The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourselves

The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourselves

by Stephen Grosz


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A New York Times "10 Favorite Books of 2013"

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393079548
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 05/28/2013
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 760,750
Product dimensions: 5.80(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Stephen Grosz is a practicing psychoanalyst who 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 now lives in London.

Table of Contents

Preface xi


How we can be possessed by a story that cannot be told 1

On laughter 11

How praise can cause a loss of confidence 18

The gift of pain 23

A safe house 28

Telling Lies

On secrets 39

On not being in a couple 44

A passion for ignorance 55

On intimacy 63

The bigger the front 67


At home 73

How paranoia can relieve suffering and prevent a catastrophe 81

On the recovery of lost feelings 86

Why parents envy their children 91

On wanting the impossible 96

On hate 101

How lovesickness keeps us from love 109


How a fear of loss can cause us to lose everything 121

How negativity prevents our surrender to love 125

On losing a wallet 130

A change in the family 136

Why we lurch from crisis to crisis 141

On being boring 146

On mourning the future 151

How anger can keep us from sadness 158

On being a patient 167

Going back 179

On bearing death 189


Through silence 199

On closure 206

On waking from a dream 211

Sources and Notes 217

Acknowledgements 223

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The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourselves 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An amazing book: profound and deeply moving I've given it to friends, and will do so again. So heart warming and beautifully written. Each story leaves you with an insight into what mahes us behave the way we do. Read it in one long sitting: I couldn't put it down. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book! Couldn't put it down. A good life lesson or insight in every chapter.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a beautifully written book. I came across it by accident while browsing in  my local library. I started reading, and found that I couldn't put it down. It's written with such clarity and insight into human behavior that it's impossible not to be moved.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read a variety of books and this one was was just what I needed after the Racketeer. I would love to have a light conversation with this gentleman, Stephan Grosz.
KathyS More than 1 year ago
Exceptionally well written, easy to understand for the lay reader, and beautiful wisdom guiding the reader to want to read it over and over.
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redwingsLM More than 1 year ago
I bought this back after it was hailed as one of the 10 best books of 2013 by a New York Times staff book critic. I hate to say it but I found it profoundly disappointing all around and have decided not bother finishing it half-way through. I realize some readers have really enjoyed it, but felt obligated to let other potential readers know it may not suit everyone. Contrary to others' opinions, I found the writing mediocre (like reading a draft), and the stories a dull parade of ordinary hang-ups and habits. Unfortunately, Grosz's analyses struck me as banal, often tracing patients' problems back to childhood events in some clichéd version of psychoanalysis. On self-examination, re-reading Dostoevsky's "Notes from Underground" or any other great novel would likely be a lot more rewarding.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"Okay but now Grayfrost wont gimme back MY kits."