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Staring At The Sun: Being at peace with your own mortality [Kindle Edition]

Irvin D. Yalom
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Over the past quarter century Irvin Yalom has established himself as the world's leading group psychotherapist. In STARING AT THE SUN, he explores how the knowledge of our own mortality affects the unconscious mind of every human being. Tackling the effect of mankind's fear of death - both conscious and unconscious - on life and how we might live it, Yalom explains how we find ourselves in need of the comfort of therapy.

At age 70 and facing his own fear of death, which he discusses in a special afterword, Dr Yalom tackles his toughest subject yet and finds it to be the root cause of patients' fears, stresses and depression. If therapists are to deliver 'the gift of therapy', they must confront the realities of life for themselves and their practice, as must we all.

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Product Description


Unlike many psychotherapists, Yalom writes like a dream (OXFORD TIMES)

Like many of Yalom's books, Staring at the Sun (2008) was written for everyone: the lay person, the student of psychotherapy, and the professional. The lay reader will no doubt find Yalom's writing completely accessible and profoundly human. The student (Kevin S. D. Wallace, B.A)


Unlike many psychotherapists, Yalom writes like a dream OXFORD TIMES The idea that the anxiety of facing death can prompt an awakening to life strikes a powerful chord BOOKSELLER

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1172 KB
  • Print Length: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Piatkus (3 Mar. 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004KZOXE0
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #32,400 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Dr Irvin Yalom is Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at Stanford University. He has won two major awards from the American Psychiatric Association. He continues to run his clinical practice and lectures widely.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
This book is easy to read, despite the references to philosophy that were unfamiliar to me: I am no intellectual. Yalom makes several references to Epicurus (341-270 BC) who developed `thought experiments' to help deal with the fear of death. He also makes the thoughts of Schopenhauer, Nietzsche and Heidegger accessible, and mentions the works of Tolstoy, Bergman and Kurosawa without being pretentious or academic.

Yalom is a psychotherapist and mentions the death fears of some of his patients. I was struck to how similar they were to my own thoughts - these really are universal fears (what did I expect?).

He writes of the fact that a brush with death can enhance one's enjoyment of living. He explains that Heidegger believed we have an `everyday' mode where we wonder at HOW things are, and an ontological mode where we wonder THAT things are and where we are keener to make major changes.

Another theme is the idea that we all create ripples of influence that continue for years or even generations after our deaths - even if we are not famous. This can give comfort. `Transiency is forever,' he quips.

Towards the end of the book there is a longish sector aimed at therapists and explaining how they should deal with patients' death anxiety. This is easy enough for the layperson to read but for me, less interesting than Yalom's philosophical ideas.

The book ends with a short section of questions the reader might like to ask herself about the ideas in each chapter in the book to clarify her own thoughts. These are not like those annoying `exercises' given in self-help books, though.

This is a book to keep and re-read, though I wonder whether it would give comfort to someone who knew they were facing death in the near future.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Staring at the Sun by Irvin D. Yalom 21 Sept. 2011
I started reading Staring at the Sun and was very quickly drawn in by Yalom's warm, conversational writing style.

Yalom shows us how ancient Greek philosophers approached life and death, with particular emphasis upon the work of Epicurus. He also talks about the relevant ideas of more recent philosophers such as Nietzsche and Heidegger. He provides literary examples of attitudes towards death including the works of Tolstoy.

Whilst I found this part of his book interesting, it was little too long for me. As a therapist myself I was fascinated by Yalom's case studies and the healing therapeutic relationships that he forms with his patients. I learnt from his examples of self-disclosure and I appreciate that Yalom is prepared to include his less helpful interventions as well as those that have enhanced his therapeutic relationships and enabled patients to live more comfortably with what is inevitable for us all.

As someone who believes that death is not the end, I was able to accept Yalom's views. He is respectful of religious beliefs and considers anything that can reduce death anxiety as valuable. I did not find Yalom's perspective difficult or offensive, I respect his position as I think that he would respect mine.

I would recommend Staring at the Sun to anyone who would like to explore and address their own anxieties about death and dying and to therapists, whether or not they have an existential approach.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compassion in action 18 Jun. 2012
By Lady Fancifull TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I very much value this book, where 'existentialist humanist' psychotherapist Yalom explores the belief that it is the awareness of our own mortality, and the mortality of all around us, which is at the root of much of our deepest insecurities and anxieties. It is this which he looks to explore rather than the more day to day, personality based concerns which may be brought to the therapeutic encounter.

Two major strands which I found intensely moving in this book. Firstly Yalom's willingness to be deeply honest, personal and authetic with his clients, rather than taking a god-like position assuming his own rightness. This leads to his willingness to share of himself with clients. This is something which can be seen as a bit of a no-no, in some schools, as of course the session is for and about the client, not the therapist, although of course the relationship between the two is crucial. However, if in therapy the client is always the one who is vulnerable, and the therapist never, it could be said there is an inauthenticity going on. Yalom is willing - WHERE THIS WILL BE OF USE FOR THE CLIENT - to reveal his own messy humanity. Willing to admit his wrongness. Willing to admit his difference and the client's difference.

Secondly, and carrying on from the last sentence - I was particularly moved by his recounting of sessions with someone who had strong, what Yalom terms - 'paranormal beliefs' Yalom is an atheist, and expresses his disbelief in what might be thought 'New Age' thinking. Through his recognition and respect for the human being in his treatment room, he was able to acknowledge that the client's beliefs were not ones he could share, but deeply recognise the health, not just the pathology, that caused his client to hold those beliefs.
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45 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Profound, humane and rewarding 13 Dec. 2008
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
One irritated quibble out of the way: a previous reviewer said that as a Christian he "knows" that death is not the end. I can only assume that this is the sort of parapraxis all too frequently encountered in the religious who actually mean to write "believe" and mistakenly write "know." Some people, for reasons best known to themselves, believe that death is not the end of personal consciousness, which is entirely their right: they do not know as much, however much the religionist likes to conflate these two entirely different and separate concepts.

Anyway. Yalom's latest book is a delight - much as one would expect from so engaging a writer of both fiction and non-fiction. Trying to tackle the human existential terror of annihilation is a tall order for even the most ably qualified of people, but Yalom, as an existential therapist with nearly half a century of experience, is superbly placed. This is not necessarily to say that Yalom could succeed or has succeeded where innumerable philosophers past and present have failed (in reconciling the human existent to the end of life and consciousness): but it is no disservice to so wise and engaging a man or his book to say that it is a beautifully attractive whistle-stop tour of what both ancient thinkers such as Epicurus (something of a hero to Yalom, as well he might be) and contemporary psychotherapy can do to speak to the human condition vis a vis death - finite and mortal creatures, we all have to face up in one way or another, reality-based or not, to the end of our individual lives and those things which we have created within those lives.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Really interesting
Published 1 month ago by Shadow
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful
A wonderful book! Thoroughly recommended...
Published 2 months ago by Spinning Jennie
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
Best book I have ever read about death anxiety. But I love Yalom for his straight forward writing but most of all for how much he puts of himself into his books.
Published 2 months ago by julia stretton
5.0 out of 5 stars Making the most of the years you have left.
I'm a recent recent retiree, and this book has helped me to face my own mortality, and start living a more fulfilling life in the years that I have left. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Mr M J Farmer
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Very thought provoking
Published 4 months ago by Geoffrey Hartley
5.0 out of 5 stars Serenity
Wonderfully honest and helpfull book.
Published 5 months ago by Helen Rodgers
5.0 out of 5 stars buy this book!!!
Recommendable book, important issues to understand and deal with
Published 5 months ago by Bente Adler
1.0 out of 5 stars More afraid than I was before!
If you have a fear of death, this book makes it worse. I found none of it comforting.
Published 5 months ago by Mrs W.
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 6 months ago by Veronica Williams
1.0 out of 5 stars one dimensional
I find his outlook on the universe very one dimensional, he is skeptical about the afterlife and does not seem open to anyone else's ideas only his own
Published 7 months ago by Stephen BigBear Dodd
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