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The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourselves
     

The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourselves

by Peter Marinker
 
An extraordinary book for anyone eager to understand the hidden motives that shape our lives.
We are all storytellers—we create stories to make sense of our lives. But it is not enough to tell tales. There must be someone to listen. In his work as a practicing psychoanalyst, Stephen Grosz has spent the last twenty-five years uncovering the hidden feelings

Overview

An extraordinary book for anyone eager to understand the hidden motives that shape our lives.
We are all storytellers—we create stories to make sense of our lives. But it is not enough to tell tales. There must be someone to listen. In his work as a practicing psychoanalyst, Stephen Grosz has spent the last twenty-five years uncovering the hidden feelings behind our most baffling behavior. The Examined Life distils more than 50,000 hours of conversation into pure psychological insight without the jargon. This extraordinary book is about one ordinary process: talking, listening, and understanding. Its aphoristic and elegant stories teach us a new kind of attentiveness. They also unveil a delicate self-portrait of the analyst at work and show how lessons learned in the consulting room can reveal as much to the analyst as to the patient. These are stories about our everyday lives: they are about the people we love and the lies we tell, the changes we bear and the grief. Ultimately, they show us not only how we lose ourselves but also how we might find ourselves.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Grosz could get technical if he wanted to—he teaches clinical technique and psychoanalytic theory at London’s Institute of Psychoanalysis and University College London, respectively—but he believes the best way to prove the power of storytelling is to practice what he preaches. Drawing from two decades of experience as a working psychoanalyst, Grosz bases the bulk of his claims on the tales of his patients, which range from traumatic boarding school experiences to failed romances and terminal illness. They are compassionately told and eminently readable, but skeptical readers will likely lament the lack of scientific analysis. But then again, that’s Grosz’s whole point—science needn’t be at the forefront if cathartic personal narrative is the focus. The crucial role of storytelling in forming one’s sense of self and of the world seems to be a given among psychoanalysts and writers, but Grosz goes further to demonstrate the ways in which stories, when unspoken, manifest themselves as symptoms of psychological distress. Quick leaps from focused accounts to grand conclusions sometimes disrupt the rhetorical arc of the book, though this in itself might be in keeping with the overall idea that narratives are messy, unpredictable, and somehow, in spite of all of these things, inherently useful—if not always in the words, then in the silences between them. Agent: David Miller, Rogers, Coleridge & White Ltd. (May)
Sunday Times - Robert Collins
“Grosz’s vignettes are so brilliantly put together that they read like pieces of bare, illuminating fiction. . . . It is this combination of tenacious detective work, remarkable compassion and sheer, unending curiosity for the oddities of the human heart that makes these stories utterly captivating.”
Michiko Kakutani - New York Times
“Shares the best literary qualities of Freud’s most persuasive work. It is… an insightful and beautifully written book… a series of slim, piercing chapters that read like a combination of Chekhov and Oliver Sacks. [A] deeply affecting book.”
The Spectator - Michael Holroyd
“Engaging, frank, and with many penetrating insights. His short, succinct chapters have both the tension and the satisfaction of miniature detective or mystery stories. . . . A stimulating book.”
Kate Tuttle - Boston Globe
“Magnetically compelling. . . . The result is a shared sense of humanity, understanding and even hope.”
Andrew Solomon
“Impossible to put down… it will leave you wiser about humanity than you were when you picked it up.”
Michael Holroyd - The Spectator
“Engaging, frank,and with many penetrating insights. His short, succinct chapters have both the tension and the satisfaction of miniature detective or mystery stories.”
Melissa Katsoulis - The Times
“Brilliant. . . . After reading [Grosz’s] absorbing accounts of his patients’ journeys you might feel that The Examined Life ought to be given out free at birth.”
Trisha Andres - Financial Times
“By turns edifying and moving. Grosz offers astute insights into the perplexities of everyday life.”
Robert Collins - Sunday Times
“Grosz’s vignettes are so brilliantly put together that they read like pieces of bare, illuminating fiction… utterly captivating.”
The Times - Melissa Katsoulis
“Brilliant. . . . After reading [Grosz’s] absorbing accounts of his patients’ journeys you might feel that The Examined Life ought to be given out free at birth.”
Financial Times - Trisha Andres
“By turns edifying and moving. . . . Grosz offers astute insights into the perplexities of everyday life.”
Melissa Katsoulis - The Times (UK)
“Marvellous. After reading [Grosz's] absorbing accounts of his patients' journeys you might feel that The Examined Life ought to be given out free at birth.”
Dinah Loon - Nature
“Beautifully written. . . . The insights here will cut close to the bone.”
Joshua Rothman - The New Yorker
“[Grosz] compresses years of analysis into short chapters that feel like minimalist, suspenseful detective stories. At the end of each story, a secret is revealed; often, it’s a secret which you’ve also kept.”
Kimberlyn Leary - Psychoanalytic Psychology
“A beautifully written, affirmative, and nuanced account of a professional life in service to psychoanalytic healing… a work of exceptional grace.”
Kirkus Reviews
A British psychoanalyst delves into his patients' stories, opening doors to larger insights. Today's medical culture emphasizes measurability, accountability and evidence-based practice, a logical approach that favors treatments "proven" effective. The results of psychoanalysis and counseling, however, aren't always so quantifiable. Understanding of our motivations, misfires and fears may come in fits and starts, and the answers may come as questions, but the insights gained can shift the course of a life. Grosz's book makes a compelling case for the continued value of this kind of therapy. Each chapter takes the form of a story or vignette about a particular individual or therapeutic issue. A patient referred for suicidal ideation is distant in treatment, and then, one day, his fiancee sends a letter to Grosz stating that he took his own life--but months later, Grosz gets a phone call from the man. Another patient's personal and professional lives suffer since he's intensely boring--but if he can identify when he's boring someone, why is he unwilling to change? Some of the chapters sketch out only general details about a case, leaving readers to draw their own conclusions about the meanings Grosz is trying to convey. Others take a central question, such as, "Why are we so committed to praising our children?" and turn it over and around like a Rubik's Cube. Grosz has an engaging prose style, neither riddled with professional jargon nor dumbed down to connect with a wider audience. A book that challenges readers' thinking while also assuming their willingness to put some effort into drawing their own conclusions from the material.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781482927665
Publisher:
Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Publication date:
05/28/2013
Edition description:
Unabridged
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.60(d)

Meet 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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