🥈 4/5 The Examined Life

🖋️ Stephen Grosz
📖 I read the original paperback.

These are summary notes of surprising information, written so I can better remember what I read.

The book in 3 sentences

Concision forces profundity

  1. Examine the beliefs that ENABLE things to stay the same. A destructive personal idea is usually USEFUL somehow, examine what it is enabling – what’s the function/purpose it’s serving? What deeper truth is it helping you avoid? Then, just tell the person what you’ve observed. They can easily comment on that.
  2. The role of a therapist is to make thoughtful and true interpretations “to the person about why he doing the things he doing”.
  3. If I feel some type of way, it might be that another person needs me to feel that way (in order to protect themselves). Examine how an emotion enables a relationship.

Top quotes

“How anger can keep us from sadness”

At parenting: Don’t give empty praise, instead being present builds a child’s confidence because it lets the child know that she is worth thinking about.” p.21

“The most important thing is that the patient leaves our first meeting feeling heard. What he came to say has 1. been said, 2. listened to, and 3. thought about.” This applies to a couple’s arguments’ too. pg.49

“The personal he most avoided was the person upon whom he was the most dependent – the person he most wanted.”

“I didn’t want to give her any excuse to tell me off. I was always afraid of being scolded, but so what?”

We can be trapped by our own assumptions: “I felt that people were fundamentally fault-finding. I didn’t know that my idea of a person is of someone who wants to scold me. I just thought that people are that way, but it turns out that I was wrong.”

“During our sessions, if she wasn’t attacking herself, she was attacking (her parents). At times she behaved as if she had to kill her parents to become herself.”

“On Closure: They suffer more because they’re stuck on the idea of closure; they expect to make progress, to move through certain stages of grief. And when they don’t they feel that they are doing something wrong, or, more precisely, that there is something wrong with them. ‘I should have moved on by now’, etc. There is little room here for emotional exploration or understanding. This way of being leads to self-loathing, despair, depression.”

  • Closure – it doesn’t always happen like that.
  • The 5 stages thing is BS. Enduring sorrow is possible, even if through “the work of mourning, we gradually feel better, though some heartache remains.”
  • Closure as an extraordinarily compelling fantasy of mourning. Delusion of closure: “the false hope that we can deaden our living grief.” p.210
  • An alternative to closure is story: “All sorrows can be borne if you put them into a story or tell a story about them. But what if a person can’t tell a story about his sorrows? What if his story tells him?”
    • Can I tell a feel-good story about why Anne and I broke up? Yes I did this, and that’s the only thing that really helped. Reminding myself why we weren’t a good fit, and I was ready to break up with her anyway.

Some fun vocab

Captious – apt to notice and make much of trivial faults.


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