It’s been often said that life imitates art. Psychotherapist Vincent Commercio took that idea, which arose as he was reading The Catcher in the Rye, and has started a book study group to explore this relationship. “I thought wouldn’t it be a great idea to meet with a bunch of people and talk about how this book relates to us,” he said.
Currently, a group of four meet at the Bedford Professional Park in Katonah and discuss books like Once upon a Midlife and “Veronica wants to die.” “It’s tough to start a group,” said Mr. Commercio, who also doubles as a dentist from Mt. Kisco. Hoping to grow the group to about eight members, he’s found his group has signed on to the monthly meetings as a means of “self-exploration.”
“Generally books that have a psychological rule or orientation,” he said of the books he chooses, and so far the system works. People joined right into share their feelings to his surprise, as he thinks the group, which consists of a couple of students, a medical professional and a social worker, has acted as a catalyst for them.
Discussing subjects such as suicide, the meaning of life and relationship difficulties, the books serve as a vehicle to deal with some very deep issues. “We read a novel each month, and then we meet to discuss it as it pertains to us on a personal level,” he said.
However, he tries to leave the Freudian stuff of his day job out of it. “I try not to make it an intellectual discussion,” he said, as he finds the members getting a lot of personal satisfaction from the meetings. So much so that when vacations pushed back the group’s regular meeting for six weeks, everyone protested for an alternative date scheduled within the monthly limit.
For anyone thinking of joining the group, he will require a quick half hour interview to make sure they are on the same page as to the objective of the discussion. And from that, hopefully dialogue will arise, that will lead them to look at their own issues and grow as a person.
He found that “Once upon a Midlife” (by Allan B. Chinen and Roger Gould) had the desired effect. The book details 20 different contemporary folk tales from around the world about midlife. The author then goes on to interpret each. Mr. Commercio had his group do the same for the story that moved them the most. Choosing topics such as death, transition and sexuality, he said, “They were able to talk about themselves using the tales.”
Hearing has an important effect too – especially if someone is in one on one therapy. “They’re able to see the way other people see things,” he said, and that can open a person’s eyes into their own development.
Coming up, Mr. Commercio, who lives in Brookfield, Connecticut, is planning to do a group study on a book called “Momma and the Meaning of Life” by Irvin Yalom. The author is a prolific writer and therapist who does six case histories on patients looking for the meaning of life, and then lays it out in a very readable way.
As for what he gets out of all this, Mr. Commercio loves the way he has seen these total strangers jump into the process and get something out of this without hesitation. “They came together, and they started to interact and explore themselves,” he concludes with satisfaction.
Rich Monetti interview of Vincent Commercio.