Stephen Grosz talks about The Examined Life

The psychoanalyst Stephen Grosz has written a remarkable best-seller, a collection of stories based on his meetings with patients. I found it inspiring hearing him speak at the Chiswick Book Festival.

Grosz has a humble, calming and reassuring manner, is genuinely curious and seems to care in an understated and measured way.

Quoting from his book, Grosz said, “We feel unable to go forward and yet we believe that there must be a way. “I want to change, but not if it means changing,” a patient once said to me in complete innocence. Because my work is about helping people to change, this book is about change. And because change and loss are deeply connected- there cannot be change without loss – loss haunts this book.”

Given that all professions have success criteria, I asked him what success was for him as a psychoanalyst. His answer was most thoughtful and forthcoming. Success can be understood in terms of, say, reduction in anxiety, being more at peace with yourself, etc. But he also quoted Winnicott that in relationships we fail to understand the other person, but this shouldn’t worry us. We succeed by failing.

It struck me afterwards, on reflection, that what makes Grosz successful is helping others tell their stories by holding the moment and the space in which they can find their authentic voice. In this sense, Grocz is an author who derives authority from the authenticity of the other.

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