chapter 1. Relationships

The Hardest Person in the World to Break up With

Break-ups are almost invariably difficult, but that isn’t to say there aren’t different degrees of complexity at stake in different constellations. Nor does it preclude the existence of a cataclysmically painful…

chapter 3. Self-Knowledge

Learning to Be More Selfish

From a young age, we are taught that one of the greatest risks to our integrity and flourishing is our own selfishness. We must – wherever possible – learn to think…

chapter 1. Relationships

Desire and Intimacy

One of the frequent and painful paradoxes of romantic life is that the more we get to know and love someone, the harder it can be to summon up any sincere…

chapter 4. Sociability

Leaning in to Vulnerability

For many of us, whenever we feel substantially scared, sad, anxious or lonely, the last thing we would ever think of doing is to share our distress; a confession threatens to…

chapter 3. Self-Knowledge

A More Spontaneous Life

One explanation for the low-level sadness that often dogs our spirits is a lack of a seldom mentioned but essential ingredient in a good life: spontaneity. Without necessarily being entirely aware…

chapter 3. Self-Knowledge

Learning to Listen to One's Own Boredom

One of the most striking characteristics of small children is their militant aversion to boredom. With ruthless determination, they embark on one occupation after another, shifting whenever an even marginally more…

chapter 1. Relationships

The Stranger You Live With

There is no more common response, after we have been living alongside a partner for a few years, than a feeling of intense (though normally very privately-held) boredom. However intriguing they…

chapter 5. Calm

The Hard Work of Being 'Lazy'

At times, perhaps without quite knowing why, we slip into a resolutely ‘lazy’ mood. We’re simply not able to write anything new or can’t face setting up more meetings. We don’t…

chapter 1. Relationships

The Benefits of Insecurity in Love

We tend to assume that the best foundations for a good shared life for a couple lie in making an explicit commitment (probably in front of 200 guests and a large…

chapter 1. Relationships

A Non-Tragic View of Breaking Up

News of the end of relationships tends to be greeted with deep solemnity in our societies; it is hard not to think of a breakup except in terms of a minor…

chapter 1. Relationships

On Arguing More Nakedly

In long-term relationships, whatever the pleasures, we are – statistically speaking – likely to spend up to 10% of our time caught up in the intoxicating and all-consuming business of arguing.…

chapter 3. Self-Knowledge

Learning How to Be Angry

There are many reasons to believe that one of the dominant problems in the world today is an excess of anger. We know all about the very shouty and their antics:…

chapter 6. Leisure

Getting More Serious about Pleasure

When it comes to work, we tend to be – almost universally – highly strategic and thorough in our approach. We think extensively about where our talents and opportunities may lie,…

chapter 4. Sociability

On Friendliness to Strangers

Many of us, even the very kind ones, have a habit of walking through the world wearing a distinctly uncongenial and surly expression. If someone secretly photographed us on our way…

chapter 1. Relationships

What Makes a Person Attractive?

Understandably enough, our societies pay vast attention to the idea of ‘sexiness’; far more questionably, they tempt us to believe that it might be easy to understand what this quality consists…

chapter 5. Calm

Taking It One Day at a Time

Without us perhaps quite noticing, much of what we place our hopes in will be ready for us in a very a long time indeed, in months or even decades from…

chapter 1. Relationships

Escaping the Shadow of a Parent

When we think about children living under the shadow of a parent, we tend to imagine the offspring of especially distinguished, notorious or wealthy people, children who – whatever they might…

chapter 3. Self-Knowledge

Overcoming the Need to Be Exceptional

It’s a rather simple question that quickly gets to the core of someone’s sense of well-being and legitimacy: did your childhood leave you feeling that you were – on balance –…