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The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourselves

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  13,133 ratings  ·  1,247 reviews
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
Paperback, 240 pages
Published May 12th 2014 by W. W. Norton Company (first published December 20th 2012)
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St Fu Generally speaking, it takes more than a book to find yourself, but it can help.

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Petra X karma should have given me a Ferrari
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 ho
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 s ...more
Jul 22, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 in ...more
Sep 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
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 accoun
☘Misericordia☘ ⚡ϟ⚡⛈⚡☁ ❇️❤❣
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 – stori
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.
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Jan 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a terrific little book; very affecting and powerful, and it came at just the right time for me.

It's essentially a series of vignettes from the case histories of a Freudian psychoanalyst - short chapters on themes of loss, love, lies, sadness, death and so on. I confess that I am rabidly sceptical about the basis of Freudian analysis, but these stories are so touching and thought-provoking that my ideological preferences were rendered unimportant. What's so powerful about this book is the
Nadin Adel
Aug 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: psychology

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 betraye
Jan 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 m
Robert Day
Mar 17, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: knowledge
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
Dov Zeller
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 meaning
Feb 14, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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 narrative
Feb 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 pa
Nov 04, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 stran
Jonathan Kent
Jul 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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 off
Feb 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: psychology
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, bu ...more
Duncan McLaren
Jul 10, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
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 indee
Serena Liu
May 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: academic
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 me
Jul 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Mar 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 c ...more
Apr 02, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, health
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 the
Jul 09, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ab
Tariq Mahmood
Mar 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
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 ...more
Jun 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I've got to admit that I used to think of psychologists as money sucking temporary friends that can be replaced by anyone who would just sit, listen and ask "how do you feel about that?". boy was i wrong!

This amazing book not only gives you a glimpse of what people around you might be experiencing but it also shows you a little bit of yourself in every story. you will find yourself relating to the patients and their ordeals and will find comfort in what Grosz tells them.

I now not only respect pe
Erol Yeşilyurt
The writer is articulate and is raising many good points about the problems of the life, but, nonetheless, he is never developing his ideas into something more meaningful: he is just making some good comments and stops there. It is unfortunately not good enough. He is not strictly Freudian in his approach and that enables him to ask many different questions while discussing some of his cases. He is though, gives the impression of a caring practitioner, who is keen to help his patients to help th ...more
Jan 10, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, 2014-reads
I thought the vignettes were far too short to explore anything worthwhile. More of a survey of psychoanalytic patients and analyst-subject relationships. Just when a "breakthrough" was to occur, or had just occurred, the essay would end, leaving me frustrated and annoyed. ...more
Jul 22, 2019 rated it liked it
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. ...more
I was intrigued by the TV series In Treatment, so I decided to buy this book to get more insight into the work of an analyst. The book is relatively short and divided into loosely related chapters dedicated to specific themes, such as “Telling lies”, “Loving”, “Leaving”, etc...

The language is plain and I managed to read the whole 215 pages in two days. I did found some cases interesting, but I was also disappointed because I found the content more superficial than I expected and some cases “ove
Jan 21, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: giveaways
This is a book where the reader's appreciation depends not on any intrinsic merits of the book but by the subjectivity of the reader.

If you believe in psychoanalysis, if you think Freud has a lot to say about the human condition, if you believe that paying a lot of money to someone for a chat (that can go on for years) is a positive thing, if you are insecure and fragile and need a human crutch to carry you through life then you will love this book. It provides the justification for all your fe
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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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