The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourselves

( 10 )

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 ...

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The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourselves

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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.

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Editorial Reviews

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.”
Kate Tuttle - Boston Globe
“Magnetically compelling. . . . The result is a shared sense of humanity, understanding and even hope.”
Dinah Loon - Nature
“Beautifully written. . . . The insights here will cut close to the bone.”
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.”
Andrew Solomon
“Impossible to put down… it will leave you wiser about humanity than you were when you picked it up.”
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)
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393349320
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 5/12/2014
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 120,670
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.70 (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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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 10 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 10 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 22, 2013

    An amazing book: profound and deeply moving I've given it to fri

    An amazing book: profound and deeply moving I've given it to friends, and will do so again. So heart warming and beautifully written. Each story leaves you with an insight into what mahes us behave the way we do. Read it in one long sitting: I couldn't put it down. 

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 23, 2013

    Great read!

    Great book! Couldn't put it down. A good life lesson or insight in every chapter.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 20, 2013

    This is a beautifully written book. I came across it by accident

    This is a beautifully written book. I came across it by accident while browsing in  my local library. I started reading, and found that I
    couldn't put it down. It's written with such clarity and insight into human behavior that it's impossible not to be moved.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2013

    An easy read but enlightening

    I read a variety of books and this one was was just what I needed after the Racketeer. I would love to have a light conversation with this gentleman, Stephan Grosz.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 3, 2014

    I bought this back after it was hailed as one of the 10 best boo

    I bought this back after it was hailed as one of the 10 best books of 2013 by a New York Times staff book critic. I hate to say it but I found it profoundly disappointing all around and have decided not bother finishing it half-way through. I realize some readers have really enjoyed it, but felt obligated to let other potential readers know it may not suit everyone. Contrary to others' opinions, I found the writing mediocre (like reading a draft), and the stories a dull parade of ordinary hang-ups and habits. Unfortunately, Grosz's analyses struck me as banal, often tracing patients' problems back to childhood events in some clichéd version of psychoanalysis. On self-examination, re-reading Dostoevsky's "Notes from Underground" or any other great novel would likely be a lot more rewarding.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 22, 2013

    Nightpaw

    "Okay but now Grayfrost wont gimme back MY kits."

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 22, 2013

    Spirit

    Ill help.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 28, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 15, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

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