It is with great sadness that I say goodbye to Dr. David Schnarch, an important professional mentor to me over the past 10 years. David died of a sudden heart attack last week. It has been devastating for his family, and so many of us, to lose a wise mentor in our lives.
David Schnarch informed my professional practice far more than any other teacher, in large part because his thinking and character were fundamentally challenging to any complacent view of myself and my responsibility to others.
David challenged conventional therapy and conventional ideas about what facilitated change in others. He also dismantled many of my favorite (false) self-perceptions that were more self-reinforcing than wise. Albeit at times uncomfortable, David’s perspectives gave me a far more powerful way of thinking that better accounted for my own and others’ experiences and fundamentally increased my ability to help others.
While David’s wisdom and keen perceptiveness into human behavior has illuminated so much of my clinical work and instruction, perhaps most importantly, David understood that we live our way into wisdom.
My growth as a person and therapist has been much less about the articulation of ideas (although I LOVE good ideas), and far more about doing what is right, even if hard. Personal development resides in taking morally courageous action--courageous because it is outside of what I have yet developed in myself. As we often say in LDS circles, “Faith leads to knowledge”. Doing what we believe is right, even though it often scares us, is what is necessary to become wiser, less needy, and more capable of Good. David consistently challenged me and others to do this---to do what was needed, to do what is right in the relational / moral world, even when it challenged my limited self-concept or personal comfort. He showed me that letting my desire for approval or reinforcement determine my course of action would always limit what I can offer myself or others.
Dr. Schnarch’s continual challenge to live up to my responsibility to myself and others has been a tremendous gift. I’m very thankful for his investment in me as a person and therapist. The world won’t be the same without you David Schnarch. You’ve made a lasting impact on me, and I am truly grateful.