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Hatching Charlie: A Psychotherapist's Tale

Updated on June 16, 2017

Hatching Charlie: A Psychotherapist's Tale

Hatching Charlie is a non-fiction book that is both an autobiography and a quest story. The book follows Charles McCormack from childhood to adulthood, abuse to a successful career, and finally to answers. As a baby Charles McCormack was born into a violent home and later at eleven years old he was abandoned in a French boarding school where he is further confused and abused. After failing high school and being expelled from college he makes his way to Mexico where he works to overcome his early life and become a psychotherapist. His prospects begin to brighten as he becomes a published writer and an invited faculty member of the Washington School of Psychiatry. However, while his career flourishes with him being named the Clinical Social Worker of the Year in Maryland his personal life does not. Twice divorced and dealing with mental illness in his family he begins to question the impact of his abuse on his ability to love. He sets out to discover what life is about and what truly is love.

Review

As a psychology student currently pursuing a bachelor's degree in psychology I became very interested in the idea of getting a free copy from the author to read as the description of the book appealed to both on a psychological level and on the level of someone who just enjoys a good autobiography.

Hatching Charlie: A Psychotherapist's Tale by Charles McCormack was a 373 page book that held my interest all the way from page one to page 373. The author's writing style felt so alive in some parts of the book that I felt like I could feel his passion for psychology and philosophy. In his author interview below the author mentions that audible reviewers have noted a change his voice when he gets to the chapters in which he comes to discover his love of psychology and philosophy and translates those interests into a career as a psychotherapist. Those chapters were definitely my favorite to read because I felt like I could truly understand Charles McCormack's interest in psychology as I also truly enjoy learning the subject.

Besides being well written the book was also very well organized as the author chose not to just break the book into chapters, but also sections. This made it easy to understand the book and made it easier to transition from one part of the author's life to another.

Overall, I personally found the book to be a very emotional read as the author is not shy about sharing his life experiences and the abuses he has suffered. The fact that he faced so much abuse not only as a young child, but then again later when he went to boarding school was heartbreaking. I felt for him the most when he was at the boarding school because not only was he at a new and unfamiliar place, but his lack of understanding of the language isolated him further. I can not imagine the full set of emotion he must have felt during that time. I was so pleased when he went to Mexico because that was when he started to get into psychology and truly had something in his life to give him purpose.

I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in psychology and/or philosophy as this author is vary passionate about his topic and his book is a joy to read.

Insight into the Author

What inspired you to write this book?

Two of my adult children and many of my patients over the years. My daughter Keeley asked me to fill out a book that was to tell my grandchildren something about me. I liked the idea but not the structure nor many of the questions. I didn’t think many people would care about what my favorite color was. Then, months later, I was walking with my son Chandler. Chandler is very successful and happily married and asked me, “Dad is this it?” And finally, over the years my patients had repeatedly suggested I write a book of the stories I tell them to bring home some point I am trying to make. Put together, I translated my daughter’s question to “Who am I?” and my son’s question to “What is it [life] about?” This book is my attempt using my own life history, my own quest in of the pursuit of fulfillment, to answer these questions.


Which part was the hardest for you to write and why?

Interestingly, at least to me, were the chapters on my family. Not the family of my origins but my nuclear family, my kids, their mates, and the grandchildren. In puzzling on this observation, I realized that it was my difficult to write about them because they were the closest to me and had been under my protective watch for many years. Of course, now in their adulthood, this was no longer necessary but it was hard for me to give up that role. In addition, was the dilemma of how to write about them, what to say, what was the point I was trying to make in their role in my lifelong quest for the pursuit of fulfillment? My answer is in those chapters.


Which part was the easiest for you to write and why?

The easiest part to write were the chapters in which I come to discover my love of psychology and philosophy and to translate those interests into a career as a psychotherapist. Some reviewers of the audible edition even suggest that my voice changes, becomes more alive, when I arrive at these chapters. Personally, I don’t hear it but they do.


Which character/person was the hardest to write and why?

The hardest to write about was my dad. I had such negative feelings toward him, his ego-centricity, and emotional and physical abuse that it took me a good while to present him as a whole person, not just an evil one. This recognition was hard won through the writing of Hatching Charlie. As I fleshed his character out in the later chapters I often found myself crying, not only about the bad things he had done but also the good he had contributed. That was not an easy journey.


Which character/person was the easiest to write and why?

My wife Janet because she is just such a good and stable person who embodies the words “What you see is what you get.” She has brought a foundation to my life as a friend, lover and companion. Additionally, her love of projects and cooking has created that stable home that I had been lacking all along the way. Our relationship is without drama. I realized that with her the ceiling on my happiness was not the important standard. The important thing to pay attention to is the floor of one’s happiness. With Janet mine had risen much higher on a day in and day out basis. That was all so easy for me to appreciate and to write about.


Who was your favorite character/person and why?

I don’t have just one. There are so many loving and lovable characters in my book that it’s impossible for me to pick one out. Each offers something unique and it would be like comparing apples to oranges.


Were there any character/people that you did not like?

I didn’t like the abusive priest in the French boarding school, nor, for the most part, my dad. As one reads Hatching Charlie the reasons why will become all too clear.


What made you decide to become an author?

I had been studying psychotherapy for a long time, receiving training from different people. At some point, each of these people predicted I would publish professionally. One flat out told me “Charlie, it’s time you stop reading and start writing.” Nevertheless, I didn’t feel inspired until I realized that the world of long-term inpatient therapy was coming to an end. I felt a driving need to publish what I had learned in treating very difficult to treat couples and families on a long-term locked door psychiatric inpatient unit. That led to an article and then to a book entitled “Treating Borderline States in Marriage: Dealing with Oppositionalism, Ruthless Aggression, and Severe Resistance” (2000) that was well received.


What makes you qualified to write a book on this topic?

Given the fact that the book is autobiographical who better to write it than me? But all humor aside, I wrote this book through the eyes of a psychotherapist and an individual and couples therapist. In this regard, I bring more than forty years of experience in these professional roles. In addition, I served as faculty in the Washington School of Psychiatry and Sheppard-Pratt Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. I left there as the Senior Social Worker of Adult Long-Term Inpatient Services. In addition, in 1994 I was recognized as the Clinical Social Worker of the Year by the Maryland Society of Clinical Social Work.


What advice would you give to your readers?

Read the book. It covers experiences that we all confront in this obstacle course called life. From early childhood to Grandfatherhood and beyond it addresses the challenges that we all face across time, changing circumstances, and the different phases of life. It addresses major questions concerning the human striving for love and fulfillment, including what is love and what is loving, how does one find one’s way as we each undergo changing roles and identities across the life cycle.


What type of person do you believe would benefit the most from your book?

Really any person that is inclined toward introspection and reflection, that has struggled or is struggling in life. I’ve had therapists and several lay people email me in regard to how useful this book has been for them as a faithful companion when they have felt very alone. Hatching Charlie also offers a vehicle for the examination of their own lives as they read my examination of mine.

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