LighterLife book club: The Examined Life

February 3, 2014 - Lifestyle

examined life coverWe asked our LighterLifers on Facebook and Twitter to read a book for us and share their thoughts. This month they read Stephen Grosz’s The Examined Life. Here’s what they said…

Stephen Grosz is a practising psychoanalyst who has worked with patients for more than 25 years. In this book he offers an insight into common issues dealt with by psychoanalysts today and ways in which we sometimes misunderstand our own problems.



shelley dony polaroidShelley Dony, Camarthen
The Examined Life is an absolutely gripping book about change. The author – Stephen Grosz – is a psychoanalyst, who very simply takes the reader through real life examples of the complex issue of change – something that everyone encounters on a regular basis, whether it’s successful or not.

In each chapter Grosz discusses at least one case study (their identity is always protected) and shows not only how different people react to issues and their possible ‘solutions’, but how Grosz himself learns from the people he sees. His candidness is quite comforting, as it shows that even the most experienced specialist has his own journey of learning, issues and changes to make.

You may find yourself going on a journey too whilst reading this book. I experienced a whole range of emotions at various points – from sad, to comforted, to uneasy, to frustrated, to fear, back to sad, and anxious. In the end it was all for the good. I’ve actually learned a lot and will definitely read it again.

margaret larter polaroidMargaret Larter, Falkirk
This book fits into the genre of philosophy/psychology, so I was afraid it would be heavy reading and somewhat hard going. However, it wasn’t like this in the least. In fact, I read it in a single day. It was easy to read, with a different chapter on each client. This would make it a good book for anyone who likes to dip into a book and read a little every day. The disadvantage of each client only having one chapter is that you don’t really get a lot of insight into the people involved and their problems.

I didn’t actually learn a lot from this book, which was a bit disappointing. It’s about listening to people, and trying to understand both what is said and unsaid. It was quite an interesting read, but not as thought provoking as I’d hoped. I would have liked longer case studies, perhaps with fewer clients but in more detail. However, the reader can relate to things happening to the clients that may have happened in their own lives. Therefore, it is a good tool to help with self-evaluation. It covers topics such as laughter, pain, loving, paranoia, envy, hate, fear of loss and changing, dreams, and leaving. All in all, it’s an interesting read but not life changing.

Vivienne polaroidVivienne Horsfall, Ipswich
I found this book very interesting because I enjoy learning about other people and the subject of communication. As a LighterLife member, I was intrigued by the subject of change, and the subtitle of the book, which is, ‘how we lose and find ourselves’.

Some of the cases in the book were merely introduced and I didn’t see the point of their inclusion. Others fascinated me and I wanted to learn more about the individual. I was struck from the outset that this man is a brilliant counsellor as he’s non-judgmental, receptive, and responsive. He really wants the very best for his patients.

One of the highlights for me was the chapter on praise as it explained the confusion I have felt about the reaction I have to praise and enabled me to accept that I am normal in this respect.

I enjoyed reading the book, I could easily have read it in one sitting but instead I rationed myself to a few chapters at a time so that I could enjoy it for longer. The only criticism I have was that it is too short. I would love to read more from this man’s casebook.