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The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourselves

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Echoing Socrates' time-honoured statement that the unexamined life is not worth living, psychoanalyst Stephen Grosz draws short, vivid stories from his 25-five-year practice in order to track the collaborative journey of therapist and patient as they uncover the hidden feelings behind ordinary behaviour.

These beautifully rendered tales illuminate the fundamental pathways of life from birth to death.

A woman finds herself daydreaming as she returns home from a business trip; a young man loses his wallet. We learn, too, from more extreme examples: the patient who points an unloaded gun at a police officer, the compulsive liar who convinces his wife he's dying of cancer. The stories invite compassionate understanding, suggesting answers to the questions that compel and disturb us most about love and loss, parents and children, work and change.

The resulting journey will spark new ideas about who we are and why we do what we do.

240 pages, Paperback

First published December 20, 2012

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About the author

Stephen Grosz

7 books164 followers
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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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,411 reviews
Profile Image for Petra left her heart in Miami.
2,404 reviews34k followers
December 2, 2015
It's very Freudian. If you a fan of the psychoanalytic process and the insights it draws - hopefully leading to that 'ah ha' moment - followed by a change to hopefully less-distressing behaviour, then you are going to enjoy these stories.

Being the rather non-spiritual pragmatist that I am, I'm more into existential psychology and prefer the books (and writing, the beautiful, soaring, hopeful writing) of Irvin D. Yalom. Nevertheless there are some interesting tales of people's maladaptions and how they got that way as well as their resolution.

It lost me though on the chapter where the author is freaking that he can't remember his dreams. For a psychotherapist not to remember his dreams it's like a total failure, and it failed me too. But that could be because I have an aversion to listening or reading about other people's dreams and might not be a problem for anyone else. As an aside, I would really like to tell people my dreams though, because they are so interesting, but I haven't got the courage, something tells me I might bore them as much as listening to other people's dreams bores me.

A solid 4-star book.
Profile Image for Miles.
460 reviews150 followers
July 26, 2013
It has been a while since I felt so conflicted about a book, so torn in two radically different directions. Fittingly, I found that I "lost and found" myself over and over in these pages; I'd be nodding with appreciative agreement one moment, then furrowing my eyebrows in frustration the next. The bottom line is that Grosz's slim collection of stories from his years as a psychoanalyst is engrossing and rich, even if it often lacks the additional details that would bring these cursory glimpses into troubled lives fully into the light. If you are looking to challenge your assumptions about how the mind works or what the best methods are for dealing with the most difficult aspects of human experience, this is a good opportunity to do so.

To begin, I want to air some major grievances. There are several aspects of this book that infuriated me and prevented me from fully embracing Grosz's attitudes and methods. Exploring these narratives made me realize exactly how much my attitudes about the mind have changed since I last dealt with psychoanalytic theory, which was several years ago during my undergraduate education. I used to be quite smitten with psychoanalysis, but I have since come to realize that the psychoanalytic approach has some very significant flaws. That doesn't mean it is a useless form of inquiry, but it does mean I have to approach writers like Grosz with a special skepticism. The central problem here is the tension between two conflicting notions of psychoanalytic therapy: therapy as truth finding and therapy as pragmatic narrative building. While this tension plays out in many different ways, I want to focus on two basic patterns that emerge from Grosz's stories: Grosz's apparent failure to acknowledge the profound influence of physiological habits on our internal experiences, and his startling readiness to perpetuate the idea that something is "wrong" with his patients, especially in circumstances where serious psychological problems seem absent.

Let's consider my first gripe by taking a look at a story about Daniel, a young architect who has just closed the deal on his first successful contract. On the way to a celebratory dinner with his wife, he accidentally leaves his wallet on the train. Unable to recover it, he goes to dinner feeling foolish. The combination of Daniel's guarded excitement about his career and the humiliation of forgetting his wallet nags at him during the meal. Later, he receives a text message from a friendly stranger who says his wallet is safe and waiting for him to pick it up. Still feeling dejected, Daniel absentmindedly checks his pockets for his wallet, even though he consciously knows he doesn't have it. Here's where Grosz's psychoanalytic approach goes off the deep end. Instead of treating Daniel's checking his pockets as a negligible instance of a physiological habit playing itself out in a semi-stressful situation, Grosz begins to construct an elaborate story about why Daniel would possibly have done such a thing. I think that most people, even ones who have never studied psychology, understand that our brains run all kinds of pedestrian subroutines that operate below the level of consciousness, and are therefore not always subject to knowledge held by the conscious mind. Personally, I can think of myriad occasions when I have checked my pockets for something I knew wasn't there. It's just how our bodies work. But instead of acknowledging this simple fact and moving on, Grosz turns a bit of harmless minutiae into a neurosis related to Daniel's professional anxieties: "Could that small gesture––patting his pockets for a wallet he knows isn't there––have been a way of distracting himself from another, more worrying thought: that he is about to be lost himself? Searching for his wallet might have been a way of soothing that particular anxiety. Better to be in the position of having lost something than to be something someone forgot" (Loc. 1361, Kindle Edition). In a classic psychoanalytic blunder, Grosz also ties this "anxiety about being forgotten" to Daniel's relationship with his father, whom he is worried about overshadowing as he becomes more successful. Stories like this are one of the reasons psychoanalysis has taken so much heat since its halcyon days. Consciously or unconsciously, psychoanalysts often construct grandiose stories that are ultimately more focused on validating psychoanalytic theories than on actually resolving the patient's problems. This was one of the moments when I wanted to throw this book out the window.

Daniel's story leads into my second gripe, which has to do with Grosz's propensity to perpetuate the idea that his patients have more problems than they actually do. As it turns out, there doesn't appear to actually be anything wrong with Daniel at all! He just had a new experience that caused some anxiety and culminated in the temporary loss of his wallet. These are perfectly normal human events––they don't require intensive therapy to process. Such examples invariably make psychoanalysts look rather parasitic. This image is compounded by the fact that patients typically attend sessions 4-5 times a week, an arrangement that seems both tremendously lucrative for the analyst and painfully redundant for the patient. Too often it fees like Grosz and his patients collude to create problems just so they will have something to talk about. Additionally, I was struck by the fact that the structure of psychoanalytic practice results in analysts seeing a lot of wealthy people who don't have "real" problems. I don't mean to imply that people with money can't have perfectly legitimate issues, but they certainly aren't wondering how they are going to feed their kids or pay the electric bill––anxieties that I imagine are far more deserving of a professional psychologist's time.

Consider this passage from a session with Jennifer, who is disappointed that her boyfriend doesn't want to have children: "She told me that she just didn't feel angry. 'I know I should––my friends tell me they would––but I can't. It doesn't bother me, not the way I know it should'" (Loc. 1558). In my experience, a huge amount of human suffering comes from people thinking they are not feeling the way they are "supposed" to feel. But instead of questioning Jennifer's assumption that she ought to be angry, or inquiring about why she feels obligated to feel that way, Grosz allows her to believe that she is somehow damaged. This, of course, paves the way for him to concoct a story that will explain her "problems," again proving himself the wise hero. And, of course, her tepid relationship with her boyfriend will turn out to be related to unresolved feelings about her dead father. Ugh. I don't necessarily fault Grosz as an individual here––I think this type of hubris is more a part of the psychoanalytic tradition than something that characterizes Grosz's particular practices. I've heard him interviewed, and he certainly doesn't come off as conceited or disingenuous.

Here's another example of the same problem. Alice is dealing with the ongoing trauma of having lost an infant son: "'A couple of days ago I was in the kitchen making breakfast, listening to the radio, and there was that dreadful news story about those kids that got killed in a boating accident. I thought, Jack's safe from drowning. I think like that: Jack's safe from drunk drivers. Jack won't ever get cancer or have a heart attack––my baby's safe. That's crazy. I shouldn't be thinking like that'" (Loc. 2106). While I actually think Grosz ultimately handles this patient in a very sensitive and responsible way, I was struck by the fact that he didn't question her here. To me, Alice's thoughts seem perfectly reasonable for someone who has lost a child. Isn't it part of a therapist's job to point out when someone is beating him or herself up for having thoughts or feelings that aren't actually harmful, unnatural, or even particularly surprising? But pointing out that certain "problems" aren't anything more than powerful emotions that need to be accepted rather than rejected by those who experience them would preclude the psychoanalyst's primary function, which is to build a story that explains the problem instead of delineating between actual problems and illusory ones.

So, after all this ranting, perhaps you are wondering why I would give this book a favorable rating. I have a few reasons. First, I value books that make me think, even if a lot of that thinking goes into negative appraisals of the text in question. For such a short book, The Examined Life is teeming with opportunities to test your assumptions and battle internally about how to assess Grosz's insights and methods. I genuinely wrestled with myself over this book, and I still feel conflicted about many of my conclusions, including ones highlighted in this review. Another reason is that, for all its problems, this book contains many genuinely interesting and inspiring insights about the human condition. I have focused a lot on a few of the stories that really bothered me, but there were plenty that didn't activate any red flags. A lot of it has to do with my own nature as a reader––I want Grosz's patients to solve their problems through a kind of "real" understanding, rather than through a "constructed" one. It's a rather scientific approach, and unfairly so in this case. Grosz is not a scientist, and it is not his job to sift through data to build the most realistic possible account of his patients' problems. Even if such an approach were possible, I have my doubts that it would prove the best way to help a patient comprehend his or her unique predicament. Instead, Grosz is charged with helping people construct coherent narratives about why we act the way we do and how we come to be the kinds of creatures that we are. And, by this standard, I must admit that he appears to succeed admirably in most cases. I've no doubt that Grosz is an excellent psychoanalyst, and that there are many people out there who owe him a great deal of gratitude. This doesn't exempt him from criticism, but it certainly obviates any desire I might have to vilify him. Ultimately, this book is a curious and intriguing offering by one who has bravely sojourned much further into the realms of human pain and suffering than most. Such courage is to be commended, if not unreservedly condoned.
Profile Image for William2.
735 reviews2,872 followers
November 19, 2016
These subtle, fascinating case studies are psychoanalysis condensed. They run about 6 or so pages each. Everything inessential has been stripped away. We get the problem, the diagnosis, and the resolution or its semblance very quickly. There's the nine year old with autism whose hyper-acting out includes spitting in his analyst's [the author's] face five times a week for a year and a half. How far can one's compassion go? Or the HIV-positive patient who can do little more than sleep during his sessions. When the author presents his case at a conference, an American doctor asks: "Why are you wasting your time with this patient? He's going to die. Why not help someone who's got a future." The author is outraged. And as it turns out, the protease-inhibitors arrive in time and the patient lives for many years, is in fact still alive at the time the book is published. The essays are so lean, so fleet of foot and this is somehow connected – this brevity, this concision – to their ability to move us. I cannot recommend this slim volume highly enough. It's a near miraculous feat of writing.
Profile Image for BlackOxford.
1,081 reviews68k followers
September 27, 2018
Cultural Compensation

The Examined Life strikes me as a re-incarnation of Scott Peck’s The Road Less Travelled which was published 40 years ago - before Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher decreed the non-existence of society. Both books are written with the same structure of patient case studies. They contain the same histories of development of the writers into therapeutic maturity; the same essential message of human psychic complexity and mystery; and even some almost identical patient accounts. This doesn’t make The Examined Life redundant, only, I’m afraid, another voice crying in the wilderness of a society which doesn’t actually register its implications.

One of the unexpected side-effects of psychotherapy is the establishment of two independent Cartesian worlds - the world of everyday life in which people act stupidly as if driven by hidden forces of self-destruction over which they have no control; and the world of therapy in which the underlying purpose of such behavior is uncovered and found to be entirely rational. The first world is full of error, mishap and criminality; the second of clever adaptation to circumstances, understanding and reconciliation. The first is accepted as reality; the second as one of repair for a return to the first. They are distinct, separate, and entirely alien to one another, just as Descartes imagined them to be. But the first world is definitive as a cultural norm.

The second world, let’s call it the world of the spirit, is teleological. It presumes a purpose which can be articulated in a coherent narrative. According to Grosz, “all of us try to make sense of our lives by telling our stories... When we cannot find a way of telling our story, our story tells us – we dream these stories, we develop symptoms, or we find ourselves acting in ways we don’t understand.” And empirically, the formulation of such stories does have an effect on the lives involved. Therapy for Grosz is largely a matter of helping patients construct coherent stories which allow them to re-enter the somewhat solipsistic mechanical world of social cause and effect with some sense of individual purpose. (As I recall Scott Peck’s stories were ones that were essentially false rationalizations. Perhaps it us story-telling ability tout court which has deteriorated during the period.)

But there is the obvious other side of the coin. We live in a culture which chooses to presume that aberrant behavior is just that - aberrant - rather than a purposeful and quite sensible adaptation to cultural presumptions. It appears that, at least in this respect, Freud was correct: society does intentionally suppress the individual for its own ends. Given the extent of psychic repression involved, it is perhaps remarkable that we have don’t have more mass murders and terrorism than we do. By the standards of psychotherapy, it is society which is in need of help since coherent narratives of purpose have fallen apart. The democratic state has demonstrated its essential absurdity; the church its political malleability and moral corruption; the corporate world its banality and indifference to human welfare.

Like Freud, I think this social/psychic schizophrenia has a great deal more to do with the doctrines and cultural remnants of religion than with the necessary conditions for the smooth-running of civil society. It is religion which has supplied us with the grand narratives of our lives even if we forget or reject them. This is particularly so in a Christianity which inserted its narrative of sin into an existing political structure and ideology. This Christian ‘meta-narrative’ restricts what other narratives, and therefore purposes, are acceptable and allowed to be thought much less expressed. Religion, therefore, once the supplier of narrative coherence for society is now the main impediment to the expression of collective purpose.

The narrative limitations imposed by Christianity are of course powerful, not only because of their persistent and pervasive presentation but also because of their political endorsement. For example, I live in a rural part of England. From a nearby hillside I can see five church spires evenly spaced over a beautiful pastoral landscape. The church was and still is present in every village. It, not some government department, was historically the enforcer of civil peace in the name of the sovereign and still provides substantial social cohesion. In America, the spires and steeples have a more subtle but more important effect. Since there is no direct connection among the federal, state, county, and local levels of government except through the courts, the denominational churches have been the traditional glue creating cross-geographic social unity.

Thus Christianity and its doctrines have been absorbed into the social fabric, including the central concept of sin. The idea of sin in Christianity is equivalent to aberrant behavior, is equivalent to subversive intent, is equivalent to criminal act. One has only to think thoughts outside the norm to be and to feel guilty. This equivalence holds even if we have largely dropped the first term in the series - sin - from respectable conversation and political debate. We don’t have a more modern term for sin, yet the concept persists in our unwillingness to accept the purposes which occur quite naturally and reasonably in fellow human beings - regarding gender, sex, race, poverty, protection, respect, among many others - that have been denied as valid and therefore repressed psychically and suppressed socially.

So I hope Grosz’s therapeutic memoir inspires individuals to consider their own personal stories. It certainly has for me. But I also hope that it provokes those same individuals to indulge the strangeness of others, including their apparent anti-social behavior, as more than what it seems. The presumption of purpose in others is often difficult but frequently rewarding, just as it is for oneself. And without that presumption, the political search for new narratives of collective purpose will fail. Scott Peck was an icon of an era of fading liberalism and its implicit recognition of social purpose; Steven Grosz, one can hope, marks some sort of return to the recognition of purpose in an apparently purposeless society.
December 5, 2019
A reread.

‘Unless there are payphones in hell,’ I wrote, ‘Peter is still alive. He left a message on my answering machine earlier today, asking for an appointment.’ (c)

For a small child, violence is an overwhelming, uncontrollable and terrifying experience – and its emotional effects can endure for a lifetime. The trauma becomes internalised, it’s what takes hold of us in the absence of another’s empathy. (c)

Experience has taught me that our childhoods leave in us stories like this – stories we never found a way to voice, because no one helped us to find the words. When we cannot find a way of telling our story, our story tells us – we dream these stories, we develop symptoms, or we find ourselves acting in ways we don’t understand. (c)

This sort of gap between what a person says and what he makes you feel is not uncommon – think of the friend who rings you when you’re down, talks to you in an encouraging, supportive way, but leaves you feeling worse. The space between Matt’s words and the feelings he provoked in me was enormous. He was describing a life that was frightening, but I didn’t feel frightened for him. I felt uncharacteristically disengaged.
In trying to comprehend my indifference to Matt and his situation, I imagined a series of scenes from his earliest months. I saw a small baby crying – I’m hungry, feed me; I’m wet, change me; I’m frightened, hold me – and being ignored by an unresponsive mother. I had the idea that one consequence of Matt’s early experiences could be that he did not know how to make someone feel concern for him, because he did not learn this from his mother. He seemed never to have acquired a skill that we all need: the ability to make another person worry about us. (c)

Matt suffered from a kind of psychological leprosy; unable to feel his emotional pain, he was forever in danger of permanently, maybe fatally, damaging himself.
The truth of the matter is this: there is a bit of Matt in each of us. At one time or another, we all try to silence painful emotions. But when we succeed in feeling nothing we lose the only means we have of knowing what hurts us, and why...

Typically, what brings a potential patient to a consultation is the pressure of his immediate suffering. In this case it was Matt’s father, not Matt, who had telephoned for an appointment. Matt had learned at an early age to deaden his feelings and to distrust those who offered him help. Our encounter was no different. Matt did not feel enough emotional pain to overcome his suspicions and accept my offer to meet again. (c)

«Все детство я провел, погрузившись в книгу или в мир своих фантазий, чтобы только не слышать их скандалов. Вы, наверно, скажете, что я пытался скрыться не только от этого шума, но и от своей ненависти к родителям… И это будет правда».
...я начинаю думать о своем французском доме, когда становится вконец невыносимой моя реальность...
– В действительности, у меня нет никакого домика во Франции. Вы же знаете, да?

Изо всех сил стараясь отличаться от своих родителей, мы, по сути, ведем себя точно так же: кидаемся пустыми похвалами подобно тому, как предшествующие поколения кидались бездумными оскорблениями.

...Чем больше из себя строишь, тем больше прячешь...

Любой из нас может почувствовать приступ паранойи, то есть попасть в плен иррациональных фантазий о том, что его предают, над ним насмехаются, его эксплуатируют или ему хотят причинить боль, но гораздо больше мы склонны к паранойе в тех случаях, когда оказываемся в обстановке нестабильности, изоляции или одиночества. Чаще всего параноидальные фантазии являются реакцией на ощущение, что к нам относятся с полным безразличием .
Другими словами, параноидальные фантазии выводят нас из себя, но тем не менее выполняют защитную функцию. Они оберегают нас от более катастрофических эмоциональных состояний – а именно, от чувства, что мы никого не интересуем, что всем на нас наплевать. Мысль «тот-то и тот-то меня предал» защищает нас от более болезненной мысли «обо мне никто не думает». Это и есть одно из объяснений того, почему паранойя так распространена среди солдат.
...параноидальные фантазии часто являются реакцией на равнодушие окружающего мира. Паранойя помогает человеку чувствовать, что о нем хоть кто-то думает.

И хотя умение Эммы потакать желаниям родителей не оказало отрицательного влияния на развитие ее недюжинных интеллектуальных способностей, оно остановило ее в эмоциональном развитии .
Когда научный руководитель Эммы попросил ее выбрать для диссертации одну из двух исследовательских областей, а потом сказать, какую тему она предпочла и почему, Эмма сломалась. Столкнувшись с необходимостью сделать выбор, она, не имея внутреннего компаса, совершенно растерялась.

Эмма сказала, что не понимает, как люди могут знать, какие чувства они испытывают: «Львиную долю времени я не знаю, что чувствую.
Я вычисляю, что должна чувствовать, а потом просто веду себя соответствующим образом».

Многие психоаналитики полагают, что любовное томление является формой регрессии, что в этом страстном желании предельной близости с другим человеком мы становимся похожими на детей, жаждущих материнских объятий.

Иногда перемены наступают не в результате наших попыток исправиться самим или наладить взаимоотношения с живыми. Иногда мы сильнее всего трансформируемся, налаживая свои взаимоотношения с мертвыми , ушедшими от нас и забытыми людьми. Начав скорбеть по тем, кого он когда-то любил, а потом просто выбросил из своих мыслей, Скрудж наконец возвращает себе утерянный когда-то мир. Он сам возвращается к жизни.
Когда пациент невольно дает мне понять, какие его или ее преследуют мысли (мысли, о которых он или она отказывается думать), моя задача – превратиться в подобие одного из диккенсовских духов, то есть удержать пациента в реальном мире и дать этому миру сделать свое благотворное дело.

И для Марка А., и для Джульетт Б. сигнал пожарной тревоги уже прозвучал. У обоих сложившаяся ситуация вызывает определенные опасения. Оба хотят перемен. В ином случае они вряд ли стали бы рассказывать обо всем этом психоаналитику. Но они бездействуют и чего-то ждут… Чего?

Негативизм, то есть менталитет «я бы предпочел отказаться» , является воплощением нашего желания отвернуться от мира и отвергнуть нормальные желания. Бартлби снова и снова отворачивается то к кирпичной, то к глухой, то к безликой, то к тюремной стене… Не зря Мелвилл дал своему произведению подзаголовок «Уолл-стритская повесть» , в котором тоже фигурирует слово wall , то есть «стена» . Бартлби постоянно находится в окружении еды, – даже трех его коллег Мелвилл назвал Индюком, Имбирным Пряником и Кусачкой (имея в виду клешни лобстера), – но отказывается принимать пищу и в конечном итоге доводит себя этой голодовкой до смерти.

В каждом из нас живет и юрист, и Бартлби. Все мы слышим энергичный голос, говорящий нам: «Начинай сейчас, делай немедленно», и оппонирующий ему голос негативизма, отвечающий словами «Я бы предпочел отказаться».

На уровне сознания Саре хотелось встретить хорошего мужчину и влюбиться в него, но на подсознательном уровне любовь означала для нее потерю себя самой, потерю работы, подруг. Любовь грозила ей опустошением, небрежением к самой себе, чувством принадлежности другом человеку.

Дэниэл опасался, что его будут презирать коллеги. Тот вечер потерь мог быть для него способом вновь ощутить себя аутсайдером. Таким образом ��н, наверно, пытался сказать своим коллегам-архитекторам: «Видите, мне сейчас не до веселья, и деньги я все потерял… В общем, мне завидовать не нужно». Он не хотел быть «одним из непобедивших», но эта роль была для него более привычной, и чувствовал он себя в ней гораздо безопаснее, чем в роли победителя.

Это наблюдение заставило меня пересмотреть свое отношение к делу Эмили. Раньше мне казалось, что, поработав с Эмили, я помог ей лучше понять себя, то есть правильнее оценить свои возможности и разобраться в том, на что она способна, несмотря на зани��енные ожидания своих родителей. Она получила возможность успешнее сопротивляться подсознательно приписываемой ей роли. Но теперь я сообразил, что, сами того не зная и не желая того осознанно, родители Эмили сделали ее своей проблемой, для того чтобы не заниматься решением проблем собственных . Когда она изменилась, пришлось меняться и всей семье.

Из недели в неделю, из месяца в месяц происходило одно и то же. В начале каждого сеанса Элизабет рассказывала о том, какие еще с ней приключились неприятности, а потом просила у меня совета.
Мы работали над этими вопросами вместе, рассматривая все доступные ей действия, но я все чаще и чаще чувствовал себя не психоаналитиком, а пожарным, вынужденным спасать забравшихся на деревья котят.

Я все в��емя думал про себя: «Какая жуткая черная полоса в жизни!» или «Вот только разберемся с тем или этим, тогда уже и перейдем собственно к процессу психоанализа». Спустя несколько месяцев меня осенило, что катастрофы эти не закончатся никогда…

Приблизительно через полгода Элизабет призналась мне, что по утрам она первым делом ощущала «чувство давящего, парализующего страха и беспокойства». Она просыпалась напуганная, иногда буквально дрожа от ужаса, и состояние это не отступало до тех пор, пока она не вспоминала о какой-нибудь проблеме , о какой-нибудь экстренной ситуации, для решения которой нужно было выбраться из постели и начать новый день.

Люди преодолевают депрессивные состояния и чувство страха разными способами. К примеру, нередко они эксплуатируют для этого свои сексуальные фантазии или беспокойные мысли ипохондрического характера. Элизабет успокаивала себя этими кризисными ситуациями – они служили ей транквилизатором.

Для психоаналитика скука может быть полезна в качестве своеобразного диагностического инструмента. Она может говорить о том, что пациент избегает разговоров на какие-то конкретные темы, не может прямо говорить о чем-то глубоко личном или отвечать на неудобные вопросы. Также она может свидетельствовать о том, что психоаналитик с пациентом зашли в тупик, что пациент все время возвращается к обсуждению каких-то своих желаний или обид, к которым психоаналитик не может найти ключика.

Утомительный и скучный человек может, находясь в плену зависти, нарушать или полностью останавливать ход беседы только потому, что для него оказывается невыносимым слышать полезные или интересные предложения из уст других людей.

Еще скучный пациент может, так сказать, «прикидываться мертвым» (нам известно, что у диких животных достаточно широко распространена такая стратегия выживания). То есть некоторые люди, почувствовав испуг, просто перестают говорить вообще.

Грэм действительно агрессивно нагонял на людей скуку. Для него это был способ держать под контролем других людей и отказывать им в общении, способ оставаться на виду, но не видеть окружающих.

Кроме того, это поведение преследовало и еще одну цель – особенно в контексте его психоанализа. Оно избавляло его от необходимости жить в текущем моменте и обращать внимание на то, что происходит в комнате.

Когда я заговаривал с ним о том, что происходит у него в жизни сегодня, он начинал заглядывать в прошлое, избегая разговора о своих нынешних чувствах и мыслях. «Я никогда там не был, – говорит Хамм в «Конце игры» Сэмюэля Беккета. – Я всегда отсутствовал. Все произошло без меня». Длинные экскурсы в прошлое служили Грэму убежищем от настоящего . Он раз за разом, сам того не зная, отказывался признавать значимость этого настоящего.

– Мне кажется, что вы настолько погружены в будущее – думаете, как ваш отец придет на свадьбу, как переедете поближе к родителям Дэна, – что вас не расстраивает состояние вашей сегодняшней жизни и то, что происходит в настоящем.

Психоаналитики любят говорить, что прошлое продолжает жить в настоящем. Но в настоящем живет и будущее. Будущее – это не какая-то конкретная точка, в которую мы стремимся попасть, а идея , существующая в нашем сознании прямо сейчас. Мы создаем будущее, а оно, в свою очередь, создает нас. Будущее – это фантазия, формирующая наше сегодня.

Я почти все принимаю на свой счет и из всего делаю личную трагедию.

Я жил, исходя из предположения, что желание укорять других является одним из базовых качеств человека. И чувствовал, что сижу в клетке из-за того, что подчинил этой мысли все свои действия и поступки. Все эти мелкие моментики не были моим взглядом на жизнь… Они составляли мою жизнь.

...человек, боящийся критики, чаще всего сам любит покритиковать окружающих. Вот это сюрприз… Выходит, что, не находя недостатков в себе, я занимаю себя упреками в адрес окружающих. Я не буду утомлять тебя перечислением миллионов недостатков, найденных мной в оформлении офиса доктора А. или в ней самой. Ты и сам можешь представить.

...места, в которых больше нет любимых нами людей, становятся для нас чужими и совершенно незнакомыми.

Все мы скорбим по-разному, но в общем случае изначальные чувства шока и страха, вызванные смертью близкого человека, со временем притупляются и теряют силу. Пройдя через процесс переживания горя, мы постепенно приходим в себя, хотя какая-то сердечная боль все-таки остается с нами. Особенно тяжело нам в этот период даются праздники и юбилеи. Скорбь может немного отступить, а потом, совершенно неожиданно, снова обрушиться на нас со всей силой.

Но мой опыт подсказывает, что возможность распрощаться с горем – это для человека скорбящего всего лишь очень привлекательная фантазия. Это все выдумки, что мы можем любить, терять, страдать, а потом просто сделать что-то, в результате чего наше горе уйдет навсегда. Нам хочется верить, что мы можем добиться избавления от скорби, потому что она способна застать нас врасплох и выбить из колеи даже через много лет после тяжелой утраты.

– И что тебе сказала мама?

По окончании нашей беседы я подумал, что мы обращаемся к ясновидению, когда чувствуем потребность в присутствии ушедших от нас близких людей и не можем согласиться с бесповоротностью смерти. Нам хочется верить, что ясновидящие могут вернуть умерших, по которым мы тоскуем, в мир живых. Вера в возможность избавиться от горя и оставить его в прошлом – это такой же самообман, ложная надежда на то, что нам под силу унять живущую в нас скорбь.
Profile Image for Kris.
175 reviews1,438 followers
June 14, 2014
I just had to take off a star from the ranking I gave this book yesterday. Grosz knows how to tell a story, but I wanted more depth in the case studies and analyses. Everything seemed too simple, too easily resolved, too basic.
Profile Image for Charlotte.
143 reviews4 followers
July 2, 2019

I picked this up because I thought it would speak to my interest in how we construct narratives in order to interact with the world and place ourselves within reality. And psychoanalysis is a funny one for looking at that kind of thing. It always gives me the heebie-jeebies a bit as it seems to put the psychoanalyst in a similar position to a priest - he who is somehow qualified and able to reach into what is necessarily unknown (the subconscious or, in the case of the priest, the word of god) and interpret it for us mere mortals. This puts the analyst in a position of power that I'm often uncomfortable with when what they're supposed to be doing is normally to liberate someone who is deeply troubled and particularly vulnerable psychologically.

Plus, psychoanalysis relies on being done very regularly over a very long period of time: a suspiciously lucrative job for an analyst..

I met the author this summer and he absolutely blew me away with his warmth, goofy enthusiasm and attentiveness, making me think that perhaps psychoanalysis isn't all that bad after all. And so I thought I'd get off my suspicious high horse and read his book.

AND?!?! I hear you ask.

Well, it was alright. I found it frustrating at points in its lack of direction when Grosz seems to withhold a real critique of what's going on with the patient. Some of the things that he had to say after telling a patient's story didn't really seem that helpful to me. More like general statements.

But some were helpful. For example, his thoughts on grief and our culture of closure; 'the false hope that we can deaden our living grief'.

And then on the other end of the wafty-critique spectrum, sometimes he would make assumptions about a patient's subconscious workings that I thought were absurd and even potentially harmful.

What was interesting overall was that people do go to analysis, people do need psychological help sometimes and rules for providing this kind of help are always is a bit mysterious and arbitrary. One thing Stephen definitely did do was listen and 'be present' - a paid-for pal who's not connected to people's lives. A lens through which they can look at themselves in order to sort out their problems.

I am currently arguing in my dissertation that this can be done in other ways though, ways that are less pricey and less riskily submissive.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
457 reviews19 followers
February 16, 2014
I found the stories in this book a bit frustrating to read - they were too short to be anything more than slightly interesting anecdotes.They suffered from a lack of detail which robs them of their ability to evoke compassion, and leaves the reader lacking enough detail or understanding to gain a sense of the wisdom or appropriateness of the judgements made by Grosz in his cases.

Grosz's observation rings true that we make sense of our lives and experiences by story telling and creating narratives, but, as he comments, it is not enough to tell tales. There must be someone to listen. Others’ reactions to our narratives can be a crucial influence on our ability to understand and self correct, and to our coming to terms with what has happened to us, which explains much of the talking cure.

Some of the narratives are poignant and the observations wonderful - and speak of value and truth to me as I read them, like the story of Stanley and the way his envy of his children ate up his love for them, “what remained of his feelings of love for his child stood little chance against the grand narrative that his envy had written.”

I have little doubt about Grosz' ability as a psychiatrist, but he doesn't seem to be much of a writer, to understand how much narrative it takes to convey truth and authenticity, and make an impact. This is his first book, and I think his editors have done him an injustice in allowing a brevity which impoverishes the tales.
Profile Image for Nadin Adel.
733 reviews69 followers
August 25, 2018

Stories from daily psychoanalysis by Dr. Stephen Grosz.
I managed to find a glimpse of me in most of the tales.
I believe we all will.
Don't you agree?

“Closure is just as delusive-it is the false hope that we can deaden our living grief.”

“Being present, whether with children, with friends, or even with oneself, is hard work. But isn't this attentiveness -- the feeling that someone is trying to think about us -- something we want more than praise?”

“It is less painful, it turns out, to feel betrayed than to feel forgotten.”

“For a minute, the fantasy frightened her, but ultimately, this fear saved her from feeling alone.”

“There cannot be change without loss”

“Being loved is the problem, because love is a demand - when you're loved, someone wants more of you.”

“Pyschoanalysts are fond of pointing out that the past is alive in the present. But the future is alive in the present too. The future is not some place we're going to, but an idea in our mind now. It is something we're creating, that in turn creates us. The future is a fantasy that shapes our present.”

“As he spoke, I had the mental image of a small boy switching on the nightlight, not because he wants to be able to find his parents during the night, but because he fears his parents will forget him - lose him - in the dark.”

“my breakdown was like a furnace and what was burned away was any belief in my own feelings”

“At one time or another, most of us have felt trapped by things we find ourselves thinking or doing, caught by our own impulses or foolish choices; ensnared in some unhappiness or fear; imprisoned by our own history. We feel unable to go forward and yet we believe that there must be a way.”

“we all try to silence painful emotions. but when we succeed in feeling nothing we lose the only means we have of knowing what hurts us and why.”

“When I'm in a couple, I feel I'm disappearing, dying - losing my mind.”

“A lot of people, especially psychoanalysts, assume that happiness can only be found in a couple - but not all of us are made for a relationship.”

“He seemed never to have acquired a skill that we all need: the ability to make another person worry about us.”

"Infatuation is the exciting bit at the beginning; real love is the boring bit that comes later."

"Sometimes we are anxious about our situations. We want to change, but yet, we stand around, waiting - for what?I guess we may call this "The Fire Alarm Psychoanalytical Theory".

"It is so weird how paranoia can relieve suffering and prevent a catastrophe."
That drives me to the Quranic verse that is repeatedly mentioned throughout in different ways:

"لَا تَحْسَبُوهُ شَرًّا لَّكُم ۖ بَلْ هُوَ خَيْرٌ لَّكُمْ"
"Do not regard it as an evil to you; nay, it is good for you."

An excellent psychoanalysis piece to read.
Profile Image for Yomna.
123 reviews33 followers
November 24, 2017
Review after the third read:
I never read a book more than once, but this is the third time for me to read this one. *sigh* Still, it's one of my favorite psychotherapy books. Even though I'm not a psychoanalyst, and I'm more of a humanistic and cognitive-behavioral therapist, I find this book to be a treasure on a personal and professional level. You will find yourself somewhere in this book. You will come face-to-face with some of your fears; you might continue to ignore your insecurities, or maybe reach an insight about a struggle in your life. This book is all about the untold stories that end up shaping who we are. Some parts brought me to tears, other parts made me unable to breathe properly for a while.

Review after the first read:
One of my ultimate favorite books. I can read it a hundred times and I'll learn new things every time.

I find it to be humble when a psychotherapist admits that he learned stuff from his clients, and this book was all about that; how psychotherapy is a two-way learning relationship. And Gorsz shared his experience with the world in this book. Perfection.
Profile Image for Robert Day.
Author 5 books28 followers
December 29, 2014
In the bumpf on the back it says that these are 'aphoristic and elegant stories'.

Here then are the aphorisms I have derived from each chapter; in order; with none missing:

• Trauma that is experienced in pre-speech years can lead to silence (inability to express) and/or destructive behaviour (acting out?) in later life.
• Making jokes about problems can bring temporary relief but can block a better understanding of the situation.
• Praising specific positive behaviour (rather than just praising in general) can be good way to help someone to grow.
• Engaging with painful emotions can enable us to know and examine what hurts us and why (but to what end?)
• Before you try to address a person's obsession with X, make sure that X is real - or 'how to turn someone's case history into a funny anecdote'.
• Not all of these stories are ameanable to aphorismation, unless it's something general like: sometimes a person's world turns on a very small pivot or something specific like: sometimes bedwetting can be the only way you can get your Mom to notice you.
• Maybe: Just because one has a fear of intimacy don't mean that one don't want to talk about it. Or: Having a problem about talking is not the same as talking about having a problem.
• Oh I don't know - maybe I should just read these stories for entertainment instead of looking for a deeper meaning. Anyway, this is about the final straw breaking the camel's back.
• Sometimes having an affair with a prostitute is a revenge attack on your wife for transferring her affection to a freshly minted baby. Hmm.
• "The bigger the front, the bigger the back" (read it yourself)
• You can't eat your cake and yet still have it in your pantry.
• People get paranoid that someone is watching them because it's better than the alternative - that no-one is watching them - maybe.
• Don't tell children how to feel - let them work out their own emotional responses!
• If someone always says 'Masha'Allah' when you tell them of your tears and triumphs, it would be a mistake to assume that they always mean 'Whatever!'
• Desire manifests in odd ways.
• Hate can transfer to another target if there is a strong taboo against hating the original target.
• Don't get stuck.
• When you hear an alarm (real or metaphorical) - do something!
• Emotional surrender to a loving partner can sometimes represent a net loss if previous emotional surrenders led to negative experiences.
• Could it be that the author's reference to 'The Kaverns of Krock' is a subconscious nod to his fear that some of his conclusions are a crock of.. ahem. Not that I could do any better you understand. ;)
• The more I read these stories the more I get a picture of a person who is unsure of his own professional capabilities (yeah, yeah, I know - I'm just projecting) or maybe a person humble enough to acknowledge his own limitations. The receptionist is the real mover and shaker! ;)
• It seems to me that more progress is made at the end of analysis than at the beginning. Books tend to be more exciting towards the end too. I wonder why life is not billed as being like this.
• Sometimes people can monopolise the conversation in a purposeful and aggressively boring way in order to avoid confronting what is happening in their lives at the present time. That doesn't sound contrived does it?
• "The future is a fantasy that shapes our present." Be careful about your fantasies.
• If something is broken, you can either try to fix it, or give up on it and throw it away. If I were broken, I'd always be wanting to be fixed - even if I behave otherwise.
• Wow! I mean - WOW!! Listen to this: "I thought about his fear that if he was known, if he was seen as he believes he truly is, he would be found dirty, broken. And being dirty and broken - how could he love, or be loved?"
• If you're going to save the children from the horrors of .. whatever, at least have the courtesy to tell them that's what you're doing.
• Sometimes you can figure it out all by yourself - you just need to find your own voice.
• Don't stop therapy because you think you're going to succumb to disease soon - you may not succumb to disease as soon as you think.
• A closed door can be reopened.
• Then comes death, and beyond this, nothing more can be said.

Profile Image for Dov Zeller.
Author 2 books104 followers
February 19, 2016
The reviews of "The Examined Life" on gr are pretty mixed, and I can understand why. These pieces are short, intriguing, frustrating. Sometimes they go too deep in the sense of reading too much into behavior and constructing far-fetched overly-worn psychoanalytic metaphors and insinuating them into a situation where they might not be all that helpful. And some of the essays are barely constructed, the material relatively unexamined.

All of this said, I enjoyed the book. It reminds me how meaningful it can be to sit in a room with another person and locate what is present in a dynamic and not being addressed. To name an attitude or behavior that is both slyly flying under the radar and somehow longing to be named, can be a life-changing event.

So many of the troubles that harm relationships or keep unhealthy relationships in place, are the unspoken and yet incredibly powerful contracts we make, either because we are in familiar (and therefore safe even if unsafe) relationship territory, or because we don't know how to value our own experiences, or we are afraid of conflict and change.

What I found most meaningful in this book was reading about these moments of noticing and naming dynamics that happens in the context of therapy and relates to things happening outside of therapy. Sometimes getting unstuck is a matter of naming what is happening at a present moment rather than trying to come up with elaborate metaphors for one's past.

So, all in all I think this is not a perfect book, but certainly one worth reading.

One reviewer compared Grosz's work to Yalom's, favoring Yalom. I like both and I think they have similar strengths and weaknesses, but Yalom does tend to be more thorough when writing about his cases, and perhaps spends more time engaging the complexity.
Profile Image for Meg.
112 reviews64 followers
February 11, 2015
I really enjoyed this - it reminded me of Oliver Sacks condensed, as well as The Unsayable: The Hidden Language of Trauma, which was also written by a psychologist who relies heavily on psychoanalytic theories.

Unfortunately the author occasionally finds explanations and reasons for his patients’ behaviors where they don’t exist, which I suppose is the main drawback of psychoanalysis - sometimes losing a wallet is just losing a wallet - but still, many of his explanations made sense in the strange, semi-magical way that psychoanalysis can make sense. I'm a firm believer that people hold onto trauma in their bodies, and act trauma out in their behavior. Grosz agrees at least on the latter point. One of his patients, an aggressive and violent nine-year-old, spit on Grosz during each of their sessions - five days a week for a year and a half. Grosz couldn’t figure out why he continued to spit on him, or why the behavior angered him so much (I mean, he was spitting on him; I’d be annoyed too). Then he realized that the child’s behavior was fear-based - he was afraid there was really was something wrong with his brain and he couldn't help his behavior. In their work together, Grosz was trying to show the boy that this wasn't the case, that he could stop himself, but the child was saying (through his behavior) - “What if I actually can’t? What do we do then? And isn’t that sad?”

I like his point that sometimes people just need to sit with their pain, and having someone who cares and can offer protection and comfort while sitting with their pain is therapeutic. Like his patient who was diagnosed as HIV positive and would often sit quietly through their sessions. Grosz listened intently during those times, trying to understand the feelings behind the silence and the words that were unsayable. He also writes movingly on grief: “My experience is that closure is an extraordinarily compelling fantasy of mourning. It is the fiction that we can love, lose, suffer, and then do something to permanently end our sorrow. We want to believe we can reach closure because grief can surprise and disorder us - even years after our loss.”
Profile Image for Sarah.
Author 26 books272 followers
February 27, 2013
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 what makes it worthwhile. 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, and only then if you’re lucky), 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.

Elegantly written, pithy and thought provoking – The Examined Life is a total joy.
Profile Image for Konserve Ruhlar.
255 reviews143 followers
August 28, 2019
Bu kitabı Prof. Selçuk Şirin'in Yetişin Çocuklar kitabıyla paralel okumam tamamen tesadüf oldu. ikisinin de ebeveyn olma hakkındaki yorumları insanın üzerinde sonucu olumlu ve yararlı olacak bir baskı kuruyor. Kendinizi ve davranışlarınızı gözden geçirirken bir yandan çocuğunuzla olan ilişkinizi bir yandan da kendi anne babanızla geçmişte yaşadığınız deneyimleri masaya yatırıyor, adeta otopsiye başlıyorsunuz.

Travmaların altında yatan sebepler geçmişteki küçük ayrıntılarda gizli. Stephen Grosz hastalarıyla konuşarak bu gizli küçük detaylara ulaşıyor. Sade bir dille, fazla uzatmadan belirli bir çerçeve içinde aktarıyor hikayeleri. Hikaye diyorum ama aslında hepsi gerçek hastalarından derlenen metinler.

Gabriel Byrne'in başrolünüde olduğu In Treatment diye bir dizi vardı hatırlarsanız. Sık sık o diziyi anımsadım kitabı okurken.
Profile Image for Jonathan Kent.
15 reviews
July 15, 2014
Once in a while I come across a book so filled with useful thoughts and insight that it comes up in conversation time and again. I found that with Graham Robb's The Discovery of France. It was so full of extraordinary facts and his depth of understand was so profound that I kept hearing myself talking about it and recommending it to people.
I think The Examined Life might be another such, albeit for quite different reasons.
Stephen Grosz is a psychoanalyst, an American practicing in London. He offers some thirty vignettes from his consulting room each exploring areas such as childhood, deceit, love, loss and death through the experiences of one of his patients.
Grosz has, of course, changed names and details to protect the identity of his patients. Nevertheless their experiences shine through. He often wraps them up when that lightbulb moment is reached although, poignantly, some never see the light go on.
What I took away from The Examined Life was a less an insight into issues that I'm concerned with, though there were a couple of very useful thoughts, and more a sense of the extraordinary variety and complexity of personal experience. Yes there is 'the human condition' and we can recognise our own humanity in than of other people, but people's experience of that condition variest so widely.
Above all in finding compassion for other people's struggles I think we discover compassion for our own. We're all of us unique but it's harder to believe, after reading this, that the things we struggle with are uniquely difficult or that we are somehow unusually flawed. We're simply all human and part of that sparkling, myriad faceted, endlessly dazzling river of life.
139 reviews23 followers
May 17, 2016
Nekas īpaši jauns un autors pārlieku daudz aizraujas ar bērnības traumām, bet tā jau der šad tad palasīt, cik dīvaini patiesībā ir cilvēki.
Profile Image for Duncan McLaren.
116 reviews2 followers
July 10, 2014
This slim volume does not deserve the critical praise it has received. While very easy to read, and in some ways enjoyable, it has - in my view - several serious flaws.

First Grosz makes no effort to put each personal story into any sort of theoretical context. Just at the point that the reader asks 'so what does that mean or imply for us more generally', Grosz moves on to the next story. Not only does this leave us often simply unclear why he has included that example, and not another, but indeed unclear as to whether there is any relevant body of theory or if rather, psychoanalysis is no more than a series of unrelated anecdotal findings.

I can appreciate the view that every individual requires individual analysis, but this brings us to the second flaw: that laying out a set of individual cases in this way encourages the reader to look for herself or himself in the patients Grosz describes, with no caution about the potential risks of such self-diagnosis.

As a result this felt too little like an encouragement for careful reflection or 'examination' of the ethical or moral worth of the lives we live, and more a vicarious and at times even prurient sequence of disconnected and unexplained (if engaging) personal studies. In this light I was relieved that Grosz writes that he sought permission of each of the patients he describes - even though he disguised their identities. But unfortunately the uniform response he reports - that they were happy for their stories to be shared if it might help others - is not fulfilled by this book.
Profile Image for Dawn.
Author 3 books9 followers
February 2, 2013
I really enjoyed reading this book. It very cleverly covers common issues which affect a lot of people and it details how strange behaviours can stem from denial, or inner pain caused by simple childhood sadnesses - to major trauma - in the most intelligent of people: I did tend to get the impression that Mr Grosz's patients were mainly well-educated very middle-class professional people who could afford private analysis, and were not your average NHS patient who was on the dole or something, but in a way this added to the interest because it showed that psychological difficulties are present in people regardless of their class and social status.

I liked how the author touched on human emotions and desires such as -

wanting the impossible,
on hate,
on telling lies,
on how we can have a passion for ignorance,
on intimacy,
on being boring
on loving (or not being able to surrender to love),
on changing,
on closure .....and many more very insightful things which show how the human mind is clever at deceiving us.

What I loved most about the book was the ending - and Mr Grosz's theory that "closure" is an unrealistic goal - that our losses are in many ways a continual "living grief" which we shouldn't be afraid of - we should befriend our tears and allow ourselves to feel sadness at our losses.

I liked also his opening where he states that the book is about change and that change always meant loss - but I am not sure I agree with him about that because change can sometimes means gain. Yes, change often brings loss, but not always. Change can bring good gains - that is my experience of life - as well as some losses.

I was amazed that some people's analysis could last years and could take many sessions before the person problems surfaced. This seems in stark contrast to CBT where people's problems are often more quickly analysed and the patient challenged to face their reality. However this didn't detract form the enjoyment of the book.
Profile Image for Nicky.
4,138 reviews1,007 followers
April 2, 2014
This was... intriguing. It had something of the voyeuristic sense about it, too: you're getting a glimpse into anonymous people's lives that only they and their psychoanalyst have ever seen. The stories are simply written and well structured, and I don't doubt that the book was written with good intentions and a genuine passion and interest.

I still find myself torn by it, though. I'm not sure I like that sense of complicitness in being a voyeur, the fact that I didn't know if he'd even asked these patients' permission to publish these stories until I finished reading it. On the other hand, he has some interesting insights, and there's a lot of pathos and tenderness here.

Ultimately, I don't know enough about the field to really make any judgements. This review is a very interesting one in terms of evaluating the wider context a bit.
Profile Image for Serena Liu.
35 reviews
June 3, 2013
A book that I didn't want it to end too quickly. A book that made me tearful almost throughout each page. My memories of childhood events were so vivid that it seemed like it just happened yesterday. I always say "Every behaviour has a hidden story. Our personal history is the only trace of our current behaviour."
I appreciate Dr Grosz describing patients' behaviours, thoughts and dreams without using clinical terms, which somehow stigmatise patients' vulnerability. Not everyone can comprehend mental conditions without being judgemental, not everyone can learn to accept that mental condition isn't about craziness. Yet, The Examined Life opens readers' mind to understand mental health issues without negative impressions.

I really really love this book.
Profile Image for M.
33 reviews
July 23, 2013
Such a great book. Who knew that case studies could be made into short stories that all contain a new psychological insight. For instance; people who are boring are doing it as a form of aggression to get attention and annoy people. & People who are paranoid are using that feeling that 'someone is watching them' because they need to feel that someone cares enough to watch them, in other words they are lonely for a deeper connection. There are many more insights...interesting book
Profile Image for Swrp.
561 reviews107 followers
December 17, 2019
at some levels it feels like the book is too simple for such complex issues... but maybe that's how it is supposed to be... keep it sweet and simple. It is worth spending the time to read this simple book.
Profile Image for Larraine.
919 reviews14 followers
March 13, 2014
This books is so different from books that I normally read that I wonder how I even decided to read it. I generally get my books from the library so if I see a book that I want to read, I request it from the library. This book was only available through inter library loan. So by the time I had requested the book, received it and actually sat down to read it, I had pretty much forgotten why I wanted to read it in the first place. It didn't take me long, though, to get totally caught up in these case histories that read like short story jewels. Grosz practiced as a psychoanalyst in Britain for 25 years. It is a profession that has fallen into disfavor, as a Guardian reviewer says, in favor of computer notes and short term relationships. Every chapter is a different patient whose name and pertinent details have been changed with the exception of one in which he returns to Hungary with his father to see the places of his youth. Each chapter also discusses a psychological condition associated with that patient. There's Emily, a young girl who is scattered and disheveled, who comes from a family that prides itself on being neat and orderly. A young boy expresses his rage by spitting at Grosz. A young man is diagnosed with AIDS in 1989 and isn't expected to live very long, but needs Grosz to help him with what he sees as his final 2-4 years. (Grosz was shocked and so was I by the callous comment of an American colleague who wondered why he was bothering with someone who had so little time left when there were people who had a future who could use his help. Ironically at the time this book was written, the young man with AIDS has survived thanks to the new life saving drugs.) Grosz recounts the trip he takes with his father back to Hungary. Grosz had enlisted the help of a guide who found the village and the particular buildings that his father had talked about. His father wandered around, refused to talk about the places, even denied that they had found the right buildings. No, this wasn't the house in which he lived while he was going to high school. This wasn't the mill he remembered. The mill was really so much bigger. (This reminded me of the first time I went back to the street where I grew up. It had seemed like such a wide street. I was shocked at how narrow it really was. The same for the back yard that I remembered as being so big. It was, in reality, very small.) As the reader of these stories, I found myself wondering about them. Did they resolve their conflicts? Are they happy. It wasn't until the end that I realized that we probably never fully resolve any of our conflicts. We just learned to live with them. One of the last chapters talks about loss. A woman who lost a child at the age of 3 months still thinks about him. When some young people drown she takes comfort in thinking that he'll never drown. Nor will he ever be hurt or killed in a traffic accident. She has two grown daughters whom she loves, but that child who died so long ago is still a part of her and the grief is never ending. Grosz cites the work of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross saying that the use of the term "closure" when we lose someone we love is misplaced. We expect closure, but we never have it. The grief is still there and will always be there. It reminded me of when my father died. It's been over 20 years. I don't mourn him every day. There are days that go by when I don't even think of him. Then suddenly I do. Whether it's an old picture or a sudden memory or a date. As I write this, his birthday is coming up. There is always a flood of memories for me. I remember him saying that my birthday and his were exactly 6 weeks apart. I remember him reading a book to me - the same book every day - Tom Kit. If I ever found a copy of this book, I know it would bring back even more memories. Supposedly all of our memories are in our brains. It's probably a blessing that we can't bring them forth at will. This book was fascinating. Grosz writes with such compassion and yet is able to distance himself enough to write dispassionately about his patients. This slim little volume is definitely worth reading.
Profile Image for Jafar.
728 reviews232 followers
October 20, 2013
While I was reading this book, I also read an article that claimed to provide evolutionary reasoning for why it's parents' fault if their young daughter has a loser boyfriend. So now evolutionary psychology is in competition with psychoanalysis in giving the most outlandish and just-so explanations for human behavior.

Grosz writes with feeling and understanding for his patients. These are stories of people trying to make sense of themselves and their condition. Of course, you can always argue about the methods and conclusions of psychoanalysis. Everything has to come down to some repressed childhood memory. And then there's the insistence on "interpreting" dreams. In spite of our near-complete lack of understanding of the neural mechanism of dreams and any evidence that they're anything but random discharges of neurons, psychoanalysts still insist on interpreting dreams, and they think that they have proof for its validity and utility. If you have a patient tell you enough dreams, eventually in one of them you can find something that gives you the opportunity to stretch your imagination and claim that it explains patient's condition.
Profile Image for Meric Aksu.
145 reviews24 followers
July 30, 2017
"Psikanalistler, geçmişin şimdiki zamanda yaşadığını işaret etmekten hoşlanırlar. Ama gelecek de şimdiki zamanda yaşıyordur. Gelecek, gitmekte olduğumuz bir yer değil, şu an zihnimizde olan bir düşüncedir. Onu biz yaratıyoruzdur, şimdiki zamanımızı şekillendiren bir fantezi olarak."

Diyor Stephen Grosz, yirmi beş yıl boyunca sayısız hastalarıyla yaşadığı tecrübelerinden edindiği gözlemlerini, mahremiyetleri açısından danışanlarının isimlerini değiştirerek okuyucusuna aktardığı bu ilk kitabında. Berkeley mezunu psikiyatristin yirmi beş yıllık tecrübesi her bir vakadan farklı dersler almanızı sağlıyor, ufkunuzu açıyor. "Acı Armağanı", "Cephe Büyükse", "Kendi Evinde", "Ölüme Dayanmak", "Kaybetme Korkusu Her Şeyi Yitirmemize Nasıl Yol Açar?" isimli bölümler en fazla dikkat çekenlerdi kendi adıma. Bir de "Karasevda Bizi Aşktan Nasıl Uzak Tutar?"da yer alan ve Charles Dickens'ın Bir Noel Şarkısı'ndan örneklerle uzun uzun yer verdiği paragraflar dikkat çekiciydi aynı şekilde. Bütün olarak bakıldığındaysa bireyin dünya üzerindeki kederli yolculuğuna, sevdiklerimizin ve yakınlarımızın kaybına er ya da geç hazırlıksız yakalandığımıza, maalesef ki tecrübeyle sabitlenemeyen çünkü kişiden kişiye değişen, fakat amacı, hammaddesi birbirinden bağımsız insan ruhları ve onların derinlerinde kalmış, etrafı duvarlarla örülmüş travmaları, kapandığı varsayılan yaraları bulup çıkarmak olan iç burkan anlara ve anılara yolculuğa çıkartıyor bizi Doktor Grosz, ve bunu da böbürlenmekten uzak, sade bir dille sunuyor okuyucusuna ve de meraklısına sayfalar boyunca. Elbette psikanaliz deyince Freud da var satır aralarında. Kitapta da bahsi geçen Elisabeth Kübler-Ross'un ölümcül hastalığa tutulan bireylerde deneyimlediği beş aşamalı psikolojik evreden geçen bireyin yasın bu duygusal aşamalarından hangisinde olduğunu keşfediyoruz yazarla birlikte. İnsanın en zor olanı kolaylıkla gerçekleştirdiğine yani kendi kendini rahatlıkla kandırışına tanıklık ediyoruz, kişisel yıkıcılığına ulaşmak endişesiyle. İnsana fikir veriyor her şekilde çok farklı insanların eşsiz deneyimleri. Dünyanın bir başka noktasında, bir başka kültürün etkisinde yetiştirilmiş insanlar olsak da, insan insana travmasıyla dokunmuş oluyor bu defa da, bir kitap aracılığıyla.

"Gençken görüştüğüm hastalarımın çoğu hayatımdan çıktı veya öldü, fakat bazen, örneğin bir rüyadan uyandığımda, onlara yeniden ulaşıp bir şey daha söylemek istediğimi hissediyorum." Dr. Grosz
Profile Image for Tariq Mahmood.
Author 2 books1,023 followers
March 7, 2013
A psychoanalytic who clearly loves his job. I listened to the audio version of this great little gem of a book which is filled with a great many insights into the inner working of the human being, its most basic fears and the many strategies devised to deal with a very complex life surrounding each and every one of us. I loved the Freudian method of discerning behaviours and conclusions based on dreams. There is something for every reader to take away from this gemstone, although in real life we shall probably come across very mild versions of the example symptoms listed in the book. But here is where what makes this book so great, it has managed to present the very clinical complicated human paranoia as analogies which most non-patients (so called healthy) can use in their every day life. I think its the author's gift to the healthy so that they remain healthy.
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