Written in Irvin Yalom’s inimitable story-telling style, Staring at the Sun is a profoundly encouraging approach to the universal issue of mortality.
In this magisterial opus, capping a lifetime of work and personal experience, Dr Yalom helps us recognise that the fear of death is at the heart of much of our day-to-day anxiety. This reality is often brought to the surface by an 'awakening experience' — a dream, a loss (such as the death of a loved one, a divorce, or the loss of a job or home), illness, trauma, or ageing.
Once we confront our own mortality, Dr Yalom writes, we are inspired to rearrange our priorities, communicate more deeply with those we love, appreciate more keenly the beauty of life, and increase our willingness to take the risks necessary for personal fulfillment.
This is a book with tremendous utility, including the provision of techniques for dealing with the most prevalent kinds of fears of death — especially by living in the here and now, and by embracing what Dr Yalom calls ‘rippling’, the influence and impact we all have that has a life beyond our own.
'The philosopher Martin Heidegger once remarked that we can live intensely only if we stare death in the face every moment of our lives. Bestselling psychiatrist Yalom (Love's Executioner) attempts to put this principle into practice ... Drawing on literature and film, as well as conversations with his patients, Yalom demonstrates how the fear of retirement, concerns about changing jobs or moving to another city, or changes in family status (such as the empty nest) are rooted in our deepest, most inescapable fear: of death. Yet, he says, this anxiety can prompt an awakening to life and help us realize our connections to others and our influence on those around us. Through such experiences we can transcend our sense of “finiteness and transiency” and live in the here and now. In a final chapter, Yalom offers instructions for therapists seeking to help their patients overcome death anxiety.'
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'Staring at the Sun is thought-provoking and wise.'
Thuy On, The Age
'Staring at the Sun is neither textbook nor mere self-help. Philosophical it is, but never arid with theory. Its lively chapters are populated with patients whose raw angst Yalom refines into vignettes that are always enlightening and often quite moving ... With convincing examples, he argues that awareness of mortality "may serve as an awakening experience, a profoundly useful catalyst for major life changes."'
Michael Sims, Washington Post
'Staring at the Sun is a thoughtful reinforcement of the stoicism that we all need in a time when babble and denial are all the rage.'
Christopher Hitchens, author of God Is Not Great
'Irvin Yalom has written a brave, intelligent book on the last forbidden subject — death. I honor his courage and rare insight.'
Erica Jong, author, Fear of Flying, Shylock’s Daughter, Inventing Memory, and Sappho’s Leap
'In Staring at the Sun, Dr. Yalom shares with us the problems of his patients linked to their mortality, his compassionate, healing insight into their death anxiety, and perhaps most movingly, his own feelings and personal experiences with death. While the existential realities of death, isolation, and meaningless may seem at first bleak and full of despair, Dr. Yalom's existential approach helps his readers frame these realities in positive and meaningful ways that foster personal growth and intensify our connections to others and to the world around us.'
Harold Ramis, Actor, Writer and Director, Ghostbuster, Groundhog Day, and Analyze This
'Irv Yalom has written a beautiful and courageous book — a book that comforts even as it explores and confronts death. Yalom helps us understand that we must all come to grips with a paradox: The physicality of death destroys us; the idea of death saves us.'
George Valliant, author of Aging Well, and Director of the Harvard Medical School Study of Adult Development