Read our posts about mind

Want to Know Yourself? Take Our Test

Want to Know Yourself? Take Our Test

“If I knew myself, I’d run away,” said Goethe, who, incidentally, was Freud’s favourite writer. You might imagine that knowing yourself would be one of the key goals of psychology.  Often it has not been, however. When I was young one of the most distinguished experimental psychologists of his generation Donald Broadbent told me students should realise it was an illusion that psychology would teach them to know themselves better. Perhaps that’s why a paper on Experiential Self Monitoring which I reported in 1980 made such an impression on me. It was given by E J...
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The Ground Beneath My Feet: a Fear of the Unknown

The Ground Beneath My Feet: a Fear of the Unknown

I was 13 when I had my first panic attack, though I didn’t know what it was then. I was at a café in Biarritz when I got a chicken bone lodged in my throat. My entire body went white hot; I became convinced I was going to die. The blood drained to my feet, every bit of me screamed to get outside, so I walked around the block eating yoghurt until the fear drained away. When we got back to New Zealand, the same white heat would flow through my body again whenever we would go to a café or restaurant. I had to give myself ‘outs.’ Sit facing the door. Don’t order food....
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Fear of Driving

Fear of Driving

I used to be so scared of driving that I couldn’t even look at my car parked outside my house. I didn’t drive for seven years. I was too afraid. Happily, these days I can and do drive whenever I want to. So what makes people scared of such an everyday activity as driving, and how do those of us with a driving phobia overcome it? If the thought of zooming off down the motorway brings you out in a cold sweat, then rest assured you’re not alone. Fear of driving is one of the most common phobias that exist, yet we seldom talk about it. Official statistics are hard to...
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The Stressed Sex?

The Stressed Sex?

“Women become insane,” opined the Victorian psychiatrist G. Fielding Blandford, “during pregnancy, after parturition, during lactation; at the age when the catamenia (periods) first appear and when they disappear…” Back in the bad old days, it was accepted that women were inherently susceptible to mental illness, due to the imagined intimate connection between brain and reproductive system. For women, read madness. In these sun-lit days of supposed gender-equality, the idea that one sex is more prone to mental illness than the other has become taboo. Wanting...
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Can TV Make Us Happy?

Can TV Make Us Happy?

With the National Television Awards tonight and controversy over television programmes filling the papers again, it might be a good time to look at how the television we watch affects our well-being. Our brains are incredibly susceptible to what we watch, in part because of two bits of biological programming. One is that we’re designed to not waste energy, so sitting down and having information come to us feels easy. The other biological quirk is that new experiences register as stronger than familiar ones, we’re hard-wired to seek out novelty. Television provides us...
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What Twenty-Something Depression Feels Like

What Twenty-Something Depression Feels Like

Towards the end of July 2010 my boyfriend broke up with me. We'd been together for three months. At first it seemed like any other breakup - I felt sad, and cried, and missed him, but within the usual realms of a relationship ending. However, the signs were there that this break-up had hurt me more than I'd originally realised. I lost a lot of weight really quickly, without realising or trying. I ended up in tears one morning, after trying on outfits for university for two hours. I hated how I looked, and I was terrified of seeing him when I thought I looked ugly. The...
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How to Build Inner Strength

How to Build Inner Strength

I’ve hiked a lot and have often had to depend on what was in my pack. Inner strengths are the supplies you’ve got in your pack as you make your way down the twisting and often hard road of life. They include a positive mood, common sense, integrity, inner peace, determination, and a warm heart. Researchers have identified other strengths as well, such as self-compassion, secure attachment, emotional intelligence, learned optimism, the relaxation response, self-esteem, distress tolerance, self-regulation, resilience, and executive functions. I’m using the word strength...
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Malcom Gladwell on his Experience of Therapy

Malcom Gladwell on his Experience of Therapy

Malcolm Gladwell is the best-selling author of The Tipping Point, Blink and David and Goliath; he recently spoke with Louise Chunn about his experience of psychoanalysis. “My mother is a psychotherapist, she deals with children. As an adult I was in therapy for a few years.  How did I find it? I don’t think you can spend a lot of time in guided introspection with someone who is a trained professional and not emerge in some way wiser about yourself …. though I don’t know if I was any  happier. “I live in New York where it seems that everyone is in therapy, so I...
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Managing Emotions: Learning to Soothe Yourself

Managing Emotions: Learning to Soothe Yourself

Some people find it easier than others to control impulses, manage their anxiety, moderate their eating and drinking and have drama-free relationships. This ability to self-manage is, like all human behaviours, on a vast spectrum from over-doing it to under-doing it and during the course of our lives we will not remain at the same point on the spectrum. Think of Bridget Jones’ Diary. Sometimes she starves herself on 500 calories a day, but in times of stress it goes up to around the 7000 calorie mark. It’s not just a matter of willpower. It might also be to do with...
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Looking into The Examined Life

Looking into The Examined Life

When Hampstead psychoanalyst Stephen Grosz sat down to write The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourselves, he could not have predicted the success it would become. This selection of  life stories he has heard in his consulting room has sold more than 40,000 copies in the UK alone, and been translated into 20 different languages in 23 countries. When I interviewed Grosz he explained that there were a number of reasons he had wanted to write his patients’ stories.  He listed everything from leaving a legacy for his school-age children to expressing his life-long...
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