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The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourselves [Kindle Edition]

Stephen Grosz
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (139 customer reviews)

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Book Description

An extraordinary book for anyone eager to understand the hidden motives that shape our lives.

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

Editorial Reviews


"I was enthralled. profound and moving, packed large ideas into a slim volume" -- Lucy Lethbridge Observer Books of the Year "With deceptive simplicity and gentle wisdom, Grosz teases out a lesson or chases down a fugitive insight. I have distrusted psychoanalysis for years, but I would leap onto Grosz's couch" -- James McConnachie The Sunday Times Books of the Year "This moving book of patient portraits by the psychoanalyst Stephen Grosz will make the reader think of Freud's keenly observed and literary-minded case studies. Writing with sympathy and insight, Mr Grosz distils 25 years of work into a series of slim, piercing chapters that read like a combination of Chekhov and Oliver Sacks" -- Michiko Kakutani New York Times "The success of The Examined Life by the psychoanalyst Stephen Grosz has, I think, relatively little to do with his clinical know-how; it rests, as Freud's did, on his story-telling abilities" -- Rachel Cooke Observer "Grosz is a superb storyteller and tells lots of his patients' stories with sensitivity, but also with great acuity. You might keep thinking you recognise things about people you know" -- William Leith Evening Standard "A wonderful example of a book that provides a safe space that can be used as a base to explore the less safe" -- Alex Clark Guardian "Riveting... Grosz is adept at uncovering the little lies we tell ourselves and he's very perceptive about the potentially positive effects of bad experiences" Daily Telegraph "Because of [Grosz's] skill at getting to the heart of the matter, we forget the distance separating us and become quickly involved in the lives of those he discusses" Mail on Sunday "Absolutely fascinating. You'll be amateur psychoanalysing yourself and everyone you know" Independent on Sunday "It made me stop and think, and it has stayed with me. Grosz is a superb storyteller and tells lots of his patients' stories with sensitivity, but also with great acuity. You might keep thinking you recognise things about people you know" -- William Leith Scotsman

About the Author

Stephen Grosz was born in Indiana and educated at Berkeley and Oxford. For the past twenty-five years he has worked as a psychoanalyst, teaching clinical technique at the Institute of Psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic theory at University College London. His stories have appeared in the Financial Times Weekend Magazine. This is his first book.

Product Details

  • File Size: 793 KB
  • Print Length: 241 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0393349322
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (May 28, 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00AN86JZE
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #78,332 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
78 of 86 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Talking Cures January 13, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
This is a book about the relationships between psychoanalysis and language. The central relationship concerns that which is not said - the silences in between propositions. Grosz's genius is to match form with function and relate his stories in a completely non-didactic manner, but so compellingly that the conclusion strikes the reader as sudden insight. This phenomenon is exactly the core event in the psychoanalytical process, and the main event of a good narrative tale. Grosz demonstrates both, repeatedly, and shows how psychoanalysis can affect the patient, the analyst and the reader (and by extension, the world). Individually, the stories are unique, moving and trans-formative.
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34 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great insight July 4, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book is a wonderful series of stories about the way people deal with emotional and psychological difficulties. It does more than expain how and why people behave, it also opens up important philospophical questions that need to be discussed and examined in order for us to reach a state of self awareness, genuineness and honesty. Stephen Grosz writes with great humility and love of learning. A great read for anyone who is psyhcologically minded and likes to ask "why?"
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Getting to know and understand yourself April 26, 2013
By Mary F
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I cried and laughed, felt sad and happy as I read this book. I identified to some extent with nearly all the patients and with the author. Human behaviour is complicated but there is always a reason and it is very easy to get stuck in a pattern. If you are interested in psychoanalysis you will enjoy this book. It's probably too late for me now to start but if I was going to I would like an analyst like Mr. Gross.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
This is one of those rare instances in which I have to say that many of the 1- and 2-star reviews are as accurate as the 5-star ones. The main difficulty is expectations. The Examined Life is, at a superficial level, a series of shared experiences from the author's casebook, suitably anonymized, but it differs from the more traditional collections of essays by practitioners (Oliver Sacks, Atul Gawande, or, reaching back decades, William Nolen) in being less structured, more focused on a specific insight that the reader is left to ponder, very possibly with ramifications for his own life. Each of the chapters or sections is short; most are incomplete in the sense that they only touch on an individual patient's life without even giving an account of the arc of his treatment. They are like epiphanies distilled from case studies, tantalizingly brief but written with extraordinary lucidity and sensitivity. They are as good as many short stories in this sense, not by being obscure but by rewarding multiple readings. If you are expecting detailed accounts of a patient's life, followed by a description of diagnosis and treatment, you will likely be disappointed. But if you are willing to entertain the possibility that patient case histories can be used as a starting point for an experienced therapist's reflection, insight, and wisdom, you should not feel misled.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating March 5, 2013
By Maeve
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
An easy book to read with short, digestible chapters, each with a different lesson, drawing on examples from different patients in psychoanalysis and the author's personal experiences.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars wish he'd gone further August 10, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The author has a gift for capturing the essence of a psychoanalytic session. He is obviously a sensitive and caring doctor. My frustration with the book was that I felt he could have said more. True to the form of an old-school psychoanalyst, he says very little, and lets his patients talk, hoping they'll figure it out themselves. He expects the same of the reader. In most chapters he stopped just when I was starting to learn something. The book gave me the same feeling: suddenly it was just over, and I felt unsatisfied. A missed opportunity.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars gems of insight November 24, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A couple reviews seemed to feel that the cases should have been 'wrapped up' with followup on how the patients fared later......which, in my mind, is irrelevant. This is a small book with short chapters/synopses of a variety of patients, and the diagnoses/insights about each. I loved that (in most, for me) there are defined passages of flashes of "aha! so THAT'S why/how" that I want to remember.........behavioral or personality traits that I can (suddenly) see and understand in situations and people in my own realm. Those who just go with the flow and have no interest in understanding how or why they --or others ----- act or react to life will probably not care for this book, but I flagged a dozen pages with the intent to pull it out and re-read them many times to refresh myself until I get those concepts drilled into my memory. While each was simple, coming across so many "aha's!" in one read was a bit of overload for mind whirls with each one as I bump it against people and situations I encounter. Anyhow- anyone looking for complete case studies, from first visit to "cure/happy ending" :) should move on, this is not it.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Achieving Gratitude September 21, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
These essays are appropriately enigmatic. I read the book quickly and might even return to the book at some future time. Yes, he could have elaborated more but seemed to capture whatever was essential. The chapter, "How Anger Can Keep Us From Sadness", was amazing. There seems to be no limit to compassion nor limits to how much love may be extended. Dr. Grosz seems to be a true humanitarian, first and foremost, a quality that may be more healing than any other. Perhaps his years of intimate contact with others have enriched him as much as his patients have been helped, and he is sharing bits of that enrichment, a fulfillment of the book's epigraph: "We receive and we lose, and we must try to achieve gratitude to embrace with whole hearts whatever of life that remains after the losses." Would love to read more books of this sort.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Interesting stories
Interesting stories, neatly packaged, but not enough depth. I wish the author would have delved more into each patient, stormy, etc, instead of short bits packaged with a bow.
Published 1 month ago by Maria Lucia Fanjul
3.0 out of 5 stars Started reading about a month ago. Have yet to ...
Started reading about a month ago. Have yet to finish. Its okay, but I really haven't learned anything I didn't already know.
Published 2 months ago by getterdun
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Published 2 months ago by Anne Kaminski
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
I enjoyed the life lessons provided in short vignettes.
Published 2 months ago by Anne Copsey
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
I loved this book! Many real stories. How deep and well written! Worth reading!
Published 3 months ago by Irene
4.0 out of 5 stars Deeply Moving
I found this book to be deeply moving. Like many reviewers, at first I found the chapters to be short and lacking a definitive conclusion. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Jenny
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A psychoanalyst who is humane and humble is real hard to find. This man is one of them rarities!
Published 3 months ago by -- lesser
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
just not what i expected....
Published 3 months ago by Sue M.
4.0 out of 5 stars and i enjoyed it.
interesting reads for sure, but i also found myself disagreeing or questioning some of the interpretations or conclusions drawn. Read more
Published 3 months ago by N. Yang
3.0 out of 5 stars A series of topics and stories
I enjoyed this book. The stories are reminders of the humanity in us all and a thoughtful, entertaining presentation of such.
Published 4 months ago by Kim Ann Gray
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More About the Author

Stephen Grosz is a practicing psychoanalyst--he has worked with patients for more than twenty-five years. Born in America, educated at the University of California, Berkeley, and at Oxford University, he lives in London. A Sunday Times bestseller, The Examined Life is his first book.

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