I know Stephen Grosz’s recent book has had quite a splash, so I offer my feeble and quick opinion in the wake of many (more interesting) ones, but I always think it’s worth flagging up publications that may help us understand how talking therapies work in practice, and how indeed they can help.
Grosz is an analyst, which means his training would have steeped him in Freudian ideas, subsequently topped up with many more (mightily complex) thoughts from the many post-Freudians. His book is delightfully light on theory however, making it readable to all. Writings about the mysteries of human behaviours, especially if unconscious, can often nudge into magical and poetic realms. It’s hard for me to know how convincing his ideas may seem to the un-initiated, as a veteran believer in the unconscious working problems through in adulthood. My bet is he’ll draw you in, his ideas are conveyed so well and so convincingly.
Working up to 5 times a week with ‘patients’ (not ‘clients’ as non-analytic psychotherapists would describe), over a number of years, clocks up a lot of therapist/patient time. Each of the 30 cases he describes here are distilled to a short, gripping story – rounded off with some sort of human truth or open-ended idea that doesn’t settle as neatly as a conclusion you half-crave. But sitting with the vague and not-known is the often the difficult stuff of therapy. We often want an answer from our therapist and have to bear the not-getting one. Sometimes we have to work things out, with or without our therapists well-thought through observations to guide us.
We meet a man who has tied his life up in knots through curious whopping lies, the disturbed child who spits in Grosz’s face each session, a man who faked his own suicide and another who bores everyone around him – including Grosz (interestingly, therapists write a bit about boredom in the therapy room). Each story reflects an aspect of each of us, or someone we know, so the book bears no weak link.
A very different book but also about the process of therapy that I like is Couch Fiction.