The medical ethos insists that the physician’s unswerving devotion to science and humanity is enough reason for being. Those who choose to be physicians therefore very often become workaholics and coronary victims; psychotherapists seem to elect suicide as their early resolution. My personal opinion is that a coronary or suicide is better than drying up. But there is an alternative – a set of rules that will help keep the therapist alive.
1. Relegate every significant other to second place.
2. Learn how to love. Flirt with any infant available. Unconditional positive regard probably isn’t present after the baby is three years old.
3. Develop a reverence for your own impulses, and be suspicious of your behavior sequences.
4. Enjoy your mate more than you kids, and be childish with your mate.
5. Fracture role structures at will and repeatedly.
6. Learn to retreat and advance from every position you take.
7. Guard your impotence as your most valuable weapon.
8. Build long-term relations so you can be free to hate safely.
9. Face the fact that you must grow until you die. Develop a sense of the benign absurdity of life – your and those around you – and thus learn to transcend the world of experience. If we can abandon our missionary zeal we have less chance of being eaten by cannibals.
10. Develop your primary-process living. Evolve a joint craziness with some one you are safe with. Structure a professional cuddle group so you won’t abuse your mate with the garbage left over from the day’s work.
11. As Plato said, “Practice dying.”
From “The Hindrance of Theory in Clinical Work” by Carl Whitaker, published originally in Family Therapy: Theory and Practice, 1976, by Gardner Press and edited by Philip J Guerin.
“You shouldn’t get married unless you’re willing to live alone.”
I have finally come to realize I don’t believe in people. There’s really no such thing as an individual. We’re all just fragments of families floating around, trying to live life. All of life and all of pathology is interpersonal.