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The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourselves Paperback – 2 Jan 2014

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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (2 Jan. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099549034
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099549031
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (454 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,780 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)

Inside This Book

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

112 of 119 people found the following review helpful By Sarah Rayner on 27 Feb. 2013
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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Mister G HALL OF FAMETOP 10 REVIEWER on 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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122 of 132 people found the following review helpful By Uncle Barbar TOP 100 REVIEWER on 8 Jan. 2013
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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151 of 164 people found the following review helpful By katy thomas on 6 Jan. 2013
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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