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James Gordon: Knowing Where to Turn for Help

James Gordon, author of “Unstuck,” talks about who he turned to when he really needed guidance.


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[MUSIC PLAYING] When I was first going through a very difficult time in my life when I was in medical school, and my girlfriend and I had broken up, and I wasn’t quite sure about how I could be the kind of doctor I wanted to be, I have all these issues and difficulties and quarrels with medical school– not that I was necessarily wrong, but I was suffering. And I was just wondering, now, who am I? What’s my life all about? 

And had been brought up, in some way, to feel like I should be able to take care of this myself. I’m smart. I’m tough. I can handle it. But I came to a point where I realized I couldn’t do it on my own, and I needed somebody there who knew more than I did, somebody to– really to take my hand and help me move ahead with my life. 

And at that point, I got in touch with somebody whom I admired, a psychiatrist named Robert Coles, who was a psychiatrist at Harvard who was, at that point, working with kids who were integrating the schools in the South. And I’d read some of what he’d written. And I thought, this is a man with heart, and this is a man with understanding. And I’m not as brave as those kids integrating into the schools, but I’m definitely in trouble. And he feels like the kind of guy who I would like to talk to. 

So I reached out to him. And I met him once initially to talk about working with him on a professional basis, but that didn’t work, because he was writing a book at that moment. But then when I realized I needed to see somebody just for me– not to help me become a psychiatrist, but to help me become the kind of human being that I wanted to be, I called him up. 

And he was there. And we spent an hour and a half, two hours on the telephone. And he was just there. And he was listening to me, but he also didn’t take me too seriously, just seriously enough. He recognized that some of the struggles that I was going through were very similar to struggles that he had had. And he was there. And I knew he understood who I was. 

And so I began to see him. I began to see him as a patient. And he really was both a guide for me and an example. 


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