chapter 3. Self-Knowledge

On Living in a More Light-Hearted Way

The arguments for approaching life in a grave, serious and unsmiling mood are overwhelming: we are clearly a profoundly wicked species, we continually perpetrate monstrous suffering on one another, our greed…

chapter 3. Self-Knowledge

Am I Paranoid?

The great drawback of the word ‘paranoia’ is that it can sound like something only very obviously disturbed people would ever end up being. We associate the term with types who…

chapter 3. Self-Knowledge

On Disliking Oneself

There is one particularly salient question we should ask in order to measure our levels of emotional well-being: do you broadly feel that you have the right to exist and are,…

chapter 6. Leisure

The Importance of Architecture

In an odd but quietly very important way, works of architecture ‘speak’ to us. Some buildings, streets and even whole cities seem to speak of chaos, aggression or military pride; others…

chapter 6. Leisure

The Secret of Beauty: Order and Complexity

This is an essay about beauty – and in particular about what makes something beautiful. We want to give you the answer right away: BEAUTY = ORDER and COMPLEXITY In other…

chapter 1. Relationships

The Capacity to Give up on People

For noble and very understandable reasons, we’ve come to associate maturity and kindness with a capacity not to give up on people. Our heroes and heroines keep faith with those they…

chapter 3. Self-Knowledge

The Ultimate Test of Emotional Maturity

One of the more puzzling aspects of the way we’re built is that our emotional development does not necessarily or automatically keep pace with our physical growth. We can be fifty-five…

chapter 1. Relationships

For Those Stuck in a Relationship

This is for those among us who are, secretly, very stuck – that is, who are entirely committed to staying, wholly tempted to leave – and entirely unable to resolve their…

chapter 4. Sociability

6 Reasons Not to Worry What the Neighbours Think

We have reduced it down to a trite error – ’worrying about what the neighbours think’ – as if this were a trap that only a mediocrity could ever fall into.…

chapter 1. Relationships

6 Reasons We Choose Badly in Love

The fastest, easiest and most inadvertent technique for messing up one’s life remains that of getting into a serious relationship with the wrong person: with very little effort, and without any…

chapter 1. Relationships

Alternatives to Romantic Monogamy

To a greater extent than we perhaps realise, when it comes to what sort of relationships we are allowed to have, our societies present us with a menu with only a…

chapter 1. Relationships

10 Ideas for People Afraid to Exit a Relationship

1. You are, to a far greater extent than you perhaps realise, already alone. The condition you fear will happen has already happened. To be formally alone would merely mean concretising…

chapter 3. Self-Knowledge

Can People Change?

‘Can people change?’ The question may sound somewhat abstract and disinterested, as if one were asking for a friend or for the universe, but it is likely to be a good…

chapter 1. Relationships

Konrad Lorenz & Why You Choose the Partners You Choose

This is a piece about geese, jackdaws, a man called Konrad Lorenz – and your love life. Konrad Lorenz, who was born in 1903 and died in 1989, was an Austrian…

chapter 1. Relationships

People Who Want to Own Us - but Not Nourish Us

Amidst the many challenging characters we may encounter in the course of relationships, psychological life throws up an especially tricky type: the person who wants to ‘own’ us (by which is…

chapter 3. Self-Knowledge

Small Acts of Liberation

It’s not necessarily a well-flagged problem: we tend to situate the risks to our happiness elsewhere – but for a proportion of us, the greatest obstacle to our flourishing lies in…

chapter 3. Self-Knowledge

When Home is Not Home...

One of the most beautiful and evocative of all words is ‘home’. Folded within it are suggestions of safety, understanding, sympathy, warmth and belonging. It is to home that we turn…

chapter 3. Self-Knowledge

Of Course We Mess Up!

Maybe you’ve crashed again – and you’re in the dark familiar place. As ever, one mess-up reminds you of all the fiascos you’ve generated in the past and, more broadly, of…