Editorial Book Reviews
Reviewed by Midwest Book Review:
"Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Hatching Charlie: A Psychotherapist's Tale" is an inherently fascinating, thoughtful, and thought-provoking read from beginning to end. While unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Contemporary American Biography collections, "Hatching Charlie: A Psychotherapist's Tale" will also prove to be of immense interest to the supplemental studies reading lists of psychology students as well."
Reviewed by Divine Zape for Readers' Favorite
Hatching Charlie: A Psychotherapist's Tale by Charles Creath McCormack is a memoir with a powerful inspirational message. I was hesitant when I picked up this book, but the author’s promise in the prologue encouraged me and I am happy I read it. He writes: “I write to encourage you to take responsibility for your happiness. If there are two counter-intuitive things I’ve discovered in my wending journey as a man and as a psychotherapist, it’s that it takes great courage to be happy and that most of us are as happy as we can stand.” Writing one’s own journey is one of the therapies that helps to redefine one’s purpose, enhance healing, and unveil ways to determine how one’s life ends. McCormack’s memoir, like Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, is a memoir that is purpose-driven, a story in which the author answers the universal question: What does it really take to live a happy, fulfilling life?
With unalloyed frankness, the author takes readers on the path to his own darkness, his brokenness, his fears and uncertainties, and weaves a message that points to the light he’d discovered through his own commitment to grow and to help others. Readers will find lessons learned from the author’s personal life experiences and those that come through his practice as a psychologist. The author’s prose flows beautifully, devoid of any professional jargon, and the man whom readers will encounter in these pages will remind them of their own struggles, their own darkness, their own questions about life and happiness. They will understand that they own the key to unlocking the door to immense wealth and happiness. I was touched at how the author shares his struggles with “low self-esteem, the egotism, the mistakes made and then made again, the lessons learned and then forgotten, the failures and successes, the joys and heartbreak.” You’ll read your story in this beautiful book. Then you’ll wake up, determined to embrace life, your life, broken as it is, and to make some meaning out of the broken pieces. Hatching Charlie: A Psychotherapist's Tale by Charles Creath McCormack is a book for everyone, because there is a fragment of each of us in some of the pages.
June 8, 2017
The Portland Book Review
An old Cherokee teaches his grandson the story of the two wolves that are at war inside of him and everyone else. The good wolf is a medley of positive emotions whereas the bad wolf is a combination of the negative. When the child asks his grandfather which wolf will win, the old man laughs and says, “The one you feed.”Publisher: Hatching Charlie
Formats: Paperback, eBook, Kindle
Purchase: Powell’s | Amazon | IndieBound | iBooks
Charles Creath McCormack recounts this well-known fable within the early pages of his autobiography Hatching Charlie: A Psychotherapist and references it throughout. Not only does the moral guide his life, but it also pays tribute to the time-honored tradition of an elder bestowing the wisdom gained during his lifetime upon younger generations. This is essentially the goal of Hatching Charlie:
“I’m writing [this book] for all of you: my children, nieces, nephews, and their children and, as importantly, for any strangers, yet my brothers and sisters in humanity, that happen upon this text and recognize it for what it is—a story of the follies and wisdoms of the human condition or at least one man’s version of it” (xi).
McCormack explains that the pursuit of happiness requires striving to embrace all thoughts, both good and bad.
The term “hatching” is used metaphorically as McCormack’s rebirth throughout the different stages of his life.
The narrative is mostly chronological as McCormack describes the complexities of his childhood. He describes his father’s teachings as “tyrannical and sadistic, interspersed with manic moments of humor and gut-splitting laughter, fueled by all the tensions and anxieties that had preceded it” (3). His relationship was much better with his mother, a pious woman, but his childhood still resulted in insecurity, mistrust, shame, and doubt. A fear of loneliness and isolation was borne when he was left at a boarding school in Strasbourg, France against his will:
“The psyche is like a tree trunk, early experience forever imprinted on the tender flash of the inner rings. And just like the tree, the inner rings become the foundation upon which all else rests” (1).
As with most children with abusive backgrounds, his young adulthood was a mishmash – in some ways he was too mature for his age and in others less. He tells about odd jobs, college, wanderlust, and then beginning the path of his life’s work, psychotherapy.
The stories of his patients, while sometimes shocking, are not gratuitous. Examples of a few of the most influential patients illustrate how psychotherapy shaped McCormack, not vice versa:
“Over the years, I’ve learned the importance of acknowledging my own less than socially acceptable thoughts and feelings. Consequently, this has helped me to better relate better not only to my patients but to all people. My patients feel recognized, understood, and accepted because they are. They know because they can feel it. I look over to them, not up or down at them, as fellow travelers in this obstacle course called life. A course that leaves none of us unscathed. Indeed, I see many of my patients as possessing extraordinary integrity and courage in their willingness to examine their lives. This will to vulnerability stands in stark contrast to that of others who are not even aware or interested in examining themselves; who dismiss the very notion of problems or weaknesses of any kind, much preferring their polished story-lines over any honest examination of themselves or their relationships” (177).
In essence, this describes Hatching Charlie, a testament to McCormack’s willingness to examine his own life and publish it so that others might benefit.
McCormack doubles back and briefly talks about his roles as a husband, father, and grandfather. These provided additional lessons that formed him, but these are more of an afterthought.
McCormack previously authored the 1989 article “The Borderline/Schizoid Marriage: The Holding Environment as an Essential Treatment Construct” and the 2000 book Treating Borderline States in Marriage: Dealing with Oppositionalism, Ruthless Agression, and Severe Resistance. However, he admits that writing does not come naturally to him. Indeed, the style and tone of Hatching Charlie would not be mistaken for an overtly stylized MFA memoir, but some might find this a benefit rather than a detraction. McCormack comes across as sincere, the likable everyman who has traversed through life’s peaks and valleys. He dedicated at least two years to this autobiography, which has paid off in the writing’s polished presentation. There are many quotable passages that resonate because of the reflection he’s done on his own life:
“The key? Learning to look at ourselves honestly and get out of our own way in the practice of following our hearts rather than our fears” (389).
Socrates famously said that the unexamined life is not worth living. By reading about how others, such as McCormack, have examined their lives, perhaps this task is made a little easier for the rest of us.
Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ Magazine
Fran rated it 5 Stars: it was amazing ·
Hatching Charlie: A Psychotherapist's Tale
Sometimes when you look at your reflection in a mirror you see someone that is wonderful, successful or perfect in your own eyes. But, what is hidden behind your eyes, the fear, the anger, the torment is never truly revealed unless you look deeper, longer and see what’s hiding behind your lack of expression, your glaring eyes as they begin to recall your childhood torments, lack of accomplishments growing up, unrest caused by a tyrannical and abusive par
Hatching Charlie: A Psychotherapist's Tale
Sometimes when you look at your reflection in a mirror you see someone that is wonderful, successful or perfect in your own eyes. But, what is hidden behind your eyes, the fear, the anger, the torment is never truly revealed unless you look deeper, longer and see what’s hiding behind your lack of expression, your glaring eyes as they begin to recall your childhood torments, lack of accomplishments growing up, unrest caused by a tyrannical and abusive parent and the hopes and fears that someday you as a person will be accepted as you are. How do you change your look? How does your demeanor take on another appearance, how do you find yourself when others look at you and only see failure, differences you can’t help but cope with and the joy of life has gone out of you as people who see your expressionless face and cold and staring eyes will see as you begin to unravel the mystery behind you and share it with the world. Meet Charlie McCormack and hear his voice, shed his tears, feel his pain and understand his frustrations as he tells you his story in his own terms from youth to adulthood and in between. This is not an ordinary memoir beginning with a young child growing up in the 50’s describing his experiences living in fear of an abusive father, in an abusive family where the lack of warmth, constant critics and unusual punishment loomed over his head on a daily basis. Placed in a boarding school where the abuse continued at the hand of a priest followed by many incidents during his childhood where his father beat his brother and him without feeling or mercy.
The author relates his many interactions with students in his school being placed a year ahead of his age, the difficulties he faced, the ridicule, the antics he pulled trying to steal a copy of a final and getting ratted out by someone who wanted him to cough one up too. His father’s constant abuse, his mother not able to deal with many situations and then finally moving to Germany and other places and having to cope with no friends, loneliness and the demands of his father. When finally he does graduate high school and he decides to try other jobs his journey is not one that came easy as stealing, lies, drinking and doing reckless things became his mantra. But, not everyone stays adrift and when he meets Jane and they finally begin to settle down will he realize that he is now responsible for another person as we get to know Charlie after finding his way to become a psychotherapist. What happens when his son Chandler is about to be born is priceless and his love for him endearing. Introducing him to his new sibling and then finding himself in need of a way to support his family before getting his first internship. Charlie is real, his personality unique, his stories well told and his ups and downs described make him human and closer to the reader. Deciding on his path took time, the army and many other stumbling and roadblocks until he realized that he could help others that might be going through the same trials he did before reaching his goals. Dealing with people, different personalities is not easy and teaching readers by talking about his profession in a way we can all grasp and understand is what makes this book or memoir stand out.
In chapter 17 he focuses on the compassion others showed him and the fact that they never mocked or ridiculed him. Even the medical director, Bill Abramson, MD, not the nicest person on this planet, still managed to hold his tongue and not make him feel small. He provided supervision for him and later he even invited him to his home to give him so old toys that belonged to his grown children for his son Chandler. Even though there were cutbacks and his position was no longer full time, they kept him on a researcher. Balancing his career and his life was not easy but as he states the idea was to help people “access the healing powers of stimulation and enjoyment in human connection, but this went against the more traditional and conservative notions of the therapist and patient relationship.”
Imagine working for someone named Ms. Glum and having to deal with the census, answers and not getting along with this person. If reasons we won’t divulge he called her Ms. Glum you can imagine what they means. In Chapter 19 he tells us about getting his Social Work Degree and three more years as the Program Director of Sheppard-Pratts Evening Treatment Program where our author felt the need to expand his horizons. The chapter discusses his career as a family therapist, which did not start off as a huge smash hit. More obstacles and more course work and then in chapter 20 Outpatient to in-patient to Im-Patient. I’ll let you read it and figure it out! This memoir brings to light just how someone can rise above the obstacles, disasters, the people that hindered him and find himself as a well known therapist who is understanding, realizes his limitations and might even come to terms with his father and his military way of dealing with him as we meet him when his children get married, becoming a father in law and then touring Italy with his father, dealing with his mother’s terminal illness, his mother’s critique of how Christine was raising her children and then taking a drastic step realizing that he had to make a choice whether to deal with his parents who deal with abuse.
Being a grandfather must be the greatest thing for Charlie. His picture does not exactly describe him as you can tell at the start of Chapter 33. Grandparents are patients but he knows little about that as he did about being a father. Never having grandparents he had no one to compare himself to and after his children were born he did have more of a relationship with his parents. Remembering his time as a dad with Chandler and not allow him or his mother to walk him to the mall to buy something he wanted. Independent you might say. The rest of the chapter tells more about his other grandchildren, their relationships and their love for Oma Jane. But, on grandchild Stella, gave him a real run as she was rude and disrespectful and he would not and show not deal with that. He could not inflict a consequence so he became cold and withdraws as we meet Jonny The Hitman McCormack age two and a half. Learn more about him and why the name and more as you read the remainder of this chapter. Why Change is Difficult rounds out Chapter 36 and talking about the human brain as a friend and foe. The brain develops habituated ways of thinking and felling that we use to connect both to the external and our sense of self. As a child it is not only dramatic events that shape us but the as he states the abiding emotional ambiance, the feelings that link us to our parents, siblings and ultimately the world. Learning to deal with feelings that we are unsure of or unaccustomed to that threaten to overthrow our most implicit beliefs. This can cause as he states disorganization. Change is difficult as we know and the human brain poses many roadblocks and obstacles. Understand how the brain protects us using psychological defenses to protect us from psychological distress. The remainder of this chapter explains it all in more detail. The final chapter titled Au Revoir focuses on how you have grown, leaving home and created your own life with your own family. He enjoys living his life in solitude or at least he tries. Janet is around but most days they do their own thing and come together for other activities like boat rides, cards and more. He sums himself up perfectly on page 400 the last paragraph. Read this heartfelt memoir and meet Charlie, his parents, siblings, children, grandchildren and those he counsels and the final page which bring tears to your eyes as the author decides his next move as he hears his mother calling: HAVE A GOOD LIFE! Charlie has finally been Hatched and Feels so alive.
Read this compelling journey of this interesting psychotherapist. Take the journey now!
Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ Magazine