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

Stephen Grosz
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (380 customer reviews)
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Book Description

2 Jan 2014

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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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (2 Jan 2014)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 0099549034
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099549031
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.8 x 1.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (380 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,463 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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.

For more information please visit www.stephengrosz.com

Product Description

Review

"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)

Book Description

Longlisted for the Guardian first book award, a Sunday Times bestseller and Radio 4 Book of the Week. 'Marvellous' (The Times), 'Excellent' (Guardian), 'Completely magical' (Mail on Sunday)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
97 of 101 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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118 of 126 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The life analytic 8 Jan 2013
By Uncle Barbar TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
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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150 of 162 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
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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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I read this book cover to cover in 3 days. As a psychotherapist myself, I identified with some of Stephen Grosz's insight and comments, and also learned so much more from this master therapist. This book is of interest to anyone who is interested in not only the human mind, but the human heart and what makes us think, feel and behave in the ways that we do, all in an absorbing, highly readable book.
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40 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Interesting - I highly recommend 12 Jan 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this on my Kindle. Whilst I appreciate that the focus of the book is observations from analysis, I would have liked the book a little better if it had given a bit more information at the end of each chapter (regarding what happened next) which the author did do with the patient who had AIDS - I laughed out loud at the triumph in this patient's comment to his medication ! (and it is to, rather than about his medication!)

However, I do also appreciate that these are real people and as such they are not fictional short stories with neat endings. Additionally, I also know that whilst some patients return to therapy with further problems later in the transit of their lives, some do not and the series of sessions during a current issue is sometimes all that the analyst gets chance to work on/with the patient.

The only chapter I had any concerns about was the one associated with closure. I completely agree that dealing with death does not in any way have neat endings either, but I do sometimes think that with counselling or analysis or any kind of talking therapy, the patient can gain insights into their grief, especially if the person who died was someone with whom the patient had a particularly difficult relationship. Then, as a result of those insights, they are able to find the bereavement process slightly easier.

However, I do think closure is more useful as a concept when people are recovering from serious assaults etc rather than for bereavement so in this respect agree with the author.

I was really glad I had read this book and would recommend it to anyone for the author's insights and honesty - the chapter with his father moved me very deeply. It is one of those few books I've read where I felt I wanted to talk to the author afterwards !
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
enjoyed.
Published 14 hours ago by N. Brown
4.0 out of 5 stars insightful and intimate
This book Affords reader to become a third person in the consulting room of a psychoanalyst. Gives the reader insight into themselves and others, I sincerely recommend it,
Published 2 days ago by stuart mcgeagh
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
very good
Published 7 days ago by Mrs Susan F Harvey
4.0 out of 5 stars good book yet something missing
good book. But the patients in this book usually have a good job or a wife or husband to support them in their mishaps and/or tragedies. Read more
Published 11 days ago by Paul
5.0 out of 5 stars WoW! how informative and of inestimable interest if your ...
WoW ! how informative and of inestimable interest if your interested in human nature and how we develop and what "turns us" :) off the long, slow and winding road of... Read more
Published 12 days ago by Chevvy, UK, Winchester
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a must-have book! I found several of ...
This is a must-have book! I found several of the stories eerily familiar. Does that mean I'm a potential patient? :-). Seems we all are even when we think we are 'normal' folks!
Published 18 days ago by Ije Chris-Okafor
1.0 out of 5 stars Does Your Mother Know That You're Out?
I've recently been trying to give books either a one or a five star review: did I like it, or did I not? But this book almost broke the habit by being a firm three star read. Read more
Published 20 days ago by Jim 8888
5.0 out of 5 stars The examined life
Very thought provoking and a truly gripping book let's hope he writes us more thank you Mr Grosz very enjoyable
Published 23 days ago by C. Lakin
5.0 out of 5 stars A good read
Well wrote
Published 25 days ago by Kenneth Alfred Boardman
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant.
I had read a brief review on this book and thought ok, could be interesting. The book blew me away, fantastic and beautifully written. Read more
Published 28 days ago by Steven Redpath
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