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The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourselves [Kindle Edition]

Stephen Grosz
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (448 customer reviews)

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Book Description

A Sunday Times bestseller

Longlisted for the Guardian first book award

A Radio 4 Book of the Week

This book is about learning to live.

In simple stories of encounter between a psychoanalyst and his patients, The Examined Life reveals how the art of insight can illuminate the most complicated, confounding and human of experiences.

These are stories about our everyday lives: they are about the people we love and the lies that we tell; the changes we bear, and the grief. Ultimately, they show us not only how we lose ourselves but how we might find ourselves too.

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"I was enthralled. profound and moving, packed large ideas into a slim volume" (Lucy Lethbridge Observer Books of the Year)

"With deceptive simplicity and gentle wisdom, Grosz teases out a lesson or chases down a fugitive insight. I have distrusted psychoanalysis for years, but I would leap onto Grosz's couch" (James McConnachie The Sunday Times Books of the Year)

"This moving book of patient portraits by the psychoanalyst Stephen Grosz will make the reader think of Freud's keenly observed and literary-minded case studies. Writing with sympathy and insight, Mr Grosz distils 25 years of work into a series of slim, piercing chapters that read like a combination of Chekhov and Oliver Sacks" (Michiko Kakutani New York Times)

"The success of The Examined Life by the psychoanalyst Stephen Grosz has, I think, relatively little to do with his clinical know-how; it rests, as Freud's did, on his story-telling abilities" (Rachel Cooke Observer)

"Grosz is a superb storyteller and tells lots of his patients' stories with sensitivity, but also with great acuity. You might keep thinking you recognise things about people you know" (William Leith Evening Standard)

"A wonderful example of a book that provides a safe space that can be used as a base to explore the less safe" (Alex Clark Guardian)

"Riveting... Grosz is adept at uncovering the little lies we tell ourselves and he's very perceptive about the potentially positive effects of bad experiences" (Daily Telegraph)

"Because of [Grosz's] skill at getting to the heart of the matter, we forget the distance separating us and become quickly involved in the lives of those he discusses" (Mail on Sunday)

"Absolutely fascinating. You'll be amateur psychoanalysing yourself and everyone you know" (Independent on Sunday)

"It made me stop and think, and it has stayed with me. Grosz is a superb storyteller and tells lots of his patients' stories with sensitivity, but also with great acuity. You might keep thinking you recognise things about people you know" (William Leith Scotsman)

Book Description

This book is about learning to live. In simple stories of encounter between a psychoanalyst and his patients, The Examined Life reveals how the art of insight can illuminate the most complicated, confounding and human of experiences.

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More About the Author

Stephen Grosz is a practicing psychoanalyst--he has worked with patients for more than twenty-five years. Born in America, educated at the University of California, Berkeley, and at Oxford University, he lives in London. A Sunday Times bestseller, The Examined Life is his first book.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
111 of 118 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Distilling decades of therapeutic work into a slim volume that reads like a collection of short stories, Grosz offers an intriguing insight into contemporary psychoanalysis. A married father-of-four announces that he is thinking of coming out, aged 71, while a woman who has just celebrated her 50th birthday realises a sexy dream that bothered her was about her son.

Anger, boredom, self-delusion, lying, being stuck, Grosz even shows how boredom is worth thinking about. He draws not just on his patients, but literature too - Scrooge shows us how we can't live a life without loss, a Herman Melville character reveals how `we all have a cheering voice that says "let us start now, right away"' and an opposing, negative voice that responds "I would prefer not to."'

But the real joy of this book is that all this is done with such a light touch. I'd take issue with the other reviewer who suggests we go and read Freud instead - many who are attracted to this book are unlikely to, and that's the very point. It avoids jargon, and in an era when CBT is frequently hailed as The Answer to mental health problems (it's just about the only therapy one can get on the NHS these days, though it's still a postcode lottery), it's a timely reminder not to throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. Don't get me wrong, I think CBT can be invaluable tool, but let's remember looking at our entrenched patterns can help patients who suffer too. To have made complex theories accessible to a mainstream audience is a fine achievement, and to Mr Grosz I'd like to say: THANK YOU.
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122 of 132 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The life analytic 8 Jan. 2013
By Uncle Barbar TOP 100 REVIEWER
To be honest, I am not a fan of Freudian analysis, regarding CBT as a less fanciful, if blunter tool for quickly fixing unwanted behaviour. However, I am fascinated by what people do, why they do it and how they think. I am pleased to say that the author does not shoehorn established Freudian ideas on to individual cases but is more intent on squirreling out a unique reason, based on the client's personal history, to account for their idiosyncratic behaviour. To me, this reflects more what true psychological analysis should be. The author does not confine himself purely to relating the details of his clients. He also describes an intriguing case he learned about while chatting to somebody on an aeroplane flight, proving that the author delights in the machinations of the human mind to the extent that he takes his work home with him.

Each account is gripping in its own right and each gives an insight into human nature and the sometimes obscure reasons which may cause it. As you read, you will recognise the behaviour of friends, colleagues and loved ones of your own and start pondering just what makes them tick... Whether you are a champion of Freudian psychoanalysis or not, there is plenty to enjoy in this book because the stories are well told and intriguing. Whether you agree with the author's reading of the situation is of course open to debate but nevertheless it will get you thinking, and that cannot be bad. I found this to be an absorbing and entertaining read and one that I would highly recommend.
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151 of 164 people found the following review helpful
I loved this book - reading these short stories ( based on sessions between patients and psychoanalyst) is like lifting the curtains on the lives of your friends and neighbours and, yes, even yourself... To this end I have been posting this book through the doors of aforementioned friends in the hope that we can pepper our walks and talks with some of the insights offered by author Stephen Grosz. Have we over-praised our children? Have we invented fantasy escapes from our everyday lives? Does change scare us? And if, like me, you suspect that psychoanalysis might be a bit of a magician's art, you will be won over by the clarity and humility of the writing and the fascinating insights into how psychoanalysts actually work. The great joy of these highly engaging stories is that, unlike reading fiction where you might think, do I really believe a character would have acted like that, or, is this plot really believable, you know these stories are true: how satisfying it is to be presented with a character in crisis only to discover exactly what precipitated the crisis and how resolution might - or might not - be achieved; such a joy! If I was pressed, I would say this book is a meeting of Jane Austen, Tolstoy and Hello magazine. What a treat.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Makes you stop and think. Repeatedly 1 Mar. 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
If like me your childhood was not great, this book might possibly even give you an insight into how it has affected you.

The book deals, among other things, with how our childhood experiences can mean that we 'find ourselves acting in ways we don't understand' (a quote from a couple of paragraphs after the free sample ends - if you read the free sample, you will understand the relevance).

The book deals with issues such as a person using laughter as a defence mechanism. That does not seem like a revelation at all - clearly laughter can be used as a defence mechanism - but the explanation in the book as to why a patient acts in the way that she does employs a very different mechanism. I found it profound.

This book does that. It makes you stop and think.

I was particularly interested in the chapter dealing with how praise can decrease a child's confidence. The author goes on to answer the question "if praise doesn't build a child's confidence, what does?" It would be unfair of me to tell you what the answer is but when I read it, it seemed so obvious yet I had not realised before. I am applying that lesson with my own daughter.

I understand the negative reviews of this book (though I still like it). Some chapters are far less fulfilling than others, as they seem to leave things hanging in the air more than others. But then life is like that. I count the good chapters instead.

What strikes me is the number of chapters addressing an issue where I could not understand why someone might act as described; then the author proffers a reason and it seems so patently obvious with hindsight. Consequently I feel that I have learned something - both about myself and others.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A Classic
A classic, enjoyable, well written and engaging. I recommended to all my counselling students.
Published 2 days ago by KateyB
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Good description of the benefits and some stunning breakthroughs in therapy
Published 8 days ago by Rameses
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful in audio
I have this book in paperback and in audio. I enjoyed reading it but listen to the audio whenever I can have a period of solitude. Read more
Published 14 days ago by lottie
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read-and gives us such valuable insight into people's...
Excellent read-and gives us such valuable insight into people's behaviour that may seem bafrwisefling othewise.
Published 15 days ago by Pamela Walker
4.0 out of 5 stars Lucid, credible and necessary
This turned out to be exactly the kind of snapshot I was looking for, wondering one day at the role and casual day in the life of a psychoanalyst. Read more
Published 18 days ago by CultureDrinker
4.0 out of 5 stars Sage but not earnest
This condensed overview of a life's work is illuminating without being preachy. Accessible but not at the expense of intellectual and emotional depth. Read more
Published 24 days ago by fi
5.0 out of 5 stars Good seller
All good. Quick delivery and well packaged. Exactly as advertised
Published 24 days ago by Voulezvous
1.0 out of 5 stars Fairies
Reading this I felt that Mr Grosz made all the information comong from patients fit in with the dogma of psychoanalysis (just like he describes his patients fitting all the... Read more
Published 25 days ago by Bookworm
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent reading
The writing was compelling and the content moving. These are all case studies which set one thinking I recommend it
Published 1 month ago by Amazon lady
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is incredible I enjoyed reading this book
This book is incredible I enjoyed reading this book. I could not put it down I read this in 2 weeks. It's amazing
Published 1 month ago by Shanelle Dennis
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