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The Thief of Happiness: The Story of an Extraordinary Psychotherapy Paperback – January 20, 2003


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The Thief of Happiness: The Story of an Extraordinary Psychotherapy + Surrendering Oz: A Life in Essays + Writing Past Dark: Envy, Fear, Distraction and Other Dilemmas in the Writer's Life
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Transference that alchemy of the psychotherapy session, with all its drama and inscrutability is the subject of Friedman's engrossing second book. Here, the author of Writing Past Dark (about the emotional aspects of the writing process) examines in minute detail her treatment with Dr. Harriet Sing (a pseudonym). Like the poet H.D. (Tribute to Freud), Friedman entered therapy for writer's block. After two weeks, she found herself writing her first book. As a result, she identified Sing as the source of her inspiration, and an intense infatuation resulted: "Little mattered now beside Harriet Sing. Everyone else was merely metaphoric." Friedman emerged confident in her identity as a writer only after seven years of intense self-scrutiny with Sing. By then, the therapist's role had evolved into something far more ambiguous, and it is here that readers may come to understand what really goes on between therapist and patient. Friedman refers to Sing as a "thief of happiness." Though at times self-indulgent (as when the author veers off into half-articulated, dreamy memories, the book is excellent in the way H.D.'s is: it illuminates the intricate, murky relationship between therapy and real life, the ways in which, as the author quotes Adam Phillips, "in one's relationship with the analyst one unwittingly relives and thus discovers one's emotional history." Friedman is at her best when relaying the delicately nuanced exchanges that occur between the patient and therapist. "I can't be in treatment and be happy," she tells Sing. "That's a very interesting assumption," Sing replies. Agent, Malaga Baldi. (Jan. 17)Forecast: Fans of Friedman's first book will certainly like this one, and writers interested in the therapeutic process as a way to ease their block will enjoy it, too. With the right publicity campaign, the book could, like Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird, develop a cult following.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

This eloquent, stream-of-consciousness case study of psychotherapy entangles the reader from the first page. A patient in therapy for seven years, Friedman (Writing Past Dark: Envy, Fear, Distraction, and Other Dilemmas in the Writer's Life) portrays her thoughts and feelings during the process of analysis through exquisitely painted word-pictures. She shows how she recovered from her writer's block and achieved new levels of self-confidence through what felt like an almost magical process. At the same time, she leaves the reader confused about what's really happening and certain that this woman is seriously helpless and disturbed. As years go by and her relatively normal life continues, Friedman begins to fear that she is dependent on the therapy itself. The analyst would no doubt say that her recovered sense of self was the result of therapy, but Friedman portrays the analyst as the thief who kept her dependent and unhappy for so long. An intriguing book for large public or medical libraries; no notes or index. Margaret Cardwell, Christian Brothers Univ. Lib., Memphis
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Beacon Press (January 20, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807072478
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807072479
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,186,733 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 34 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 17, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Ever since Bonnie Friedman wowed audiences with WRITING PAST DARK -- which remains one of the finest books about the whole writing experience ever written (and destined to become a classic in the manner of the Burnett's)-- I have been waiting, breathless, for her next book.
The Thief of Happiness is an astounding tale of psychological dependency, deceit, trust, and a devastatingly subtle betrayal on the part of Ms Friedman's mental health practictioner. This book not only delves deeply into Ms Friedman's creative and personal soul; it takes the reader on an otherwise illicit journey behind the closed doors of psychotherapy. The only person who helped Ms Friedman was, ultimately, Ms Friedman.
A must-read for all those who are interested in the psychological ramifications of the creative process; the often over-tread boundaries of shrink-dom; and how one very talented author came away --- just barely --- with her life intact.
If you were infuriated by the stories some years back surrounding very well-known author/psychologist Masson, etc, you will not be sorry. With any luck, The New Yorker will cover this book in a feature piece. Ms Friedman certainly deserves the attention, as does the book.
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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 23, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I appreciate Bonnie's courage and generosity in opening up her heart. This is a sad story, but exquisitely and subtly told. I have always been skeptical of psychonalysis, and felt all along, while reading, that Bonnie had walked into a trap that would invariably sidetrack her from more productive ways of spending seven years. I do wish she had been more critical, overall, of classical analysis as a philosophy, and not just of her own particular experience, but this is her book, and not mine, and it seems that her final word on it all is that there were good things along with the bad in her therapy.
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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 5, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I was a little scared to read this book, afraid that it would inhabit the realm of Too Much Information. Thankfully, it did not: it read like a gripping novel, and I devoured it. Because the structure of the book was modeled so unambiguously on the therapeutic process, I was able to feel the author's therapeutic experience from the inside out. Consequently, all the feelings the author had- discomfort, excitement, relief- passed through me as I was reading the book. Friedman has an exquisite ear for language and an incredible eye for detail. I think she's a stunning writer. I loved the book.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 11, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Bonnie Friedman has the uncanny ability to take intimatica (that's a word I just made up, meaning "the most personal information a person can reveal about him or herself") and make it not only accessible to others, but suddenly and violently important. She heaves herself on the page, blemishes and all -- a literary gurgitation that is wondrous to behold. Such is her writerly charisma, however, that we don't merely behold, we partake of her; we feast upon this author's innards. Friedman has one of the most exquisite literary sensibilities around -- her words chime and rattle and gong with passion -- and her poetic vitality is so infective that one comes away not only knowing her inside out, but just maybe oneself, too.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 22, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Finally, a gifted writer conveys exactly what powerful therapy is really like! So many millions of people have been telling their secrets in darkened offices in pursuit of transformation, yet that sense of secrecy has kept anyone from openly conveying this extraordinary experience until now. And just our luck, Bonnie Friedman is the one that decided to do it. After reading her first book, Writing Past Dark, I would have been delighted to read her on any subject. She has such a wonderful ability to create an engrossing world and intrigue you through it with a sense of fresh discovery.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 27, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Having just finished devouring *The Thief of Happiness* in a few compulsive bites, I am amazed. Friedman manages to evoke (with astonishing precision and illumination) the shifting, ephemeral, intriguing, enchanting, dismaying grace notes and dissonances of the inner life, as we change and grow. While ostensibly and in fact about the process of therapy, it also illuminates any enthusiastic and turbulent process of self-discovery. In an era when so much of our attention is concentrated on the pragmatic outer world, this is a fresh and genuine achievement. Over and over I thought of Randall Jarrell's poem "Seele im Raum;" similarly, albeit over a far longer period, Friedman manages to capture how fleeting thoughts and feelings can arise and rule one's life--and then pass away like a strange fever dream. Her critical eye is always open; even when she is showing you fabulous magical moments of insight, she also lets you see that those moments will dissolve. I am in awe. The book should find an enthusiastic word-of-mouth fan base in book groups, psychology classes, literary circles, and everywhere else that people care about our spiritual and emotional growth.
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