• All posts,  Self development

    In pursuit of happiness

    Since the time of Aristotle, great thinkers have discussed two types of happiness. One type can come from chocolate, an expertly made cup of coffee, a spot of sunbathing, or a good back scratch. Such things are said to bring hedonic happiness. If we were being a little less pompous, we might say ‘pleasure’. Hedonic happiness might also be identified…

  • All posts,  Self development

    Monkey brain, lizard brain

    Thoughts and feelings get in the way more often than we would like. We don’t often acknowledge the fact, perhaps because we’re too close to the phenomenon to see it for what it is. Let’s say you decide to lose weight. What’s likely to be your biggest obstacle? You’ll almost certainly have urges to eat unhealthy foods, and these will…

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    Everything popular is wrong

    You probably know that in 1912 China banned the practice of foot binding. Until then, for a millennium, many thousands of young girls were subjected to a culturally supported but dangerous practice wherein the foot was broken, twisted, and bound, so as to give it a more aristocratic appearance. It lead to disability and life-long pain. Why then was it…

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    Caring too much about what other people think

    In the dying years of the twentieth century, and the first few decades of the twenty-first, a remarkable shift occured in the American psyche. This has been described by numerous scholars as the transition from a general concern with character, to a preoccupation with personality°. The somewhat simplified story goes like this: People used to be concerned about what kind…

  • All posts,  Self development

    How not to get angry

    It is commonplace to bemoan the gradual slide of Western politics into mud-slinging and fear tactics, to complain about trolls and the general level of vitriol, to worry that we live in a world where anger gains a new level of respectability. I’m going to make the case that anger is enabled and exacerbated by a somewhat complex mental phenomenon which…

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    The fear of missing out

    Right now, at this very moment, in your nearest town or city there are people having fun. No matter whether it is late afternoon or early morning, somebody somewhere is doing something exciting, novel, or naughty. Indeed, across the world millions of people are doing things right this moment far more exciting than reading this blog. You are missing out.…

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    There are no souls

    My aunt died yesterday. Well, in fact she was my second cousin, once removed, but my mother’s family is very close and so, throughout my childhood, she and her family lived just tens of metres from us and I called her ‘aunt’. I hadn’t seen her in over a year, still I felt sad. I still feel sad as I…

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    How to design self-experiments

    A spirit of experimentation is afoot. Science has always given us great stories about people who experimented upon themselves. Whether we’re entertained by Santorio Santorio weighing his own poo, or by Albert Hofmann testing out LSD on himself, we could too easily come away with the idea that self-experimentation is dangerous, extreme, and just a touch silly. In the last…