The plot is super-creepy, especially for 1938. In it, an evil husband tricks his young wife into believing she’s losing her mind by staging bizarre occurrences in their house, then pretending only she’s seeing and hearing them (yes, he’s after her money.) His favorite trick is dimming the gas lights in her room before clomping around upstairs or making strange sounds emanate from the walls. Soon she’s freaking out whenever the lights dim, expecting another bad trip. After each freak-out, once she’s good and melted down, he rushes to her aid, feigning concern.

It seems like a lifetime before she catches on – but she does. Things click as she (more or less) walks in on him rattling chains in the attic.

Law firms gaslight young lawyers – they create a world where nothing makes sense, then studiously pretend it does. You should catch on, too. You’re probably not the one who’s crazy.

Here’s how it works:

When you first get to the firm, it feels like summering all over again. Work is slow, and when assignments come, they’re low-priority research for marketing or pro bono. Here and there, you get a week of mindless doc review, which actually comes as a relief, since it’s easy and counts as billable hours. Mostly, you’re sitting at your desk, reading blogs. Your officemate is present half the time, not present half the time, but he doesn’t seem eager to explain what he’s up to any of the time, so you follow his lead and attempt to look serious and busy and involved in something, whatever that might be. You begin to wonder if there’s something wrong, but since you haven’t had a chance to do anything yet, it seems unlikely it’s something you’ve done. You build up the resolve to ask around and check if everyone else is dead, too – but they look busy enough, sitting at their desks, determinedly staring at their computers, so you chicken out. Just calm down, do what they’re doing – pretend there’s work. A week later, you pass the bar. You still haven’t really done anything, but it’s a step forward, right?

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james-joyceAre your Bloomsday plans still not nailed down?

Are you (like Molly Bloom), just a girl (or boy) who can’t say no?

Then say yes.  Say yes.  You will Yes.  Say yes you say yes you will Yes.

Say Yes to a free webinar I’m doing with the lovely and rather fetching (photo below) Martin Underwood, of Life Productions.  He’s English and a handsome devil and I said yes, yes I will Yes…upon the condition that we keep things fast-paced, scintillating and titillating – a stream of consciousness, whisking past like a day in Dublin, or (say) getting kissed under the Moorish wall.  And he said…Yes (my mountain flower) Yes.  1432209740745

So, it’s happening the free webinar, on – Tuesday, June 16th, 2015 at 7pm GMT / 2pm ET / 11am PT – Bloomsday, for you Joyceans out there.  And it shall be ravishing, this free webinar of ours.

Here are the deets.  It’s entirely free – like the best of modernist prose – exuberant, unbridled, decidedly salacious.  This is not something you want to miss.

meyerhofer picAnd it’s free.  And Martin is handsome – and interesting – and English.  And he’s a lawyer – a barrister, in fact (isn’t that adorable?!)   And he’s titled this FREE webinar (did I mention that it’s free?) “More Than Law – Find Better Work, In or Out of the Law.”

Which is hard to argue with.Davidson-Ireland-Gay-Marriage-1200

I’ll be there.

So say yes yes say yes you will Yes.

Sign up here.

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My new book is a comic novel about a psychotherapist who falls in love with a blue alien from outer space. I guarantee pure reading pleasure: Bad Therapist: A Romance

Please also check out The People’s Therapist’s legendary best-seller about the sad state of the legal profession: Way Worse Than Being a Dentist: The Lawyer’s Quest for Meaning

My first book is an unusual (and useful) introduction to the concepts underlying psychotherapy: Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy

Read Full Post »

1979290_10100404104782581_1932280347_o-300x200I’m thrilled and excited and flattered and deeply pleased to be participating as a panelist at the Penn Apalsa Conference on Saturday January 31, 2015. The theme is “Crescendo:  Amplifying the Asian-American Voice”.

As a lawyer, a native Philadelphian and the spouse of a Chinese-American, I expect The People’s Therapist will fit right in with this crowd.

Special thanks to Sherry Shen, Grace Kim, Anthony Gin, Katherine Chu and the University of Pennsylvania Law School for helping put the conference together.

Here’s a link for more information.  I look forward to a terrific event and hope to see you there!
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My new book is a comic novel about a psychotherapist who falls in love with a blue alien from outer space. I guarantee pure reading pleasure: Bad Therapist: A Romance

Please also check out The People’s Therapist’s legendary best-seller about the sad state of the legal profession: Way Worse Than Being a Dentist: The Lawyer’s Quest for Meaning

My first book is an unusual (and useful) introduction to the concepts underlying psychotherapy: Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy

(In addition to Amazon.com, my books are also available on bn.com and the Apple iBookstore.)

Read Full Post »

“He lets me down every time.  Why did I think this time would be different?  Was it because I needed him so much?”

We sat in silence, in my office, while I gave my client the space she needed to have her tears.  She had just crossed the country to Oregon to visit a father she barely knew.  The visit was intended to give their relationship another chance, but sure enough he was worse than ever – drunk and abusive.  His first comment when she stepped off the plane was about her weight.  She was crushed.

I was reminded of another client I’d seen the week before, preparing to come out as gay to his Venezuelan mother.

“I can’t tell her.  It’s killing me to live this lie, but she’s all I have – my only family.  If she disowns me, I’ll be alone.”

He, too, shed tears.

These clients are two examples of people navigating parental separation.

You will go through this, too, like everyone else.  It is inevitable.

You might be close to your parents.  They might be wonderfully supportive, and good friends.  You may love them deeply.  But love and anger go together – two sides of the same coin.  If you love people intensely, you must also have your anger towards them.  A child cannot own his anger at his parents – he requires their care to survive, so if there is any disruption in that care, he blames himself for failing to please his care providers.  In the child’s mind, it must be his fault that the parents are failing to provide the care he needs.  Above all else, he knows he cannot survive without his parents’ care, so he must please them, and that means he cannot have anger towards them.  As an adult, you can own your anger at your parents – and so you must, just as you must begin to provide care for yourself.

As an adult, you digest the reality that parents are people, no different from yourself – not the omnipotent gods of your childhood.  Your parents will fail you.  They will disappoint you – even the very most well-intentioned parents.  All parents disappoint their children, because parenting is an impossible job.
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My new book is a comic novel about a psychotherapist who falls in love with a blue alien from outer space. I guarantee pure reading pleasure: Bad Therapist: A Romance.

Please also check out The People’s Therapist’s legendary best-seller about the sad state of the legal profession: Way Worse Than Being a Dentist: The Lawyer’s Quest for Meaning

My first book is an unusual (and useful) introduction to the concepts underlying psychotherapy: Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy

(In addition to Amazon.com, my books are also available on bn.com and the Apple iBookstore.)

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It is remarkable how often I listen to clients worrying themselves sick over people who don’t even seem to like them.

The other day a woman complained she didn’t know how to handle a guy who’d treated her like something under his shoe.  He didn’t call, didn’t pay attention to her life or any of the issues she was facing at work or with her family.  He pretty much just talked, and cared, about himself.

But she couldn’t seem to get over him.

He called again, wanted to get together.

“Should I see him?”  She asked me.

The answer was obvious.  Every time she’d given in – and it had happened plenty – the same pattern played out.  He was considerate and nice for a week or two, then went back to the same old routine of ignoring her needs and focusing entirely on himself.

I told her she needed greater wisdom than I could summon.  She needed to listen to Barry Manilow.

You probably have some sort of opinion regarding the creative output of Barry Manilow – which is to say you probably either love his music or you hate it.

If you love it – really, really love it – then you’re a “fanilow,” a Barry Manilow super-fan.

A friend of mine visited Las Vegas last year with his two elderly aunts, and – mostly to humor them – went to see Barry Manilow play at one of the big resort hotels.  He posted his response up on Facebook:  “I’m a fanilow!”

He was wowed – like plenty of people who actually go to see this hard-working, talented performer who gives everything he’s got on stage.

Barry loves his fanilows.  He thanks them, he signs their programs, he tells them again and again that he owes them everything, that they’re the reason he can keep on performing and doing what he loves.  They love him – and he loves them right back.

On the other hand, I read an interview a few years back where the reporter got a bit snarky with Barry, hinting that his music was widely dismissed as camp, mere sugary trash.  I don’t remember Barry’s precise words, but he said something like this:  “I take my work very seriously, and if you aren’t going to treat it with respect, I’ll end this interview right now.”

He had a point, and he made it.  Barry Manilow does what he loves, and there are many people who celebrate him for it. He doesn’t need the haters.

You can learn from Barry Manilow.

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conferenceLike most of you, I whiled away last Friday in New York City at the ultra-posh Yale Club, in attendance at an Above The Law-sponsored conference bearing the charming sobriquet:  “Attorney@blog”.

If you failed to make an appearance, rest assured all was precisely as one would expect – celebrities galore, lavish swag, caviar in heaps, champagne flowing in torrents – all capped by innumerable late-night parties in painfully-hip underground destinations, guarded with zeal by the voluptuous ATL crew: Elie “The Beast” Mystal, Staci “Bootylicious” Zaretsky and the boss-man, David “Dr. Lovin'” Lat.

It was, in a word, legendary.  I was in my element.

So.  Here’s a music video of what we now laughing refer to as “the event,” although it was, in truth, more along the lines of a downtown “happening”  à la Andy Warhol:

Thank you, wireLawyer, for recording history in the making. I’m pleased to report the camera caught my good side.

A special shout-out to my co-panelists, the simply-too-divine Vivia Chen and ever-hypnotic Jesse Kornberg.

See you next year.

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My new book is a comic novel about a psychotherapist who falls in love with a blue alien from outer space.  I guarantee pure reading pleasure:  Bad Therapist: A Romance

Please also check out The People’s Therapist’s legendary best-seller about the sad state of the legal profession:  Way Worse Than Being a Dentist: The Lawyer’s Quest for Meaning

My first book is an unusual (and useful) introduction to the concepts underlying psychotherapy:  Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy

(In addition to Amazon.com, my books are also available on bn.com and the Apple iBookstore.)

Read Full Post »

book review coverMy new novel, Bad Therapist: A Romance, has been reviewed in the Huffington Post.

Here’s the link to the review.

The reviewer happens to be another psychotherapist, Christopher Murray, LCSW-R.  headshot

Thanks for the kind words, Mr. Murray!

To purchase the book, click here Bad Therapist: A Romance.  It is available as an ebook or paperback wherever fine reading products are sold.

And, of course, as with all literary goods hawked here at The People’s Therapist…we guarantee pure reading pleasure.

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It seems oddly fitting that the words “caregiving” and “caretaking” mean precisely the same thing.  Perhaps that linguistic oddity reflects the salient characteristic of care itself:  a tension between our desire to receive it and our countervailing feeling of obligation to provide it.  Human relations, generally, can be summarized as an on-going battle between those who provide care and those on the receiving end.

As a human child, you started out your life as the ultimate care-collection machine.  Children are designed to make you want to provide them with care – and you’re designed, as an adult, to feel a profound impulse to provide children with care, especially your own children.  It’s no coincidence that anything you identify as “cute” – i.e., feel an impulse to care for – will have child-like features, such as large eyes in proportion to its face and a large head in proportion to its body.   These are all evolutionary triggers designed to make us feel like providing care.

The human instinct to care for youngsters transfers over to other young animals as well, and explains, at least in part, your relationship with “man’s best friend.”  Everyone loves puppies – baby dogs.  But with canines, the phenomenon extends further than that.  Adult dogs retain many juvenile features – a phenomenon called “neoteny” – because by continuing to appear puppy-like up to and through adulthood, they can convince humans to keep wanting to offer them care.  Dogs literally evolved to look young and cute just so you would care for them – and it’s worked!  Unlike most species, the dog’s trick to evolutionary success wasn’t to display aggression, like a wolf.  As evidenced by the wolf’s current struggle to survive in a human-dominated habitat, ferocity only gets you so far.  For the dog, docility, rather than aggression, was the answer.  By appearing cute – a bit like our own young – they mastered a strategy of symbiosis with another species, humans, with a strong instinct to provide care to their own young.  The result is humans calling their dog “baby” and bragging to their friends that he’s “just like a member of the family.”  In many respects, Fido actually is just like another child.  Dogs are a bit like cuckoos in that respect – enlisting another species to do the work of raising their young – but in this case, by remaining young-looking throughout their adulthood, they lead another species to treat them like its own children for the duration of their lives.

Human children are also master care-harvesters – they have to be, because they remain dependent on adult care for survival for much longer than other species.  Adult humans possess large brains, which could never fit through the human birth canal.  Our children are thus, of necessity, born with a relatively tiny, undeveloped brain, leaving them utterly helpless and dependent on the care of others for many years.  Humans thus possess a strong instinct to summon care as a child, but also a corresponding (and conflicting) instinct to provide care for helpless young humans.  Awww…it’s a cute little baby.  I want to take care of it.

Thus do we perpetuate our species.  But this evolutionary arrangement sets up an internal battle between the child within you who’s hungry for care and the adult who feels obligated to provide it.

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