Book Review: The Examined Life by Stephan Grosz

The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourselves

The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourselves by Stephan Grosz
Genre: Memoir, Psychology
Format: Audio Book
Source: Library Copy
Publisher: Norton & Company, 2014


In Stephen Grosz’ book, The Examined Life, Stephen gives the reader a look into the psycho-analytical process of a diverse and wide range of behavioral and mental maladaptions to their environments. The book is divided into five distinct sections, with stories and breakthroughs lining with the prescribed theme of the chapter. There is loss, closure, grief, etc.

Many of his chapters were insightful and introspective. He had a number of thoughtful observations that I wrote down.

“When we succeed in feeling nothing we lose our understanding of what hurts us and why”

This one quote was about a particular case study of a woman who just felt nothing when things fell apart around her. Its life a shield against the unfairness of life. Many of Grosz’s thoughts almost force the reader to look inwards really appreciate his analysis. Its funny with anything related to psychology. We always look for ourselves in these stories. I saw many elements of myself in each of his clients, granted not to their extreme. There is definitely something to be learned about behavior patterns and interpersonal relationships through the stories in this book. Although, to be honest, I felt like he was holding back quite a bit throughout the entire book. Every section felt just too short. Something was missing. He would start some section casually talking about 3 or 4 different client mental ailments before settling on one story to divulge in full to the reader. Although most of his stories stuck to the theme of the chapter, others felt randomly squeezed in. I would have liked some more insight and some transition from the patient’s distress to breakthrough. The breakthroughs were all invariable discovered through a memory of a long-forgotten dream or childhood experience. Most of the adulthood handicaps were stemmed from traumatic experiences. It made me hyper-aware of my son’s environment and what he is exposed to and what his experiences are. Last thing I want is for him to develop some kind of stigma or neurosis because of some seemingly miniscule action on my part.

I listened to the audiobook through my library’s Hoopla streaming service. Audiobooks on Hoopla are basically just one long track. This book was 5.5 hours. Which meant that I had to be very careful when I would pause or shut the screen so that I wouldn’t lose my place. The book was narrated by Peter Marinker. Both Grosz and Marinker are British and all of the stories take place at Grosz’ office in London. Marinker has a very calm and soothing voice, perfect to narrate the lives of such disturbed individuals. His voice carries a strong sense of calm and indifference that I think might be necessary to withstand so many sad stories of neglect, insecurity and human frailties. The story of the nine-year-old boy was perhaps the most effecting. The fact that they couldn’t move forward with the therapy until they both realized that the child could not be fixed talks to the extent of mental illness and our own biases towards what is normal and what is not.

The post, Book Review: The Examined Life by Stephan Grosz first appeared on The Novel World.

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