Staring at the Sun: Overcoming the Terror of Death

Staring at the Sun: Overcoming the Terror of Death

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by Irvin D. Yalom

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Staring at the Sun

From the acclaimed author of the best-selling Love's Executioner, The Gift of Therapy, and When Nietzsche Wept comes an inspiring book that confronts the most demanding challenge we all face: overcoming the terror of death.

Written in Irv Yalom's inimitable story-telling style, Staring at the Sun is a

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Staring at the Sun

From the acclaimed author of the best-selling Love's Executioner, The Gift of Therapy, and When Nietzsche Wept comes an inspiring book that confronts the most demanding challenge we all face: overcoming the terror of death.

Written in Irv Yalom's inimitable story-telling style, Staring at the Sun is a profoundly encouraging approach to the universal issue of mortality. In this magisterial opus, capping a lifetime of work and personal experience, Dr. Yalom helps us recognize that the fear of death is at the heart of much of our anxiety. Such recognition is often catalyzed by an "awakening experience"—a dream, or loss (the death of a loved one, divorce, loss of a job or home), illness, trauma, or aging.

Once we confront our own mortality, Dr. Yalom writes, we are inspired to rearrange our priorities, communicate more deeply with those we love, appreciate more keenly the beauty of life, and increase our willingness to take the risks necessary for personal fulfillment.

Filled with touching personal stories of people who are grappling with the terror of death—including the author—Staring at the Sun offers specific methods to cope with terror and is ultimately life affirming. Most important, Dr. Yalom encourages us to strive for more direct engagement with others. Compassionate connection, combined with the wisdom of the great thinkers who have wrestled with mortality, enables us to overcome the terror of death and lead happier, more meaningful lives.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

Psychiatrist Yalom (emeritus, Stanford Univ. Sch. of Medicine) is noted for his stories (Love's Executioner), novels (When Nietzsche Wept), and writing on group and existential psychotherapy. As the only creatures with foreknowledge of death-what Yalom calls "the mother of all religions"-we humans must find or create meaning within the limits of our existence. Yalom uses examples from therapy sessions, dreams, his own encounters with death, and his exchanges and experiences with his mentors and teachers to engage the reader in a compelling conversation among equals. The chapter titles "The Power of Ideas," "The Awakening Experience," "Overcoming Death Terror Through Connection," and "Advice for Therapists" indicate his approach: viewing death's shadow can save us from despair without the consolation of religion. At 75, Yalom proves to be at the prime of life as a therapist, a writer, and a quotidian soul. For adults and mature teens and likely to be a classic in the area of serious self-help and psychology; an essential library purchase.
—E. James Lieberman

From the Publisher
"Philosophical it is, but never arid with theory. Its livelychapters are populated with patients whose raw angst Yalom refinesinto vignettes that are always enlightening and often quitemoving." (Washington Post, February 24, 2008)

The philosopher Martin Heidegger once remarked that we can liveintensely only if we stare death in the face every moment of ourlives. Bestselling psychiatrist Yalom (Love's Executioner)attempts to put this principle into practice in a sometimesthoughtful, often repetitious book. Drawing on literature and film,as well as conversations with his patients, Yalom demonstrates howthe fear of retirement, concerns about changing jobs or moving toanother city, or changes in family status (such as the empty nest)are rooted in our deepest, most inescapable fear: of death. Yet, hesays, this anxiety can prompt an awakening to life and help usrealize our connections to others and our influence on those aroundus. Through such experiences we can transcend our sense of“finiteness and transiency” and live in the here andnow. In a final chapter, Yalom offers instructions for therapistsseeking to help their patients overcome death anxiety. Although inthe 1980s Yalom, now 76, provided new insights into the humanpsyche with his innovative method of “existentialpsychotherapy,” this book recycles well-known philosophicalinsights, but Yalom's humane, calm voice may bring them to a newaudience. (Feb.) (Publishers Weekly, November 5,2007)

"Staring at the Sun is neither textbook nor mereself-help. Philosophical it is, but never arid with theory. Itslively chapters are populated with patients whose raw angst Yalomrefines into vignettes that are always enlightening and often quitemoving." — Washington Post

"So what to do about the dread of death? ... [Yalom's] keyprescriptions are true connections with others, a feeling one haslived well and "rippling" - having positive impacts and memorieslive on in others after you die. These deceptively obvious goalsare, obviously, not easily attained: What thinking and feelingperson truly lives a life with no regrets? But they are inarguablyworthwhile ones." — San Francisco Chronicle

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What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"Irv Yalom has written a beautiful and courageous book - a bookthat comforts even as it explores and confronts death. Yalom helpsus understand that we must all come to grips with a paradox: Thephysicality of death destroys us; the idea of death savesus."
George Valliant, author of Aging Well, andDirector of the Harvard Medical School Study of Adult Development

"Staring at the Sun is a thoughtful reinforcement of thestoicism that we all need in a time when babble and denial are allthe rage."
Christopher Hitchens, author of God Is NotGreat

"Staring at the Sun looks experientially andpsycho-dynamically at our deepest fear, and describes with uncommoneloquence and deep humanity how we may arrive at a form of peace.The book is witty and kind and unflinching, a generous mediationthat should give comfort to the dying and to those they leavebehind."
Andrew Solomon, author, The Noonday Demon,winner of the National Book Award

"Irvin Yalom has written a brave, intelligent book on the lastforbidden subject—death. I honor his courage and rareinsight."
Erica Jong, author, Fear of Flying,Shylock’s Daughter, Inventing Memory, andSappho’s Leap

"Yalom is the Scherherazade of the couch, his work a marvelousexercise in storytelling."
Laura Miller, New York Times

"This thoughtful treatment of the ultimate fear has much tooffer people of faith, especially Western Christians. Instead offearing death, which gave birth to religion itself, we can confrontit in a true act of faith, and stop denying it through fantasies ofimmorality. This is a wise book by a wise man about the most tabooof all subjects. Read it, and fear not."
Robin Meyers, minister of Mayflower UCC Church ofOklahoma City, and author of Why the Christian Right isWrong

"One of America's finest therapists guides us through one oflife's most challenging tasks in this profoundly helpful book. Itwill benefit anyone who reads it."
Rabbi Harold Kushner, author of When Bad ThingsHappen To Good People

"Irvin Yalom writes like an angel about the devils that besiegeus."
Rollo May

"In Staring at the Sun, Dr. Yalom shares with us theproblems of his patients linked to their mortality, hiscompassionate, healing insight into their death anxiety, andperhaps most movingly, his own feelings and personal experienceswith 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 theserealities in positive and meaningful ways that foster personalgrowth and intensify our connections to others and to the worldaround us."
Harold Ramis, Actor, Writer and Director,Ghostbuster, Groundhog Day, and AnalyzeThis

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