There's a modest store of information in this sober and well-organized study of loss; some of it may be relatively well-known already, but Robert T. Lewis (Psychology, California State) has a gift for tying up loose ends. Loss, he explains, is a natural catalyst for growth, but one whose value has been distorted not only by our culture's overemphasis on winning but also by a tendency to overdefine the critiera for success. Negative self-image often proceeds from a childhood in which excessive punishment and parental disapproval lead the child to view himself as a failure; the results are myriad--guilt and fear of success may stop a person who is close to winning out, while the phenomenon of the ""born loser"" derives from those for whom defeat ""is the one thing they do well."" The pain-pleasure syndrome of masochism (both physical and psychological) is likewise identified as stemming from guilt--the pain is an atonement for a pleasure viewed as illicit--as well as from such counterproductive tendencies as inward-turning aggression, narcissism, and feelings of persecution. Lewis wisely does not discount the presence of good and bad luck in human affairs, though he does decry the tendency of people with an ""external locus"" to use such intangibles as an excuse for failure. The book scores too in its frequent use of case examples (often humorous) from published newspaper and magazine sources as well as in its brief biographies of well-known ""losers"" whose impact on the world is undeniable--Kafka, Mozart, Goodyear, Christ. Refreshingly, neither a step-by-step procedure manual nor a specialist's reference tool--simply a balanced and thought-provoking treatment.