two years, he was done. The man Lori Gottlieb thought
she was going to marry didn’t want to raise her
8-year-old son. He had two kids entering college and
wasn’t interested in parenting another child.
like that, Gottlieb, a Los Angeles-based therapist and
the author of the weekly “Dear Therapist” column in
The Atlantic, was a mess. She couldn’t sleep. She
therapist needed a therapist herself.
new book, “Maybe You Should Talk To Someone,”
chronicles her decision to get help, what she learned
from it, and how it informed her work with her own
resonates, Gottlieb said, because readers see themselves
in the patients she chose to write about, including a
self-absorbed Hollywood producer named John who is
irritated by everyone and doesn’t know why.
who are demanding, critical, and angry tend to suffer
from intense loneliness,” Gottlieb writes. “I know
that a person who acts this way both wants to be seen
and is terrified of being seen. I believe that for John,
the experience of being vulnerable feels pathetic and
a young newlywed diagnosed with a terminal illness, a
senior citizen threatening to end her life on her
birthday if nothing gets better, and a 20-something who
can’t stop hooking up with the wrong guys. They are
depressed, lonely and searching.
time to time — on a doozy of a bad day or when pushed
until a fragile nerve is struck — everyone exhibits a
tad of this or that personality disorder,” Gottlieb
writes, “because each is rooted in the very human wish
for self-preservation, acceptance, and safety. (If you
don’t think this applies to you, just ask your spouse
or best friend.)”
questions they struggle with are the very same that
Gottlieb found herself bringing to her own therapy
sessions: Are they unkind to themselves? Do they lie to
themselves? She also explores her worry that seeking
help might make her damaged goods, professionally.
think, especially in today’s climate, emotional health
gets short shrift,” Gottlieb said. “The book is not
a ‘how-to,’ or a ‘self-help,’ but looking inside
ourselves through other people’s stories.
about how we make sense of ourselves and our place in
the world. We can see ourselves more clearly through
stories instead of bullet points.”
those same techniques in the therapy room: stories and
metaphors, which she believes have more impact.
column for The Atlantic (where she is a contributing
editor), Gottlieb, 52, guides readers through dating
issues and family rifts — figuring out their place in
the human race with a mix of humor, heart and wisdom.
She also writes for The New York Times Magazine and has
appeared on national TV talk shows.
exposure has helped bring the book a lot of advance buzz
and support on the road. Gottlieb will spend time
onstage with Katie Couric, Scott Simon and Amy
Dickinson. Last week, she appeared on NPR’s “Fresh
Air” with Terry Gross, an experience she called “a
book has already been optioned for a television series
by Eva Longoria, who is bringing it to ABC.
therapy style is “very relational,” in that it is
not the same one her patients have with people outside
the therapy room. “If they’re pushing people away,
people will go away,” she said of her patients. “But
I never will.”
allows people to give their feelings space, to not avoid
afraid of feeling something that makes us feel
uncomfortable,” she said. “But if you tamp down the
feeling, it just gets bigger. Our feelings are like a
compass. They guide us to what we need to pay attention
example, envy may be uncomfortable, but it can point you
to what you want. So listen to it. It may make you
anxious, Gottlieb said, “but it will help you
understand more about yourself.”
time Gottlieb was dumped, she had been working on
another book, based on a 2011 story she had written for
The Atlantic called “How to Land Your Kid in
Therapy.” It tracked how, in a misguided effort to
make sure their kids were happy and secure, parents
weren’t preparing them to deal with hardship and
disappointment. Those now-grown kids were coming into
Gottlieb’s office feeling acute emptiness and
depression because their parents had smoothed every
wrinkle in their lives.
Gottlieb couldn’t get any traction on that story. She
wanted to tell her own instead.
at this point in my career where I really wanted to do
something that was meaningful to me and there were so
many books about parenting,” she said. “I just
wanted to write something meaningful, about adults and
what we’re going through in our culture, and how
we’re approaching happiness in the wrong way.”
wanted to show that therapists don’t fit the trope of
the “removed, cold Freudian,” or “the train wreck;
the hot wreck who can’t function in her own life.”
They’re just “normal, human,” Gottlieb said.
not an expert up on high, but just like everybody
else,” she said. “And I think that will help people
see their lives more clearly. And once they can see
their lives more clearly, they can make better choices
in their daily lives.”