Read our posts about mind

Stoicism: A Simplified Modern Guide

Stoicism: A Simplified Modern Guide

In this article, I present a simplified set of Stoic psychological practices, that could both act as a ‘daily philosophical routine’ and as a very concise introduction to Stoicism as a way of life. A key Stoic idea which informs these practices is that: ‘...to become educated (in Stoic philosophy) means just this: to learn what things are our own, and what are not’ (Discourses, 4.5.7). The practical consequence of this distinction is essentially quite simple: ‘What, then, is to be done? To make the best of what is in our power, and take the rest as it naturally...
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How Words Healed Me

How Words Healed Me

No-one now is a greater believer in therapy than me. But hitherto there’s been one huge problem with talking cures: finding the right therapist. It took me several years, three therapists and hundreds of pounds before I found Sarah who then transformed my life. First I had to believe that I needed to embark on therapy. I was initially resistant. Eventually it was my psychiatrist who persuaded me of how valuable therapy can be. A person, unlike a pill, can listen to your story when you are well enough to tell it, and give you a fresh perspective, he said....
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Is Your Brain Male or Female?

Is Your Brain Male or Female?

BBC Horizon's recent programme, “Is your brain male or female?”  made a valiant yet narrow minded attempt at measure and reason. I offer this blog to anyone who remains as riled as I by Michael Mosley’s acceptance of Simon Baron-Cohen’s carefully paired claim that, “The male brain is predominantly hard-wired for understanding and building systems,” and, “The female brain is predominantly hard-wired for empathy.” The first evidence cluster is derived from animal behaviour.  For example, male great apes engage in more play fighting than female great apes, and...
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Vincent Deary: Why Change is So Difficult

Vincent Deary: Why Change is So Difficult

I’m standing in a room facing about thirty people. They have come to hear me talk about habit and change. It’s part of the work of publicising my book. This is all new to me. The laws of habit, my old accustomed ways, are in temporary suspension. There is a new narrative taking shape. A story in which I am an author and some kind of authority. I’m claiming to know How To Live. People have paid to come and hear me talk about that. For the first time in a long time there has been rehearsal. I am having to think. There are feelings. I can feel, as I stand in the room,...
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How Creativity Can Help With Grieving

How Creativity Can Help With Grieving

Alesha sought help through therapy after her father died.  Her mother had died some years before, around the time Alesha had her two children, and she found that the death of her father was unexpectedly complicated by grief for her mother. The grieving process can be seen as a balance between grieving and coping, and coping had taken precedence.As an only child it fell to Alesha to sort out her parents’ belongings.  Although she had managed to dispose of furniture and other objects quite successfully, she had packed up over twenty boxes of other belongings, which she...
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Why Children Need Questions Not Answers

Why Children Need Questions Not Answers

The essence of good teaching, good mentoring, and good parenting is to ask thought-provoking questions.  Questions that promote insight and a greater self-awareness in the other person. These are questions that lift up conversations from a simple exchange of information to a more conceptual level.  They are called ‘Second Questions’. When interacting with children, it is always tempting to ‘tell them things’. To give them the benefit of your experience and wisdom about life so far.  However, they quickly tire of being given advice, and will withdraw into a private world...
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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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