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The Examined Life

September 2, 2013 by Reader's Connection

The Examined Life : How We Lose and Find OurselvesStephen Grosz’s book¬†The Examined Life : How We Lose and Find Ourselves¬†belongs to a genre of which I am suspicious. Grosz is a psychotherapist, and he has written a book describing some of his cases.

“These stories are true,” he tells us in the preface, “but I’ve altered all identifying details in the interest of confidentiality.” And this is my problem. These aren’t exactly case histories, and they’re not exactly fiction. How do I read these things?

Praise on the cover, though, from author Andrew Solomon, convinced me to put my neurotic quibble aside for the sake of The Examined Life, and I’m glad I did. Grosz’s accounts are all quite brief, but clear and compassionate, full of surprising insights; and he’s never grandiose about his own role in therapy, saying about one case, “I often felt less like a psychoanalyst than like a fireman coaxing kittens out of trees.”.

I recommend that you read the short book straight though, but “How Anger Can Keep Us from Sadness” (about the kid with Asperger’s syndrome) and “Going Back” (about the vacation in Hungary that Grosz prepared for his father) were especially moving.

The Examined Life is also available as a downloadable audiobook

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