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. A moving collection of short, personal encounters between a psychoanalyst and his patients, The Examined Life reveals how the art of insight can illuminate the most complicated, confounding, and human of experiences. Ultimately, these stories show us not only how we love ourselves but how we might find ourselves.
Grosz could get technical if he wanted to he teaches clinical technique and psychoanalytic theory at London's Institute of Psychoanalysis and University College London, respectively but he believes the best way to prove the power of storytelling is to practice what he preaches. Drawing from two decades of experience as a working psychoanalyst, Grosz bases the bulk of his claims on the tales of his patients, which range from traumatic boarding school experiences to failed romances and terminal illness. They are compassionately told and eminently readable, but skeptical readers will likely lament the lack of scientific analysis. But then again, that's Grosz's whole point science needn't be at the forefront if cathartic personal narrative is the focus. The crucial role of storytelling in forming one's sense of self and of the world seems to be a given among psychoanalysts and writers, but Grosz goes further to demonstrate the ways in which stories, when unspoken, manifest themselves as symptoms of psychological distress. Quick leaps from focused accounts to grand conclusions sometimes disrupt the rhetorical arc of the book, though this in itself might be in keeping with the overall idea that narratives are messy, unpredictable, and somehow, in spite of all of these things, inherently useful if not always in the words, then in the silences between them.
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The examined life: how we lose and find ourselves
I really enjoyed this book. Liked the short length of the chapters and after could think about each of them. Excellent for psych students