Saturday, 20 July 2013

The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourselves by Stephen Grosz


Book Review

A surprisingly good book.

This book is full of case studies by the psychoanalyst Stephen Grosz. He uses each case study to make a point about human behaviour and the way people change (or don't change). Three things strike me on reading this book.

The first is how difficult it is to change. He writes: “...change and loss are deeply connected – there cannot be change without loss – loss haunts this book”. And “We resist change. Committing ourselves to a small change, even one that is unmistakably in our best interest, is often more frightening than ignoring a dangerous situation”.

The second is how facing up to, and accepting, reality, however difficult, is (in his own words) “almost always better than the alternative”. He gives an example of a kid who kept spitting at him as the analyst. It was only when the tragedy of the kid's life was fully acknowledged without any need to fix or repair it that the kid was able to, in some way, move on. And it was only then that the kid stopped his spitting at the analyst.

The third is that sometimes, theories just don't help as each case is unique. He recounts an unexpected hidden truth being revealed. An unexpected personal process is recorded. An unexpected consequence for other people is experienced once someone has changed.

If you are interested in understanding human behaviour, I recommend this book.