Wednesday, January 9, 2019
From the New Yorker:
The psychotherapist Esther Perel knows how to work a room. Since the publication of her first book, “Mating in Captivity,” in 2006, she has travelled the world, speaking to audiences about love, sex, intimacy, and infidelity: the nuts and bolts of romantic life. (Those who do not have an opportunity to see her live can watch her on the ted stage, where her videos, subtitled in more than thirty languages, have been viewed tens of millions of times.) Perel, who grew up in Antwerp as the daughter of Holocaust survivors, got her start as a family therapist, focussing on issues of trauma and cultural conflict. Couples have since become her clinical and theoretical specialty. In a style marked by humor, frankness, and empathy, Perel’s talks and books take a counterintuitive approach to answering provocative questions: How did the romantic couple become the primary unit of organization in society? Can romantic desire truly be sustained? Is infidelity ever a good thing?
Last year, Perel gave her fans access to a different side of her work. In her Audible podcast, “Where Should We Begin?”—which recently aired its third season—Perel conducts therapy sessions with real couples, one per episode, allowing listeners unprecedented access to her cloistered consultation room. The appeal of the show is partly voyeuristic; it is fascinating, not to mention unnerving, to hear other people expose their most intimate feelings and conflicts. It is also educational, poignant, and often profound, a public service in a culture that loves to talk about love, but rarely does so with honesty or humility. I first spoke with Perel last year, and caught up with her this fall onstage at the New Yorker Festival, where we discussed her own family background, her theories about romantic life, and her role as a mediator between a couple’s competing narratives. When we listened to clips from her show, Perel handed out pillowy eye masks so that audience members could focus more fully on her patients’ voices; as you listen to the audio clips amid the text below, you might want to do the same by closing your eyes.
Read more here.