Rules To Stay Alive

Rules To Stay Alive – by Carl Whitaker, MD

The medical ethos insists that the therapist’s unswerving devotion to science and humanity is enough reason for being. Those who choose to be therapists therefore very often become workaholics and coronary victims; doctors seem to elect suicide as their early resolution. My personal opinion is that either a coronary or suicide is better than drying up. But there is an alternative — a set of rules that will help to keep the therapist alive.

1. Relegate every significant other to second place.
2. Learn how to love. Flirt with every 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 one of your most valuable weapons.
8. Build long-term relations so than you can be free to hate safely.
9. Face the fact that you must grow until you die. Develop a sense of benign absurdity of life – yours 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 someone 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.”



The Mental Health Association of Portland is the archivist of Carl Whitaker’s works, and will occasionally repost them here in brief formats. Whitaker was author of many books and articles on the treatment of schizophrenia and the advent of family therapy. He died in 1995.

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