Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Stephen Grosz and The Examined Life

Socrates is credited with saying the "the unexamined life is not worth living;" some wag replied, a lot more recently, that "the unlived life is not worth examining."

Here's a book that helps us to live our lives, and to examine them, or at least to think about them in illuminating and productive ways:

He's a psychoanalyst, and he uses some of his experience with his patients to draw some general ideas about our lives, such as "on secrets," "on not being a couple," "on the recovery of lost feelings."

There is no Freudian jargon, no psychobabble here. He doesn't admonish us or preach to us. He writes clearly, simply even:

"The question is this: can we unhook ourselves by reaching an acceptance of ourselves and our place in time so that we can enjoy our children's pleasures and successes? For at its furthest extreme, envying one's child is a great psychological misfortune, and we stand to lose both our mental equilibrium and our child."

These insights are reached through particular instances, they are never ex cathedra announcements. And Grosz makes plain some of his own uncertainties and difficultiesuses them, even, to add to the evidence underlying what we can learn from him. Like any great doctor, he is a wounded healer.

I found it to be the sort of book that makes you feel a little calmer, more thoughtful, maybe a little larger in the mind, for having read it. I'm certain it will help me relate better, more thoughtfully, to the people I work with.

It's not a long book - about a mid-length train journey's worth of enlightenment - but  it's best not hurried. 

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