022 – The Psychology of Disability with Dr. Dan Gottlieb

Dan Gottlieb is a practicing psychologist and therapist with more than 40 years of experience. Best known as the host of “Voices in the Family,” a weekly radio program heard for more than 30 years on WHYY-FM, Philadelphia’s NPR affiliate. Dan recently retired from the weekly radio program, and now produces and hosts six specials each year.

Dr. Dan Gotlieb

Our focus this episode is on the often overlooked interior life of those affected with disabilities. We interview Dr. Dan Gottlieb, renowned professional psychologist, author of nationally praised books, and regular contributor to Philadelphia’s NPR station.

 

Kyle first met our guest when Dr. Gottlieb was the keynote speaker at a national conference about FA. Dr. Gottlieb spoke so profoundly and so deeply that we were excited to bring him on as a guest, so that he could share his story and his insights with our community of listeners.

 

In 1979, he left his wife and two young daughters at home to secretly buy an anniversary gift for his wife. On the highway, a loose tire from an 18-wheeler smashed his car. The resulting wreck ended up sending him to the hospital with a broken neck and into a life of disability.

 

Totally paralyzed below his clavicle, Dr. Gottlieb shares with us his honest and personal thoughts at the time – that he didn’t want to live; that he thought his existence would only be a burden on his friends and family. This way of thinking is incredibly depressing and defeating – but not unfamiliar for many people facing such devastating circumstances.

 

He shares with us how he was able to triumph over this mindset – how one of the most refreshing realizations for him was that he, even with all of the tasks he was unable to do with his newly impaired body, was still able to provide value to others. In his case, this reality hit him while he was still in the hospital – a nurse needed someone to listen to her.  Dr. Gottlieb realized that even he as a quadriplegic man could still do that.

 

Related to that idea of remaining focused on what you can still do for others is the second realization Dr. Gottlieb found – that focusing less on himself and his own problems or complaints  and more on his surroundings (whether that’s other people, or simply physical surroundings like a room’s architecture) was freeing. It enabled him to leap beyond the threats of depression and hopelessness, and discover purpose and beauty in life, even life with a disability.

 

Take-aways from this episode:

  1. Be more aware of others.
  2. Be the person who holds the Umbrella

We thank Dr. Dan Gottlieb for joining us today and sharing his insights. Check out his website drdangottlieb.com and his books The Wisdom We’re Born With: Restoring Our Faith in Ourselves, A Grief Like No Other: Surviving the Violent Death of Someone You Love, Letters to Sam, and Learning from the Heart.

 

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