Read our posts about mind

Sigmund Freud and the Nazi Who Saved Him

Sigmund Freud and the Nazi Who Saved Him

The Nazis were persecuting Jews in Germany but Sigmund Freud, who lived in Vienna, refused to leave Europe.  The 82-year old psychoanalyst remained stubborn about that even after the Nazis marched unopposed into Austria in March 1938. He only changed his mind when, on March 22nd 1938,  his beloved daughter Anna was arrested by the Gestapo. I wrote a book on the subject, The Escape of Sigmund Freud, and am now planning to make a film of it. David Suchet, famous for playing Poirot and much else, has agreed to play Freud. The film will tell the extraordinary story of how...
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Can You Be Too Empathetic?

Can You Be Too Empathetic?

Do you experience overwhelming feelings when confronted with lots of other people? Do people, even strangers, pour out their hearts to you? Do you care more about other people’s feelings and well-being than your own? If so you may be highly empathetic. Individuals with a highly empathetic temperament are often kind and caring, putting others before themselves. However, these talents can be viewed as weaknesses, as empathetic people are overly sensitive to others’ remarks and actions. They are too alert to the suffering of others and suffer on their behalf....
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How Food Can Affect Depression

How Food Can Affect Depression

There is no one answer to treating depression and anxiety. A recent visit to MQ, a new charity funded by the Wellcome Trust to assess different approaches to treating mental illness such as depression, convinced me that my best bet is to combine multiple approaches: drugs if need be, mindfulness, exercise, therapy, but also to be careful with the food I eat. I have never considered myself a bad eater. It wasn’t as though I ate poorly before I became ill. At the height of my depressive episodes I couldn’t eat at all but as I recovered, instinctively, I felt I could no...
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The Psychology of Overeating

The Psychology of Overeating

By the time I saw Maggie she’d been on just about every weight loss plan and diet going for 40 years.  She was in - if not so much a state of utter despair - certainly a state of utter resignation about her weight. Maggie came to me because she wanted to lose weight for her daughter’s wedding in 18 months time.  She knew rejoining her local slimming club would not be enough and was already well aware of all the types of food she should and should not be eating.  What I was first struck by was her capacity for self-blame. The slimming club plan hadn’t worked...
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How Apathy Blocks Empathy

How Apathy Blocks Empathy

Empathy is vital for cooperation and friendship. Without empathy there would be no humanity, just a world of disparate individuals without the social glue to hold them together. Empathy is the experience of understanding another person's perspective – you place yourself in their shoes and feel what they are feeling. When we empathise we not only mirror the distress of the other person, but are moved to respond in helping ways. In other words, empathy helps us take care of one another. When we are distressed by the suffering of others, that distress becomes...
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How Meditation Cured Dan Harris's Panic Attacks

How Meditation Cured Dan Harris's Panic Attacks

US journalist Dan Harris’s on-screen meltdown radically altered his life. Before his nationally broadcast panic attack on ABC news, Harris was your average over-worked, professionally anxious reporter. He’d joined the network at the extremely young age of 21, and was  thrown into the deep end when he was sent to Afghanistan to cover the Taliban. After a long stint dodging bullets in Afghanistan and then Pakistan, he returned home to a studio-bound job  with a severe case of undiagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder. He dealt with this by dosing himself up on...
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The Psychology of Fashion

The Psychology of Fashion

As the seasons change they bring with them hosts of new choices about what to wear.  How to manage to look chic and stay warm? And, as life gets busier, how not to over-heat physically or emotionally. The selection of something to put on is not just an aesthetic or practical decision. It’s also about what suits our mood. On a minute-by-minute basis, we are assailed by a range of emotions. And every morning we make a decision about what to wear. The two are closely connected. The selection of something to put on is not just an aesthetic or practical decision. It’s...
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Boarding School Survivors

Boarding School Survivors

“Are we going to be head of rugby?” a well-dressed mother self-consciously jokes with another. They stand by their BMWs in the forecourt of a prep school accepting their tiny sons for the first time. Trunks have been carried in, housemasters have made brisk reassuring comments, and the ‘settling in period’ has begun. There are no tears. The scene comes from a BBC 40 Minutes documentary, made 20 years ago, called The Making of Them, in which young boarders were discreetly filmed over their first few weeks at prep school. It is available on YouTube, but careful: it...
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How to Gain Power From Misfortune

How to Gain Power From Misfortune

This obstacle in front of you —this frustrating, unfortunate, problematic, unexpected problem preventing you from doing what you want to do. How do you tackle it? What do you do? Probably what most people would do, and what you are doing right now: nothing. Whatever our individual goals, most of us sit frozen before the many obstacles that lie ahead of us. But what blocks us? Systemic issues of rising unemployment, skyrocketing costs of education, and technological disruption? Or personal insecurities of being too old, too scared, too poor, too stressed, no access, no...
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Andrew Solomon's Ode to Identity

Andrew Solomon's Ode to Identity

Andrew Solomon spent 10 years talking to more than 300 families about their children to discover what it means when your child is radically different to you, when the apple does, to contradict the saying,  “fall far from the tree”. This incredible project has won him the Wellcome Book Prize 2014. He was drawn to this subject following a journalistic assignment at a dwarf convention, but it was also because he felt so different from  his own parents. First of all as a seriously dyslexic boy whose mother worked tirelessly to get him help; secondly, as a gay man,...
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