Maybe You Should Talk to Someone Review
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb begins with a mantra I’ve employed myself a few times. Quickly though, the reader finds out that what author and therapist Gottlieb is seeking compassion for is more than your average “difficult situation.” She’s seeking compassion to help a man, who above all, needs her to see him. Gottlieb can’t get a word in and John, the patient on the couch across from her thinks everyone (including Gottlieb) is an idiot. We see John’s story weave (among others) throughout this book, that is predominantly about the human condition, and what the hell we can do to endure the hardest parts of our humanity.
That’s why I adore this book because it’s not about sugar coating sadness to make it seem more meaningful. It’s about differentiating between pain and suffering. Between what is in our control and what is not. There’s a moment in the book, that I’m sure I will never forget, in which Wendell, Gottlieb’s therapist interrupts a devolving conversation about her unfinished manuscript. He interjects, “I’m reminded of a famous cartoon, it’s of a prisoner, shaking the bars, desperately trying to get out- but to his right and left, it’s open, no bars.” Wendell continues as Gottlieb processes. “All the prisoner has to do is walk around. But still, he frantically shakes the bars. That’s most of us. We feel completely stuck, trapped in our emotional cells, but there’s a way out- as long as we’re willing to see it.” (152) I found myself thinking if there were a pie chart of my life, how much would be siphoned off for shaking, and how much would represent the times I actually walked around? There are countless moments like this in the book; my copy has scattered highlights and notes in the margins of things I’m sure I’ll go back to again and again.
Whenever I’m reading a memoir or collection of essays, I find myself asking “what’s at stake in this text?” With this book, it’s easy to find, and that’s not to say that the content is simple. What’s at stake is easy to find because it’s so closely tied to our everyday experience. It’s about humanity and grief and understanding that humanity and responding to our grief. It becomes so clear towards the end of the book when Gottlieb emails Wendell a quote from Viktor Frankel, author of Man’s Search for Meaning “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” That’s what is at stake, the space.
There are interwoven narratives throughout the book, but Gottlieb never lets herself off the hook for responding in that space that Frankel talks about (Wendell doesn’t let her) and I appreciate and respect her even more for that. By showing her own humanity to the reader, and to her patients, she can help them all a little more, can provide more insight and more grace.
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone is forthcoming, April 2, 2019