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The School of Life Dictionary

Learn the Language of Emotional Intelligence.

A dictionary is a guide to language. This dictionary is for the distinctive language that The School of Life ‘speaks’: that of emotions. It is a selection of over 160 words and phrases that shed light on our feelings about ourselves, other people, and the workings of the modern world.

Too often, we struggle to find the right words to explain what we mean; this dictionary is a tool to help us convey our true intentions with economy and precision.

The School of Life – an organisation dedicated to making sense of our emotional lives – offers us a complete vocabulary with which to understand some of our key emotional states and ideas and to express them succinctly and successfully to the world. 

Featured Definitions:

Charity of Interpretation

Seeing that another person’s bad behaviour is not a sign of wickedness or sin, but is a result of suffering.

Cultural Mining

Cultural mining describes the process by which the most valu­able parts of culture – by which we mean the arts, humanities and philosophy – are recovered from their original contexts and made useful for our own times.

Impostor Syndrome

To be held back by the crippling thought that people like us could not possibly triumph given what we know of ourselves.


A pessimist is someone who calmly assumes from the outset, and with a great deal of justification, that things tend to turn out badly in almost all areas of existence. Strange though it can sound, pessimism is one of the greatest sources of human serenity and contentment.

Psychological Asymmetry

One of the most basic facts about the human condition is that we know ourselves from the inside, but know others only from what they choose or are able to tell us – a far more limited and edited set of data.


Sentimentality is a permanent temptation of our minds, re­sulting from squeamishness around excessively unpleasant evidence and ideas.


Transference is a psychological phenomenon whereby a sit­uation in the present elicits from us a response – generally extreme, intense or rigid in nature – that we cobbled together in childhood to meet a threat that we were at that time too vulnerable, immature and inexperienced to cope with properly.

Vocation Myth

The Vocation Myth is the belief in the spontaneous revelation of our professional destiny: we’ll simply know in time what we need to do work-wise.

Read an extract of the Dictionary.

This book is also available for Kindle.

Hardback book with a black ribbon page holder | 147 x 202 x 26 mm

The School of Life Dictionary

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