"Over the last thirty years I've watched a lot of pain flow under the bridge," writes Mary Pipher renowned psychotherapist and author of the best-selling Reviving Ophelia. "By now I have a Ph.D. in human suffering. I have listened to many cautionary tales and seen the ways humans can hurt themselves and other people. I have learned vicariously what mistakes not to make. I have witnessed their train wrecks that follow extramarital affairs. I haven't had to gamble, use drugs, or keep secrets to realize that those behaviors are ultimately destructive. I have acquired a lifelong tuition-free education in the consequences of various choices." This splendid volume is part of The Art of Mentoring series and is in the form of letters to Laura, who was her favorite graduate student. The easy-going material here has the feel of homegrown philosophy that is down-to-earth, salty, and practical.
From the outset, it is clear that Pipher enjoys human beings and the challenges of her work. She sees the culture as promoting narcissism, which leads to denial about our impact on other lives, the Earth, and the generations to come. "Our media encourages us to live at a surface level, to think about window treatments instead of world peace or our own spiritual needs. We are educated to be compartmentalized. Our culture makes us sick physically and emotionally. Good therapy gently but firmly moves people out of denial and compartmentalization. It helps clients develop richer inner lives and greater self-knowledge."
Pipher reveals her prior experience as a waitress and a therapy client both helped her immensely in this profession. She grew up as a nurturing big sister and as a bossy person, two tendencies she tries to keep under control as a therapist. Whether talking about marriages, families in trouble, dating, or approaches taken in other parts of the world, Pipher passes on advice that is helpful not only to therapists but also to general readers.
She admits that her solutions to human problems are tried and true ones, such as get more rest, do good work, take things one day at a time, and surround yourself with people who love you. Simple but profound, along with the advice of her uncle who was asked on his sixtieth birthday to impart some words of wisdom to those in attendance. He said: 'I try to get a good night's sleep and get up every morning and do the best I can." It's hard to improve upon that.