Articles by The School of Life 

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Self-Knowledge

Your Self-Esteem is a Record of Your History

What we expect of ourselves is a reflection of what others expected from us in childhood. What we think the future will bring is shaped by what the past brought us.

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Relationships

People Not to Fall in Love With

Those who are good at love are those who know – first and foremost – who not to fall in love with.

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Relationships

The Need for Honesty on Early Dates

Striving to appear ‘normal’ while actually being – below the surface – infinitely more complicated is a catastrophe waiting to unfurl.

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Relationships

The Difficulties of Impotence

Seldom do we need the insights of psychotherapy as urgently as when it comes to cases of impotence. What might be going on?

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Relationships

How to Break Logjams in Relationships

The things that most upset us in our partners are typically the things that are simultaneously most unresolved in our minds.

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Calm

The Ecstatic Joy We Deny Ourselves

What if we didn’t always have to be as sad and as anxious as we usually are? What if we could more properly appreciate the beauty all around us? What if we surrendered to loving and to being loved?

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Self-Knowledge

Intergenerational Trauma

The way to arrest intergenerational trauma is to begin – in the back of one’s mind – with a solemn commitment: the difficulties must stop with me.

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Relationships

Getting Better at Picking Lovers

Whatever we tell ourselves, it may be that we have for a long time been picking characters who – we must somewhere inside us know – would not allow matters to flourish.

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Sociability

The Boring Person

The boring person isn’t really boring; they are in manic flight from what is profoundly and agonisingly interesting in themselves.

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Relationships

Picking Partners Who Won’t Understand Us

When it comes to what we get up to in love, we should on the whole pay much less attention to common sense and surface intentions, and much more to our urge to repeat dynamics that we have known in childhood.

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Relationships

Those Who Cannot Feel Love Until It Is Over

There is a kind of lover who is never more skilled and determined than when they have just been rejected. They finds reserves of extraordinary eloquence, tenderness and maturity just as it seemed as if all was lost.

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Relationships

How Even Very ‘Nice’ Parents Can Mess Up Their Children

There has been a huge improvement in the quality of parenting. And, as we may slowly be starting to realise, it’s not been enough.

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Self-Knowledge

Work Outs For Our Minds

We’re used to the idea that gyms are places we might go to do exercises to improve our bodies. What’s less familiar is that certain of these exercises might be performed in a spirit that can address distinct problems in our minds.

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Relationships

The Parents We Would Love To Have Had: An Exercise

We can be so taken up with the problems handed down to us by inadequate or frustrating parents that we forget to ask ourselves a question with an immense power to inspire and heal us: what would properly lovely parents have been like?

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Relationships

How Do Emotionally Healthy People Behave In Relationships? 

We can get so caught up in the problems of love that we forget to ask ourselves a basic-sounding but hugely revealing and crucial question: what are emotionally healthy people like in relationships?

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Work

How Does An Emotionally Healthy Person Relate To Their Career?

It’s unusual to think that the state of our emotional health might have a role to play in deciding what job we are attracted to. But when it comes to work, we aren’t ever just dealing with concerns for money and opportunities, but also always with that more acute subject: emotional maturity.

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Relationships

Fatherless Boys

There is a particular category of human for whom life is never going to be easy but who has much to teach us and who can be an especially tender companion and friend: the fatherless boy.

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Self-Knowledge

Interviewing Our Bodies

It sounds very odd indeed that we might be able – let alone need – to interview our bodies. Surely if our bodies have anything urgent to tell us, they will do so in direct ways through the standard pains and pleasures.

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Self-Knowledge

Suffering From A Snobery That Isn’t Ours

Some of us belong to a particular cohort who were given – from a young age, almost certainly by our parents – a powerful sense of the importance of knowing the right sort of people.

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Relationships

What Are We Lying To Our Partners About?

A truly adult perspective on human nature tells us both good and bad news. People are a lot more complicated in their minds than they make out in their conversations or behaviours.

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Calm

On Being Gaslit In Our Childhoods

We know the term gaslighting well enough from relationships: where a partner does something hurtful or deceitful to their lover while simultaneously artfully persuading them that they must be ‘mad’ whenever they get close to working out what this might be – and mounting a complaint.

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Calm

A Place for Despair

There is a good deal of pride in our societies about how broad minded we all are, at least compared with previous generations. Yet how stubbornly intolerant we remain in one particular area: in relation to the despair that is locked inside us and that struggles ever to be properly seen or explored.

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Leisure

What We Might Learn From The Dandies of The Congo

To belong to the Sapeurs is to undertake an enormous commitment, almost akin to joining a religion: to invest in the most beautiful shirts, ties, blazers, dresses available and to wear these with pride as often as possible, both on special occasions and in the modest moments of life; to join – as it were – a religion of beauty.

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Self-Knowledge

The Top Dog – Under Dog Exercise

For some of us, one of the great inner tussles lies in knowing how much to push against people who hurt, frustrate or offend us – and how much simply to go along with what they are doing in the name of keeping the peace.

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Leisure

What Should A Good Therapist Do For Us?

We hear a lot of background noise about the benefits of psychotherapy. But it can be hard to get a clear sense of how therapy actually works and what we would ideally gain from it.

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Self-Knowledge

We All Need Our North Pole

How banal life gets if we only ever aim for what we are sure to attain; and how sad it is if we long only for what we know we can never have. We need, instead, the promise of a North Pole, somewhere far above us, a long way from where we stand now, bathed in mists and attainable only through struggle, barely discernible, but definitely and beautifully real, waiting for our cour

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Calm

Ostracism Anxiety

It can take a very long time indeed to properly notice something fundamental about ourselves: that we are extremely anxious people.

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Relationships

How We May Be Creating The Lovers We Fear

Whatever our suspicion of ourselves, we should leave room for a hugely unfamiliar but beautiful possibility: that we have met someone who deserves our trust. The past was painful; once it has been understood and mourned, the future doesn’t need to be.

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Relationships

The Avoidant Partner With The Power To Drive You Mad

Many relationships will help to keep you sane; a few varieties have the power – and we’re not being hyperbolic – to make you lose your sanity.

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Relationships

The Miseries of Push-Pull Relationships

There is a kind of relationship proverbially known as the push-pull relationship, in which an ostensibly loving couple constantly ends up mired in conflict and, despite their sincerely held belief that they want to be together, cannot seem to last any length of time before descending into new rounds of anger and bitterness that makes both of them doubt that this can ever last.

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Relationships

On Picking a Socially Unsuitable Partner

For most of human history, the idea of picking a socially suitable partner was at the forefront of our considerations at the time of marriage.

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Self-Knowledge

How the Unfinished Business of Childhood is Played Out in Relationships

One of the strangest, most potentially depressing but important realisations we can ever make about relationships is that, without any awareness of the fact and with no directly mean intent, a great many people play out in them what we can usefully call the ‘unfinished business of childhood.’

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Self-Knowledge

The Stages of Development – And What If We Miss Out on One…

Whenever we see a child or teenager and hear them described as ‘old for their years’ or ‘already so grown up,’ we should worry – and if this happened to be us, we should mourn.

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Relationships

A Way To Break Logjams In A Couple

At moments of particular fury and despair with our partners, there’s an exercise we might perform that stands a chance of breaking through some of our impasses and perhaps of introducing a new more imaginative and compassionate atmosphere into the couple.

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Relationships

How to Sustain Love: A Tool

Our situation is highly poignant. We try so hard to be good partners, yet experience so much that we believe will tear us apart – and then suppress the truth to a point where we lose the ability to feel. And then – to add to the irony – we both do this while convinced we are the only ones to do so.

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Self-Knowledge

A Guide For The Recovering Avoidant

‘Avoidant’ is the term usefully coined by attachment theorists to define those of us who, through no fault of our own but with full responsibility for our condition, have grave difficulties around intimate relationships.

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Self-Knowledge

Who Might I Have Been If…

We might at times have played a game in relation to money and career: what if I had won the lottery, what if I had been school buddies with a tech titan, what if I had been the third employee at…? Equally interesting might – for some of us – be an emotional version of this game of good fortune.

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Self-Knowledge

Where Are Humanity’s Problems Really Located?

In many moods, under the urging of politicians and the media, it becomes tempting to look at the world as if its fundamental problems were all economic and political.

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Self Knowledge

On Feeling Obliged

For some of us, our lives are guided – and hemmed in – by one overwhelming imperative: we must never let people down.

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Self-Knowledge

Yes, Maybe They Are Just Envious…

There’s a particular flaw to which modest, kind, self-punishing people are especially prone: an inability to believe that other people might be envious of them – and by consequence, an acute difficulty in making sense of certain forms of behaviour, let alone in knowing how to respond effectively to them.

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Self-Knowledge

How to Recover the Plot

On a regular basis, as often as every few days, we are prone to lose the plot of our lives. We are not talking, here, of insanity, rather of a very understandable and reasonable tendency to forget quite why we do what we do, what matters, where we are headed and – to put it at its grandest – who we are.

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Leisure

The Usefulness of Speaking Your Feelings to An Empty Chair

One of the simplest and most useful exercises that psychotherapy has gifted to us is known as the Empty Chair Technique.

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Relationships

Questions To Ask Ourselves About Someone We Are Thinking Of Committing Ourselves To

Imagine that we are wondering whether someone is right for us or not. Certain feelings pull us towards them; others leave us unsure. In order to try to solidify our impressions, here are a range of questions we might ask ourselves about a prospective partner for the long term.

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Leisure

The Beauty of Komorebi

It is one of the most charming aspects of Japanese culture that it offers up a specific word for what we would in most languages have to try to express with a whole clumsy sentence: komorebi.

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Self-Knowledge

On Those Ruined by Success

We may complain a lot about our present situation and appear to want so much to move on. The reality – which we should acknowledge in order to overcome it – is that we might also secretly prefer the safety of habitual unhappiness to the novelties and awe of joy. 

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Self-Knowledge

Why We Have Trouble Getting Back To Sleep

For those of us who have a lot to run away from – and that frightens us – in our own minds, there is a period of the night that presents particular problems and powers the worst of our insomnia. 

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Self-Knowledge

We Are All Lonely – Now Can We Be Friends?

It’s in the very confession of our sense of isolation that we can find redemption. Once someone has said ‘I’m lonely’, there is never any further reason to believe in our singularity; it’s probably the most generous utterance of which anyone is capable.

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Leisure

On Flying Too Close to the Sun – And Not Flying Close Enough

We shouldn’t allow ourselves to forget that, whatever the fate of poor Icarus, there are always equally potent risks bound up with never pushing ourselves a bit closer to our sun’s vital and warming rays.

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Sociability

The Need for Processing

If we are feeling tetchy and out of sorts, if work or love seem to have lost their flavour, it may not be anything greater, but then again nor anything lesser, than that we have not had sufficient chance to explain ourselves and to hear small echoes of our cries and joys.

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Calm

The Need For A Modern Monastery

For too much of our own lives and for too long in the course of human history, we have left calm to chance. We owe it to ourselves to start more consciously to build the calm lives we so deeply crave and could so richly benefit from.

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Self-Knowledge

How to Raise a Successful Person

A question not just for parents but for anyone reflecting on the constituents of a good life and on their own path through the world must be: how can one produce that most essential of things, a motivated child?

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Calm

How to Make It Through

We can’t know how much a simple bowl of lemons may come to mean to us until life has shown us its properly difficult sides.

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Calm

Why Illusions Are Necessary to Achieve Anything

What if we had to lie to ourselves to have any chance of leading the lives we admire? Here might be some of the blind spots necessary to our flourishing.

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Sociability

The Loveliest People in the World

These are the kinds of people we need so many more of in our lives — and should try so hard to be for others.

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Self-Knowledge

12 Signs That You Are Mature in the Eyes of Psychotherapy

Here are twelve elements of an adult identity as seen through the lens of psychotherapy.

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Leisure

Eight Rules to Create Nicer Cities

Here are eight rules required to create the sort of cities we all love and deserve.

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Self-Knowledge

We Need to Change the Movie We Are In

It takes a lot of talent to make a quiet film; it arguably takes a far greater talent to live as if we might be in one.

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Self-Knowledge

Can Childhoods Really Matter So Much?

We can’t change our childhoods, but we can – with effort – alter their legacies.

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Leisure

The Past Was Not in Black and White

They lived in a world as fresh and brightly coloured as ours – and were as worthy of pity and love as we are.

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Leisure

You Are Living in the Greatest Museum in the World

We should not have to wait till our world has been lost to see its beauty.

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Leisure

When Something is Beautiful

Nowadays, what we mostly do in the presence of beauty is – of course – take a photo. What if we were to try something else next time?

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Sociability

The Life Saving Role of Small Chats

We are creatures that need – far more than we typically realise – to chit-chat our way through the agonies of being human.

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Relationships

When Your Partner Loves You – but Does Their Best to Drive You Away…

There are relationships which begin with great enthusiasm and love on both sides – but where after a while, one partner starts to act in ways that appear deeply puzzling and hurtful to the other.

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Leisure

What’s the Bit of Therapy That Heals You?

It’s widely assumed that there is something about psychotherapy that has the power to heal. But exactly what this might be is not always necessarily very clear.

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Relationships

A Rule to Help Your Relationship

A basic principle to guarantee the health of any relationship is that we should try always to stick as close as possible to the truth of what we’re really feeling – and to convey this to the partner in a way that they will understand.

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Relationship

The Heroism of Leaving a Relationship

There are grave difficulties involved in realising that someone with whom one shares a bed might actually pose a vicious threat.

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Relationships

The Problems of Miniature Adults

Children who lean on the sophisticated behaviours of grown-ups aren’t generally doing so for their own sakes, they are resorting to them as a defence against the immaturity of adults in the vicinity.

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Self-Knowledge

What Some Childhoods Don’t Allow You to Think

There are circumstances in which we cannot think the truth – because the truth would break our minds.

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Relationships

Those Who Have to Wait for a War to Say ‘I Love You’

That it should require the prospect of death before we can surrender to someone gives us an indication of exactly how frightening emotional unclothing can be.

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Relationships

Exquisite Agony in Love

The intensity of the pain is directly related to the intensity of the loveliness. We find it hard to get away precisely because we adore being there.

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Relationships

Why It Should Not Have to Last Forever…

We labour under an invisible societal edict dictating that things must last until we expire – or else cannot have had a jot of value to begin with.

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Self-Knowledge

A Test to Measure How Nice You Are

A basic shame appears to hold us back from acknowledging the building blocks of our lives, as if we couldn’t bear to see ourselves as we are in all our sublime pettiness and ordinariness.

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Leisure

It Isn’t About the Length of a Life…

One of the things which makes life worth living is that we are not continually terrified of its end.

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Calm

Four Ways of Coping With Anxiety

There are pills that may help contain the anxiety but there are also ideas and therapies that aim, as ambitiously, to understand it.

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Relationships

What Celebrity Stalkers Can Teach Us About Love

In the extremity of their position, celebrity stalkers shed light on an important phenomenon: how very frightening the idea of reciprocated love can be.

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Leisure

The Drawer of Odd Things

How impoverished our lives will end up being if we leave room in them only for those things we presently know how to understand, use or love.

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Calm

When Our Battery is Running Low…

What will kill us in the end will not be one big obvious thing but many decades of invisible minor aggravations and low grade frictions.

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Calm

Preparing for a Decent Night’s Sleep

Given how much we value nights of good sleep, it is striking how seldom we ever make shrewd or thorough plans to heighten our chances of having one.

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Relationship

What If the People We Could Love Are Here Already; We Just Can’t See Them?

We may find there are far more candidates at large once we have the courage and capacity to receive them into our hearts.

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Self-Knowledge

The Legacy of an Unloving Childhood

What happens to a child who is not loved properly? They become filled with shame.

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Calm

Returning Anger to Where It Belongs

Frustrating things will occur every day. Few of them will ever need to make us furious

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Relationships

Mothers and Daughters

There are women who have put little girls on the earth who at some level do not entirely want them to thrive – at least not in any uncomplicated way.

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Self-Knowledge

When, and Why, Do We Pick up Our Phones?

We don’t pick up our phones to find out what’s going on. We pick them up to ensure that we are in no danger of finding out anything more about ourselves.

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Calm

The Many Moods We Pass Through

Our spirits are constantly in motion, like the restless procession of weather fronts across a temperamental sky.

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Sociability

Why Losers Make the Best Friends

Of course it’s theoretically possible to be one of life’s winners, and also be reflexive, humble and attuned to the tender frequencies of existence. It’s just not – in practice – very likely.

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Sociability

The Subtle Art of Not Listening to People Too Closely

Sometimes, to properly honour a relationship, we may need to do something that sounds very peculiar indeed: not listen to them at all.

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Sociability

The Origins of Shifty People

We’ll learn to forgive the shifty when we understand that they are principally scared; they’ll outgrow their shiftiness when they accept that the truth well-delivered can be borne.

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Self-Knowledge

Why You Don’t Need a Very Bad Childhood to Have a Complicated Adulthood

We can be knocked from our optimal path by a breath of wind, we’re marked by the brush of a feather, we’re shattered by a sound at a certain frequency.

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Sociability

Our Very Best Friends

They don’t in any way try to ‘solve’ our problems; they manage simply to listen to them.

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