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

4.3 out of 5 stars 508 customer reviews

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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 1.5 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (508 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,851 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

Top Customer Reviews

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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By Uncle Barbar TOP 50 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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Looking through the numerous and wide ranging reviews this book has already attracted, if you are still considering whether or not to buy it you might find the following explanation useful.

If you buy this book for the wrong reasons you won't get much out of it, and that might help explain the 1-3 star reviews. For example, if you think you are going to get just over 30 sessions (the number of chapters in this book) of psychotherapy on the cheap (the price of this book), think again. Being a fly on the wall during an intimate session between patient and psychotherapist isn't how psychotherapy works.

Nor is there any value in reading it as though this was an exercise in `spot-the ball'. For example, as you read each Chapter you may start to identify with a few of its symptoms or circumstances. You say to yourself `oh, I suffer from that', or `I'm a bit like that'. Well don't think you will find the answer to your problems by the end of the chapter.

But if you buy this book for the right reasons, expect to get a great deal out of Grosz's distillation of some 50,000 hours of conversation in his consulting room over a period of the last twenty-five years, covering a wide range of topics including: telling lies, loving, changing, and leaving. This might help to explain the numerous 4-5 star reviews.

The main benefit of the book lies in his prompting questions, and a few of the generalised lessons he draws out for himself. For example, ask yourself `what haunts you?' after reading his chapter on `How lovesickness keeps us from love.'

Grosz argues that effective desire to change our lives does not come about from fear or other negative emotions, but rather from things that haunt us.
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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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