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THE EXAMINED LIFE by Stephen Grosz


How We Lose and Find Ourselves

by Stephen Grosz

Pub Date: May 28th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0393079548
Publisher: Norton

A British psychoanalyst delves into his patients' stories, opening doors to larger insights.

Today's medical culture emphasizes measurability, accountability and evidence-based practice, a logical approach that favors treatments "proven" effective. The results of psychoanalysis and counseling, however, aren’t always so quantifiable. Understanding of our motivations, misfires and fears may come in fits and starts, and the answers may come as questions, but the insights gained can shift the course of a life. Grosz’s book makes a compelling case for the continued value of this kind of therapy. Each chapter takes the form of a story or vignette about a particular individual or therapeutic issue. A patient referred for suicidal ideation is distant in treatment, and then, one day, his fiancee sends a letter to Grosz stating that he took his own life—but months later, Grosz gets a phone call from the man. Another patient’s personal and professional lives suffer since he’s intensely boring—but if he can identify when he’s boring someone, why is he unwilling to change? Some of the chapters sketch out only general details about a case, leaving readers to draw their own conclusions about the meanings Grosz is trying to convey. Others take a central question, such as, “Why are we so committed to praising our children?” and turn it over and around like a Rubik’s Cube. Grosz has an engaging prose style, neither riddled with professional jargon nor dumbed down to connect with a wider audience.

A book that challenges readers' thinking while also assuming their willingness to put some effort into drawing their own conclusions from the material.