Paul told me lots of interesting little anecdotes over the years about his life, and once in awhile I'd write something down in my diary or mark up a 3x5 card. Occasionally he'd let it slip that he expected me to be his biographer, and had even entitled my masterpiece The Story of a Renegade Psychiatrist.
The idea of being anybody's biographer had great appeal to me, actually, but we all know that the greatest biography can never supplant even a sketchy autobiography. So over the many years that he intimated I should write his biography, I intimated back that he should write this monograph.
After the Center had become a big success and he had produced several monographs that had been hungrily devoured by scores of students, he felt good enough about himself to sit down and tell his own story. He had used a tape recorder to dictate the first draft of his third book, so I bought him a new machine so he could tell his favorite anecdotes in an appropriately colloquial style. He wasn't comfortable with it this time, and few of the stories I had expected ended up in the final typescript. (I got good use out of the tape recorder a few years later though when I interviewed his students for .)
Paul's autobiography is much like Darwin's, though naturally written from a deeper psychological perspective. It's nearly impossible, apparently, for deep thinkers to correlate the development of the ideas that made them famous with the kinds of concrete experiences that are supposed to be the substance of autobiographies. Paul used to tell me that he often mulled an idea over for 30 years before breathing a word of it to anyone — how do you work that into a life story? He didn't, but what he does tell is well worth reading — especially his description of what the Center meant to him.
When I reflect on my life story I find it remarkable that I was consistently able to walk away from conventional sources of security. When I have turned my back on all things that men are supposed to hold dear to advance into an unknown world, it has not been with a sense of crisis. It has been more like a casual walk into an unfamiliar section of a forest where I already feel at home. This conduct might seem inconsistent with my phobic personality structure. To have agoraphobic tendencies implies anxiety in the face of unfamiliar expanses of space. This symptom nullifies any simple joy someone might feel in running loose in space. But I discovered long ago that I had the ability to carry a surrounding space with me in a fashion not too dissimilar to the tortoise and his shell, and with this sense of secure orientation I could nullify agoraphobic threats. In fact, the apparently familiar, by which I mean the conventional structure of the human world as it supposed to be, turned out to be more a source of phobic anxiety than experiences which were fresh and novel. I was easily overstimulated by the false promises inherent in conventional social relationships. This touched off the phobic mechanism which originates when intensity is too great for the experience which stimulates it. The phobic reaction means that the individual is burning in the fires of his own feelings and therefore cannot retain a sense of the simple reality of experience