In twenty-five years as a psychoanalyst, Stephen Grosz has spent more than 50,000 hours listening to his patients’ stories. His first book, The Examined Life, published last year, presents a selection of these in beautiful and incisive prose. (As Michiko Kakutani put it in an enthusiastic review, the book reads “like a combination of Chekhov and Oliver Sacks.”) The portrayals of his patients’ struggles and changes, thanks to the talking cure, accrue over the book into a powerful case for the psychoanalytic process. Jessica Gross spoke to Grosz, who lives in London, by phone last year. The first part of that interview follows below.
Jessica Gross: It took a few decades for you to decide to write a book. Can you tell me about that process?
Stephen Grosz: I’ve written technical papers for analytic journals, and I always liked analytical presentations, but I didn’t like the format of our scientific journals. Talking is more convincing than any outcome study, and I wanted to find a way to get that on the page. Another thing is, I am sixty, I got married at fifty, my daughter is ten and my son is seven. With parenting, you are very aware of death and loss. My mom died at sixty-four and my father had heart attacks. There was something about that that was very motivating. I wanted to do two things: write something my kids could read when they were eighteen or so, and give them a picture of a kind of disposition toward the world. That is maybe the thing that I find hard explaining to people who haven’t been in analysis. I hoped that the book would leave them a picture of my way of thinking about things. (read the full interview)