Meet author Jeffrey Von Glahn

This week I’m supporting two authors for my book club’s Pay It Forward week. The idea is to support and showcase the work of others during a week of promotion and networking. Today it’s my pleasure to introduce you to an author I am meeting for the first time too. His name is Jeffrey Von Grahn and his work sounds fascinating!
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About the Author

Jeffrey Von Glahn, Ph.D., has been a psychotherapist for 45 years, and counting. That experience has been, and continues to be, more exciting and fulfilling than he had ever imagined. Whether it’s the first session with a new client or the hundredth one with the same client, this intimate way of engaging with another person continues to have the same mesmeric appeal for him it has always had. On occasion, he has been known to suddenly exclaim, “If I believed in reincarnation – which I don’t – but if I did my fondest wish would be to come back as a therapist.”

What has been especially rewarding for Jeffrey – as he prefers to be called – is when he’s been able to help someone reconnect with a “lost” part of their basic humanness. That’s when he feels he’s helped to give birth to a new human being. He doesn’t mean that literally, of course, but there’s no other way of explaining how he feels when he’s sitting face-to-face with someone and he sees such a dramatic change.

And even after all these years, each client presents another opportunity for him to learn more about psychotherapy, and to learn more about how to help someone regain contact with a part of his or her basic humanness that fortuitous events from earlier in life had secreted away for safe-keeping. What makes it all an especially significant experience for Jeffrey is that he gets to use all of his intellectual skills and all of his basic caring instincts at the same time.

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Book description:

For Dr. Von Glahn, Jessica’s therapy was the most challenging, the most profound, and ultimately the most personally satisfying experience he has encountered in forty-five years of practice. If someone had explained to him ahead of time the actual nature of Jessica’s problem, he would not have believed that it was possible for a human being to have such a psychological condition.

Jessica had always been terrified that the unthinkable had happened when she had been “made up.” There was no other reason she could think of for what she experienced when the words “I need” and “I want” escaped from her mouth. For her, it was as if an alien presence was moving her mouth and speaking for her. At the same time, thoughts raced around in her head so fast her mind felt like it was about to dissolve into chaos and she felt like she was floating in space miles above the earth. When all of this happened, a plastic calmness immediately settled over her face, as it always did when she felt upset, and particularly so when she felt very upset.

Jessica was shocked that no one had ever noticed and asked if she was OK. Nonetheless, she lived with the fear that one day someone would discover who – or what – she really was. She decided that the best way to prevent that was to act as if she really was a needing, wanting person. Without hesitating a second in any situation, Jessica did whatever was expected of her, and in a way that wouldn’t upset anyone and keep her as inconspicuous as possible.

Jessica was certain what would happen if her secret ever leaked out. Strangers would suddenly surround her and, with arms raised and fingers pointed directly at her, shout “Imposter! Imposter! Here’s the imposter!” Before she knew it, she’d find herself in court and quickly found guilty of impersonating a real human being. The next day’s headlines would surely read: SCIENTISTS GATHER TO EXAMINE ALIEN IMPOSTER.

Until Jessica entered therapy as an adult, she had no way of knowing how she had become such a mystery to herself. After a slow start to her therapy, she asked for multiple-hour sessions several days a week in hopes of a breakthrough. Her intuition proved correct. She started to remember experiences from the first weeks of her infancy. During that time, when every minute should have been filled with exciting discoveries about herself and her world, she rarely saw a smiling face, or experienced a soft caress, or heard a tender voice, or felt her body being handled in a gentle way.

In many of the events that Jessica remembered from her infancy, her mother’s inattentive, hurried behavior made her feel that the needing, wanting part of her was “dangerous” and that for her own survival she “had to stay away from it.” In these longer sessions, as Jessica remembered more and more early experiences she also felt more and more like a needing, wanting person.

Today, Jessica is an articulate spokesperson for the emotional well-being of infants.

Book reviews:

* Having just joined, RRBC, I chose to read and review “Jessica,” one of their featured books for December. I loved it. Dr. Van Glahn takes the reader on his self-described rollercoaster ride with his patient, Jessica as they reach back through a “privileged window into an unexplored dimension of human life.” Together they search for Jessica’s “me” that was destroyed early in her life as she was soundly rejected by the world in utero, at birth and afterwards. What is so compelling is the evidence here that babies are indeed “human” contrary to popular beliefs in the 1950s. They feel and hear in the womb and can be wounded, but also later helped to heal those wounds as seen in the therapy sessions. Well-written, the book alternates between narrative descriptions of Jessica’s life and the months of marathon therapy using catharsis and touch methods. As Jessica says, “If the hurt went in…there must be a way for it to come out.” For all of those who have suffered from parental abuse or even disinterest, this book just might help in recovering a “rock-solid psychological foundation.”

* This book is profoundly insightful. It paints for us a crystal clear picture of the fundamental patterns of fear and defensiveness that can be laid down through the traumas of early childhood and even birth and before.

The story is told in a very human way so that we can relate to both Jessica and the author/therapist. Most importantly this is a story about the possibility of thorough healing through a process that we can only attribute to life itself, aided by the patience of the therapist and the passion of the patient to become whole.

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