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Staring at the Sun: Overcoming the Terror of Death Paperback – April 20, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-0470401811 ISBN-10: 0470401818 Edition: 1st

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Staring at the Sun: Overcoming the Terror of Death + Love's Executioner: & Other Tales of Psychotherapy + The Gift of Therapy: An Open Letter to a New Generation of Therapists and Their Patients
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Jossey-Bass; 1 edition (April 20, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470401818
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470401811
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (148 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #27,676 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The philosopher Martin Heidegger once remarked that we can live intensely only if we stare death in the face every moment of our lives. Bestselling psychiatrist Yalom (Love's Executioner) attempts to put this principle into practice in a sometimes thoughtful, often repetitious book. Drawing on literature and film, as well as conversations with his patients, Yalom demonstrates how the fear of retirement, concerns about changing jobs or moving to another city, or changes in family status (such as the empty nest) are rooted in our deepest, most inescapable fear: of death. Yet, he says, this anxiety can prompt an awakening to life and help us realize our connections to others and our influence on those around us. Through such experiences we can transcend our sense of finiteness and transiency and live in the here and now. In a final chapter, Yalom offers instructions for therapists seeking to help their patients overcome death anxiety. Although in the 1980s Yalom, now 76, provided new insights into the human psyche with his innovative method of existential psychotherapy, this book recycles well-known philosophical insights, but Yalom's humane, calm voice may bring them to a new audience. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


"'Unlike many psychotherapists, Yalom writes like a dream' The Oxford Times" --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

More About the Author

Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University. Author of nonfiction psychiatry texts, novels, and books of stories. Currently in private practice of psychiatry in Palo Alto and San Francisco, California.

Customer Reviews

Dr. Yalom's writing style is such that all readers, the professional and the lay person, should find this work easy to digest.
This seems like obvious advice, but common sense is anything but common; Yalom reminds us of behaviors that we may mean to adopt but, for some reason, do not.
E. Bukowsky
A maxim by La Rochefoucauld, "You cannot stare straight into the face of the sun, or death", is the starting point for Dr. Yalom's book.
Robin Friedman

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

64 of 66 people found the following review helpful By Erik Olson VINE VOICE on January 12, 2008
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
According to Irvin D. Yalom, people can be so consumed with their own mortality that they become crippled by "unmanageable death anxiety." This disorder manifests in ways that include anxiety attacks, bad dreams, and depression. Dr. Yalom believes that this is a key psychological problem, one that goes even deeper than Freud's emphasis on sexual repression. Therefore, he's based his practice on helping people overcome this issue and enjoy life to the fullest. I found "Staring at the Sun" to be an intriguing and readable book, not to mention helpful for my own battles with this issue.

It should be noted up front that the author is not religious. If his patient follows a certain faith, Dr. Yalom encourages his or her belief if it is helpful to the healing process. But he is a rationalist who is more in line with evolutionary thought and secular philosophy than with spiritual leanings. His treatment methods include guided dream interpretation, and encouraging awakening experiences as a form of existential shock therapy. Along those lines, Dr. Yalom advocates some of the philosophical teachings of Epicurus, Nietzsche, and Schopenhauer to help his patients come to terms with their mortality and cultivate the ability to "create the fate that [they] can love."

There is much to like about this book. I admired the author's candor about his own fears of impending death at the age of 76, and how his struggles have enabled him to help others in the same boat. In addition, I appreciated the personal touch he brings to his practice, including appropriate self-revelation and a commitment to help his patients even at inconvenient times. I got the sense that he truly cares about them, but still manages to maintain appropriate boundaries without being rigid or condescending.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"Staring at the Sun" is the eminent psychiatrist Irvin Yalom's latest book based upon the premise that not just many, but all of our fears---fears that on the surface seem to be something else---are in actuality, the fear of death.

However, this is not a depressing book. Understanding and accepting death anxiety can bring us to a greater appreciation of life. The author writes, "Death awareness may serve as an awakening experience, a profoundly useful catalyst for major life changes." The book explores how this might be.

The second to the last chapter of the book is a memoir of the author's own personal encounters with death anxiety and his reflections in anticipation of his own death. I found this chapter to be moving and poignant. The last chapter is written specifically for therapists. The entire book includes stories from the author's psychotherapeutic practice.

The print is large and easy to read. The book includes a reader's guide in the back that would be helpful for book clubs and self-help or other therapeutic groups.

I thought this book was wise above all, brave, human, personal, and inspirational without being religious or even spiritual.

Highly recommended.
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38 of 39 people found the following review helpful By E. Bukowsky HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 27, 2007
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In "Staring at the Sun," psychiatrist and Stanford University professor Irvin D. Yalom confronts one of humanity's greatest fears: the terror of death. Yalom, who is in his seventies, admits that he has pondered the psychological and philosophical implications of his own mortality. In addition, Dr. Yalom discusses his patients, many of whom have been shaken by the loss of a loved one, professional failures, or romantic disappointments. Their frustrations sometimes translate into a fear of death, because as we age, we may come to fear that we will never have enough time to accomplish our goals.

If we were to think constantly about death, it would be like "trying to stare at the sun in the face: You can stand only so much of it." Therefore, as a form of self-protection, many of us avoid the subject entirely. After all, we are busy enough attending to life's routines. Work, marriage, raising a family, making friends, cultivating hobbies, and participating in communal and charitable endeavors can take up a great deal of time. Why contemplate an unpleasant subject that can lead to unhappiness and depression? No matter how we may try to ignore it, however, certain life events bring death to the fore, such as a milestone birthday, a serious illness, divorce, retirement, or grown children leaving home. Any such transition can traumatize a vulnerable individual.

The author is a non-observant Jew who does not believe in a divine entity; therefore, he does not rely on religion for comfort. Instead, he turns to philosophers such as Epicurus, Nietzsche, and Schopenhauer for guidance. Those who worship a deity may be put off by Yalom's staunch secularism. Still, this book does offer a common sense approach that anyone can implement, no matter what his beliefs.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Ratmammy VINE VOICE on February 9, 2008
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
February 9, 2008

Rating 4/5 stars

Having been told I have anxiety disorder and learning that this equated to a fear of death, I jumped at the opportunity to read STARING AT THE SUN. This is my first book by Irvin D Yalom, and I was very impressed with the contents and writing style of a topic that can be pretty heavy duty. Yalom discusses anxiety and the fear of death by throwing in examples from the patients he's known, each of them having diverse symptoms and traits, but all of them having a fear of death. A lot of what he went over I already knew from therapy, and it was good to see it all in print. He also talks of methods to use to help overcome this fear, helping many of us to cope with daily anxiety and to learn to relax and live life as if THERE IS A TOMORROW.

Case studies include a woman who fears death by stating that she had so many things to do before she died. It's a classic case, in which I can relate to, where one cannot relax until one's ever growing to-do lists are completed. It's the unlived life that many fear, the fear of not accomplishing everything one had meant to do throughout a life time, but for some they feel this life may end too soon, thus the anxiety to finish things before it's too late.

Others begin to have anxiety after the death of someone close, possibly a husband or a close friend. Often times any life-changing event can set off anxiety. In each case, Yalom gives explicit details of a particular patient, using a very reader-friendly voice that most readers will feel comfortable with.

The only chapter that I felt was not as reader-friendly was the last, in which he warns the reader that this particular chapter is aimed at therapists.
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