Articles by The School of Life 

Full Article Index

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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Sociability

The Difficulties of Oversharing

We share too much when we have been too lonely; we fail to understand the risks of over-exposure when we have suffered in environments in which so little sincere or real was ever exchanged.

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Self-Knowledge

What Hypochondriacs Aren’t Able to Tell You

We will have far fewer emergencies in our bodies once we have learnt to be clearer about, and better able to vocalise, the forgotten pains and panics of our minds.

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Calm

Might You Be Hypervigilant? A Sombre Questionnaire

We may be a significant way through our lives before it starts to dawn on us just what distinctive people we might be. So it can help to have some questions to hand to bring matters into focus.

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Self-Knowledge

What’s the Unconscious – and What Might Be Inside Yours?

In order to try to make more of our unconscious conscious, psychology recommends a range of strategies.

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Self-Knowledge

Complete the Story – and Discover What’s Really On Your Mind

We’re offered the beginnings of a story – and are then invited to imagine the rest.

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Self-Knowledge

Complete the Sentence – and Find Out What’s Really on Your Mind

The test involves taking a whole lot of unfinished sentences and completing them as fast as possible – in order that one discover a range of things about what one deep down really feels.

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Calm

A Question to Ask Ourselves When We’re Feeling Low and Paranoid

Anger need not cause anyone injury; swallowed anger invariably will.

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Calm

Controlling Insomnia – and Life – through Pessimism

It’s the wrong sort of hope that complicates our future; and the right sort of darkness that can liberate us.

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Relationships

Our Unconscious Fear of Successful Sex

We might think that sex was something we would all straightforwardly want – but the number of sexual difficulties that dog our relationships point us in more complicated directions.

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Relationships

Secret Grudges We May Have Against the Other Gender

There can emerge what we might term psychological grudges which can manifest in highly subtle ways solely in the context of heterosexual relationships.

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Calm

When I Am Called to Die

Of course, we want to live forever. Yet, eventually, we’ll find ourselves on the edge of the precipice with only one direction to go in…

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Leisure

The Secret Toll of Our Ugly World

The love of beauty runs deep in every one of us; its absence quietly breaks all our hearts.

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Self-Knowledge

The One Question You Need to Understand Who You Are

There is one question that, perhaps more than any other, gets to the root of who we are and what motivates us…

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Self-Knowledge

The Overlooked Pains of Very, Very Tidy People

They are not really ‘tidy’ at all. They are first and foremost extremely chaotic inside, as outer mess is always at risk of reminding them.

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Relationships

The Demand for Perfection in Love

There is a certain sort of person who seems, on the surface, a great friend of love. The difficulty arises when something arrives to cloud the picture.

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Self-Knowledge

When People Let Us Know What the World Has Done to Them

Imagining the ways in which people’s behaviour towards us reflects difficulties in their pasts allows us reflect on how we might ourselves be causing trouble for others.

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Calm

The Importance of Not Knowing

What if selective ignorance were in reality to belong to one of the preconditions of a good life?

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Self-Knowledge

Can Time Heal All Wounds?

The future might be a lot less terrifying to behold, once we allow ourselves to appreciate our genius for forgetting.

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Work

The Dangers of People Who Have Been to Boarding School

Boarding schools can be exceptional places for children to learn certain things. Where they tend to lag is in instilling in their pupils any notion of the constituents of an emotionally viable life:

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Work

Why Do We Work So Hard

Alongside the all pragmatic reasons, we know that there is something more complicated that we use the idea of work to avoid.

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Calm

Why We May Be Addicted to Crises

We are addicted to crises because there are – deep down – simply so many benefits to being out of our minds with fear.

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Relationships

The Importance of Swords and Guns for Children

The issue is not whether or not one has aggressive feelings, rather how one can, through intelligent modelling, learn to accept, handle and channel these feelings in fruitful, non-destructive ways.

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Self-Knowledge

Maybe You Are, In Your Own Way, a Little Bit Marvellous

Everyone on the planet is, in their way, at points, a distinctly loveable proposition. You are allowed to feel – for a moment or two – just a little marvellous.

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Self-Knowledge

On Feeling Painfully Different

When we find ourselves in a peculiar minority, where the differences between us and others seem stark, we might benefit from a few thoughts to alleviate the isolation…

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Leisure

Why We Need Therapy When We Give Up on Religion

Religion and psychotherapy deal with very similar issues. Both are responses to suffering.

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Self-Knowledge

On Feeling Guilty for No Reason

There are occasions when we find ourselves unable to think of anything we might be responsible for – even as guilt clings tenaciously to us.

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Self-Knowledge

The Fear of Being Touched

The sensations we register when someone touches (or threatens to touch) us are profoundly historical, bearing memory of the ways in which we have been handled since the start.

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Relationships

The Achievement of Missing Someone

Missing someone can be so unpleasant, it feels peculiar to suggest that it is also an extraordinary achievement and an important marker of emotional maturity.

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Calm

If You Stopped Running, What Would You Need to Feel?

It can sound like an odd question, perhaps a rather irritating one too. But we might bring ourselves to circle it nevertheless.

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Leisure

Why Middle-Aged Men Think So Often About the Roman Empire

The story of Rome provides an ideal vantage point from which to come to terms with some of the most painful aspects of being human.

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Relationships

On Being Upset Without Knowing It

We ultimately lack knowledge of what we feel around our partners for a poignant reason: because their power to upset us is so great.

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Leisure

African Proverbs to Remember

In sub-saharan cultures, wisdom is handed down in the form of short, acerbic, melancholy proverbs that can be put to use in everyday situations.

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Self-Knowledge

On Parenting Our Parents

An unlucky child may spend as much effort unknowingly parenting their parent as they do attending to their own developmental needs.

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Self-Knowledge

Six Fundamental Truths of Self-Awareness

Self-awareness might be said to involve a set of fundamental realisations about the relationship between past and present.

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Self-Knowledge

Why We Are Haunted by Ghosts of the Past

The spirits of the past have the power to throttle the present – and the wise have always payed them enough attention to loosen their grip and get on with their lives.

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Calm

How to Be Cool the Yoruba Way

For the Yoruba, agitation isn’t merely an offence to a proper understanding of the universe; it’s also just horribly unfashionable.

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Self-Knowledge

Why Most of Us Feel Like Losers

Why does our inner critic exist? Why are they so remorseless? If they are inaccurate, why do they go on as they do?

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Relationships

Our Two Great Fears in Love

Beneath all the turmoil and agitation of relationships, two fundamental anxieties stand out – and help to explain our worst antics and sorrows.

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Sociability

The Many Faults of Other People

When we next feel agitated by another person, we might learn to pause and wonder bravely: what if this flaw happened also to be somewhere in me?

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Self-Knowledge

One of the More Beautiful Paintings in the World…

It hangs in a generally ignored room, where it doesn’t shout loudly for humanity’s attention. But if we spend a few moments in its company, we may be cracked open.

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Calm

Why We Should Refuse to Get into Arguments

We should resist invitations to argue by recognising them for what they are: attempts by the other party to rescue themselves from unbearable feelings.

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Self-Knowledge

The Origins of a Sense of Persecution

Many of us carry around an impression that others are not especially on our side, may be seeking to harm us – and that we may at any point be attacked, derided or destroyed.

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Self-Knowledge

The Origins of Sanity

We may be prone to mental collapse not by random accident, but because we didn’t have the childhoods that would have properly solidified our minds.

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Relationships

Who is Afraid of Intimacy?

There is a limit to how interested in intimacy anyone can be who skilfully picks out a partner who just happens to have precious little interest in the matter.

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Sociability

Why Nice People Give Us the ‘Ick’

One might want to take leave of a companion not because they are crude, dim or nasty, but because they have revealed themselves to be undeniably and conspicuously ‘nice’. Why might kindness be so hard to bear?

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Self-Knowledge

Why We Should Practice Automatic Writing

Automatic writing will not make us into ‘great’ writers; but it will liberate us from some of the insincerities that are making us more troubled and restless than we should be.

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Calm

Can We Live With the Truth?

There appears to be an inviolable relationship between remaining alive and not looking at many things too closely. Selective denial may just be the price we have to pay for enduring.

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Self-Knowledge

Why We Deny Ourselves the Chance of Happiness

Faced with the possibility of contentment, many of us manifest a curious preference for despondency. Whatever the opportunities for fulfilment, we stay distinctly loyal to caution, suspicion and fear.

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Sociability

How to Become a More Interesting Person

To become a more interesting person for others, we must first become the best possible travellers inside ourselves.

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Self-Knowledge

Why We Behave As We Do

A key principle governing the natural world is that animals adapt to thrive in particular habitats. We humans are – in the end, beneath a layer of civilisation – not so different.

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Calm

Five Questions to Ask Yourself Every Evening

What can appease our troubles is self-exploration. We grow at peace the more we can finally allow ourselves to know who we are; the more we can feel the lives we actually have.

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Sociability

The Challenges of Hugging

Though hugs are everywhere, we should not suppose that they are for that matter universally straightforward or inconsequential propositions.

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Relationships

The Pains of Preoccupied Attachment

Preoccupied attachment is simultaneously one of the most despair-inducing of behaviours and one of the most poignant: an acting out of a suspicion that love doesn’t work – which ensures it can’t and won’t.

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Relationships

The Lengths We Go to Avoid Love

Though we all crave love in theory, our capacity to accept it in practice is critically dependent on the quality of our early emotional experiences.

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Self-Knowledge

How to Overcome Psychological Barriers

In order to heal ourselves from our symptoms (and the wounds that lie beneath them), we have to learn to understand ourselves better. How then can we unpick the legacy of emotional wounds?

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Self-Knowledge

Letting Go of Self-Protective Strategies

We need not continue our loyalty to our past protective strategies once we understood the particular circumstances that once made them so necessary – and that now no longer apply.

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Relationships

Are You Afraid of Intimacy?

How might we learn to separate out a legitimate aversion for someone from an inhibition about intimacy? By asking ourselves some of the following questions…

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Relationships

When Does a Divorce Begin?

There is almost always a large gap between the moment when divorce is spoken about and when the fuel for it started to accumulate.

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Self-Knowledge

How to Tell If Someone Had a Difficult Childhood…

Whenever we see a struggling adult, without necessarily understanding much of their story, we can hazard a guess: somewhere long ago, there was a shortfall of love.

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Self-Knowledge

Childhood Matters, Unfortunately!

We shouldn’t be shocked if we need to divert an unholy degree of time to unpicking the early years. We should make a graceful accommodation with our emotional knottedness and take all necessary measures to address it.

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Self-Knowledge

Why Knowing Ourselves is Impossible – and Necessary

That the task of self-knowledge is fated to remain incomplete is no argument against it; it is the dedication that counts.

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Self-Knowledge

Making Friends with Your Unconscious

We may never be able to empty the unconscious entirely, but the more we can drain it of its evasiveness, the less nervous and inwardly compromised we will feel.

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Self-Knowledge

Mechanisms of Defence

Developing an understanding of the way Mechanisms of Defence work won’t magically save us from reliance on them but it may give us an inkling of what we are up to, and increase our tolerance to insight.

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Self-Knowledge

The Always Unfinished Business of Self-Knowledge

We have no alternative but to go to our deaths having understood only a fraction of who we have been. We are – each one of us – fated to be laid to rest in an at-least-partially unknown grave.

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Self-Knowledge

How to Live More Consciously

We don’t need to be poets or artists to digest our experiences more thoroughly, but we can learn from these disciplines about how to study the world and preserve its most valuable moments.

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Self-Knowledge

On Always Finding Fault with Others

The sad part is why the fault finder came to be this way: because someone else constantly and intolerably found fault with them.

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Calm

The Causes of Obsessive Thinking

Our minds may grow less consumed by obsessive thoughts the more we can interpret our preoccupations as symptoms of other concerns we are in flight from;

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Articles

Select themes

The Drawer of Odd Things

Leisure

The Drawer of Odd Things

It’s probably in the kitchen or maybe somewhere in a corridor: the drawer with all the bits that don’t fit…
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Mother and Daughters

Relationships

Mother and Daughters

We are not singling them out and you could write a very similar piece about other family configurations, but it…
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