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Staring at the Sun: Overcoming the Dread of Death: Overcoming the Terror of Death Hardcover – 27 Mar 2008

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Piatkus; Reprint edition (27 Mar 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0749928093
  • ISBN-13: 978-0749928094
  • Product Dimensions: 16.1 x 2.7 x 2.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 204,160 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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.

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)


"Irv Yalom has written a beautiful and courageous book – a book that comforts even as it explores and confronts death. Yalom helps us understand that we must all come to grips with a paradox: The physicality of death destroys us; the idea of death saves us." — George Valliant, author of Aging Well , and Director of the Harvard Medical School Study of Adult Development " Staring at the Sun is a thoughtful reinforcement of the stoicism that we all need in a time when babble and denial are all the rage." — Christopher Hitchens , author of God Is Not Great " Staring at the Sun looks experientially and psycho–dynamically at our deepest fear, and describes with uncommon eloquence and deep humanity how we may arrive at a form of peace. The book is witty and kind and unflinching, a generous mediation that should give comfort to the dying and to those they leave behind." — Andrew Solomon , author, The Noonday Demon , winner of the National Book Award "Irvin Yalom has written a brave, intelligent book on the last forbidden subject—death. I honor his courage and rare insight." — Erica Jong , author, Fear of Flying, Shylock’s Daughter, Inventing Memory , and Sappho’s Leap "Yalom is the Scherherazade of the couch, his work a marvelous exercise in storytelling." — Laura Miller , New York Times "This thoughtful treatment of the ultimate fear has much to offer people of faith, especially Western Christians. Instead of fearing death, which gave birth to religion itself, we can confront it in a true act of faith, and stop denying it through fantasies of immorality. This is a wise book by a wise man about the most taboo of all subjects. Read it, and fear not." — Robin Meyers , minister of Mayflower UCC Church of Oklahoma City, and author of Why the Christian Right is Wrong "One of America′s finest therapists guides us through one of life′s most challenging tasks in this profoundly helpful book. It will benefit anyone who reads it." — Rabbi Harold Kushner , author of When Bad Things Happen To Good People "Irvin Yalom writes like an angel about the devils that besiege us." — Rollo May "In Staring at the Sun, Dr. Yalom shares with us the problems of his patients linked to their mortality, his compassionate, healing insight into their death anxiety, and perhaps most movingly, his own feelings and personal experiences with death. While the existential realities of death, isolation, and meaningless may seem at first bleak and full of despair, Dr. Yalom′s existential approach helps his readers frame these realities in positive and meaningful ways that foster personal growth and intensify our connections to others and to the world around us." — Harold Ramis , Actor, Writer and Director, Ghostbuster , Groundhog Day , and Analyze This --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Self-awareness is a supreme gift, a treasure as precious as life. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Lady Fancifull TOP 500 REVIEWER on 18 Jun 2012
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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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By J. Sawyer on 12 April 2011
Format: Hardcover
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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Paula Newman on 21 Sep 2011
Format: Paperback
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 By Rama Rao on 5 Dec 2007
Format: Hardcover
The fear of death confronts all human beings at some stage in life, especially the old age. This fear is as old as the evolution of human beings. The author is an eminent psychiatrist, and he discusses the results of some of his case studies, and provides some insights in this area. The book is described in seven chapters. After a brief introduction (chapter 1), the author describes the symptoms of death anxiety (chapter 2), and how to confront it (chapter 3). Chapters 4 and 5 describes how the thoughts of some philosophers and therapists could be combined cooperatively to overcome the fear of death, and in chapter 6 he offers a memoir of his personal experiences with death and mortality. The author is very candid about this fear. The last chapter offers some instruction to clinical psychologists who counsel patients on death anxiety since very few professional schools offer training in this area.

There is an interesting case of a 29 year old woman who was wrongly diagnosed by several therapists for sexual abuse instead of her fear of death. As a child she experienced her father's unpredictable episodes of rage which caused her insecure feelings and death anxiety (pages 16-21). The case of "Susan" a middle aged professional woman is another interesting case whose death anxiety is masked by her distress at her son's run in with law for drug offenses and being jailed (pages 23-30). Based on the data provided it is unclear to the reader if "Susan" is fearful of getting old or she is afraid of death. It is very common among middle aged women to be fearful of getting old and this is not the same as death anxiety. While discussing about sudden realization or awakening experience about human mortality the author refers to the story Ebenezer Scrooge and his remarkable transformation.
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