When I worked as a therapist, one of my clients — I’ll call her Maria — was constantly late. Ten or 20 minutes into every session, Maria would bluster into the room in a swirl of breathless apologies. She always looked sort of windswept. She existed in a state of perpetual panic and disorientation.
How many times have you had to skip breakfast, leave your shirt unironed, or leave your apartment with wet hair to avoid being late? How often do you find yourself running out of necessity, rather than out of a desire to keep fit?
It’s hard to…
In 1952, Norman Vincent Peale published The Power of Positive Thinking. In contrast to psychoanalysis, with its obsession with disorder and neurosis, Peale’s work advocated relentless optimism.
“When you expect the best, you release a magnetic force in your mind which by a law of attraction tends to bring the best to you.”
Peale’s message was well-meaning — a Christian plea for faith in the face of adversity and gratitude for one’s lot. His work has been highly influential. Donald Trump attributes Peale’s philosophy to having helped him survive one of his more disastrous periods of bankruptcy. …
As part of my training as a therapist, I underwent personal therapy for two years. Two years is a lot of therapy.
I spent the first few sessions vomiting out what I considered to be the most therapy-appropriate material. Anything resembling childhood trauma. Reflections on my recent period of serious illness. The time a gang of strangers assaulted me.
Around week six, what I thought of as the “B”-grade material started coming out. Reflections on my perceived inadequacies, previous relationships, money worries.
But one thing kept coming up. Something I wasn’t expecting. …
A year ago I had my last ever “debate” on Facebook. I was staying with my wife’s family at the time. We were all having dinner, but my mind was elsewhere. I would leave the table intermittently, go to another room, and furiously tap out a reply to my supposed adversary.
I can’t remember what the argument was about. I certainly can’t say if I won or lost. But part-way through, I confronted myself. What am I getting out of this? Who benefits from this interaction?
I deleted the Facebook app that evening. I’d been logging onto the desktop site…
I wasn’t in trouble very often at school, but once when I was 10 I did something really bad. A friend of mine, Charlie, approached me from behind by surprise and grabbed the back of my neck.
Without thinking, I spun around and punched Charlie hard on the nose.
Twenty minutes later I was in my headteacher’s office, covered in Charlie’s blood.
My headteacher, Mr. Jones, wasn’t a bad guy. He was quite kind to me at first. But I was overcome by the situation — something about the power dynamic and my own vulnerability made me petrified. I was…
A few years ago, I got sick. Death was a real possibility — at one point, I prepared for the worst. But after three weeks in the hospital, some life-changing surgery and a whole load of morphine, I emerged — stick thin, balding, and jaundiced, but alive.
My response to this experience was rather cliched. The brevity of my existence became sharply apparent. I cursed myself for wasting my youth getting wasted and playing video games. At one point I may even have sworn to “live life to the fullest”. I was determined to discover my life’s purpose and meaning.
When I told my wife about my plan to do a law degree, her reaction was not quite what I expected:
“You’re joking. How will you find the time?”
Then I told her I was planning to get straight A’s, and bag the prize for Best First Year Student (these things matter in a subject like law). She believed in me — but I’m not sure she really believed me.
I set out to do this while also:
If you’ve ever read a self-help book, you may recognize the following pattern. The author starts with an anecdote. Then they try to persuade you that their book is not like other self-help books. You believe them, and it feels good. This is the book that will change your life.
By the mid-way point, you’ve raised your eyebrows at a few things. The model is beginning to lose its appeal. Do they really expect you to do apply this stuff?
I’ve read my fair share of self-help books. Many are forgettable, but there are some that have made an impression…
Practical, evidence-based personal development advice.