Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: John the Jerk

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Maybe You Should Talk to Someone" by Lori Gottlieb. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Who is John in Maybe You Should Talk to Someone? What is his relationship with Lori? How did Lori help him come to terms with his loss?

In Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, John is one of Lori’s patients. He comes to Lori’s sessions because of his trouble sleeping, but later he opens up to her about his repressed feelings of grief about his son Gabe, who died in a car accident.

Read about John from Maybe You Should Talk to Someone.

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: John’s Story

John is one of Lori’s patients. He’s a bigshot in the TV industry who suffers from anger issues and thinks everyone he meets—including his wife—is stupid. The only things he seems genuinely fond of are his two daughters and the family dog. His issues echo Lori’s sense of loss and her fear of letting others hurt her.

John first comes to Lori because he’s having trouble sleeping. He’s abrasive and rude, and he openly breaks Lori’s rules about therapy: He uses his cell phone during sessions and orders food to eat while they’re talking. He’s emotionally distant, insulting and blaming everyone except himself for his problems. Lori eventually realizes that this is a defense mechanism: If everything is someone else’s fault, then John doesn’t have to do the hard work of looking inward and changing himself.

It takes months of work, but eventually Lori learns that John used to also have a young son named Gabe. Gabe was killed in a car accident that John alternately blamed himself and his wife for, though it turned out the driver who hit them was drunk. Since then, John has tried to repress his feelings and keep working to support himself and his family. While he’s been highly successful professionally, it’s taken a heavy toll on his emotional state and his family life.

By the end of therapy, John has begun to open up with Lori and with his family. He used to forbid any mention of Gabe at home, but now he and his wife have had some cathartic conversations about their son. They’ve also started attending couples therapy.

John’s major revelation is that he doesn’t always have to be one thing or another: He doesn’t always have to be the good guy or the bad guy, and he doesn’t always have to be happy or grieving. Everything comes and goes, including happiness, and the important thing is to accept whatever each moment brings.

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: John the Jerk

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Here's what you'll find in our full Maybe You Should Talk to Someone summary:

  • How a psychotherapist found herself in need of therapy
  • How the therapist sees her own fears and feelings reflect in her patients
  • Why you have to be ready to accept uncertainty if want to enjoy life

Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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