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The School of Life: An Emotional Education

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Discover everything you were never taught at school about how to lead a better life...

Introduced and edited by the bestselling author of The Consolations of Philosophy, The Art of Travel and The Course of Love

We spend years in school learning facts and figures but the one thing we're never taught is how to live a fulfilled life. That's why we need The School of Life - a real organisation founded ten years ago by writer and philosopher Alain de Botton. The School of Life has one simple aim: to equip people with the tools to survive and thrive in the modern world. And the most important of these tools is emotional intelligence.

This book brings together ten years of essential and transformative research on emotional intelligence, with practical topics including:

- how to understand yourself
- how to master the dilemmas of relationships
- how to become more effective at work
- how to endure failure
- how to grow more serene and resilient

The School of Life is nothing short of a crash course in emotional maturity. With all the trademark wit and elegance of Alain de Botton's other writings, and rooted in practical, achievable advice, it show us a path to the better lives we all want and deserve.

310 pages, Paperback

First published September 5, 2019

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About the author

Alain de Botton

118 books13.2k followers
Alain de Botton is a writer and television producer who lives in London and aims to make philosophy relevant to everyday life. He can be contacted by email directly via www.alaindebotton.com

He is a writer of essayistic books, which refer both to his own experiences and ideas- and those of artists, philosophers and thinkers. It's a style of writing that has been termed a 'philosophy of everyday life.'

His first book, Essays in Love [titled On Love in the US], minutely analysed the process of falling in and out of love. The style of the book was unusual, because it mixed elements of a novel together with reflections and analyses normally found in a piece of non-fiction. It's a book of which many readers are still fondest.

* Essays In Love (1993)
* The Romantic Movement (1994)
* Kiss and Tell (1995)
* How Proust Can Change Your Life (1997)
* The Consolations of Philosophy (2000)
* The Art of Travel (2002)
* Status Anxiety (2004)
* The Architecture of Happiness (2006)
* The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work (2009)

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 486 reviews
Profile Image for Anastasiia Mozghova.
360 reviews559 followers
November 19, 2019
i think everyone should get this book on the day they are born. and then go through living keeping it by their side. i feel like this should become my go-to gift.

smart, soothing, wise, philosophical, direct, daring, kind. truly a must-read for everyone!
Profile Image for Aaron.
544 reviews6 followers
September 16, 2019
If you’re a long-time fan of the School of Life then there won’t actually be much in this collection of essays that you haven’t already seen. But if you’re new to De Botton’s philosophical capitalist venture, then you’ll find herein a smorgasbord of intellectual medication, concentrated in pill form, equally effective when either taken in small doses, or downed in one.
Profile Image for Vanya.
134 reviews135 followers
October 28, 2019
“We aren’t ever done with the odd business of becoming that most extraordinary and prized of things, an emotionally mature person—or, to put in a simpler way, an almost grown-up adult.”- Alain De Botton

The School of Life: An Emotional Education comprises essays on how to survive in the modern world by mastering our emotions. Alain De Botton founded The School of Life 10 years ago to help people nurture and hone their emotional intelligence, an aspect that remains conveniently overlooked in our modern curriculums. A philosopher and writer himself, Botton understood the importance of emotional health and how its grasp could significantly change the quality of our lives.

This book, which is a comprehensive collection of the writings that the School has produced over the years, is divided into five sections: Self, Others, Relationships, Work, and Culture. Within each section is a wealth of wisdom on how to understand ourselves and our shortcomings better, how to be a kinder version of our present selves in our interactions with those whom we do not know well, how to navigate our relationships with our partners, how to make peace with the work we do, and how culture can truly be our saviour by nudging us towards greater values.

I never come out of De Botton’s work without a deeper understanding of my own behaviour and that of those around me. The fact that his writing is lucid and always comes supported by a plethora of examples is a testament to his perceptive knowledge of human psychology. It’s not every day that someone speaks or write so convincingly about your flaws that you are forced to introspect and (hopefully) tread on the path to improvement.

Highly recommend!
Profile Image for Liina Haabu.
312 reviews263 followers
February 29, 2020
“The School of Life: An Emotional Education” is a reassuring and sane voice in the world of constant self-improvement, instant gratification, life-wrecking perfectionism and outdated romantic ideals. A book that so well captures the perplexity of being human that it should be read by everyone.

It is divided into five parts: Self, Others, Relationships, Work and Culture. Those chapters don’t give you any upbeat tips on how to improve yourself or tackle certain situations. Instead, with a bit of very subtle dry humour, they describe the tiny emotional battles each day of being alive makes us face and says that it is okay, you are doing fine. Actually - you are doing your best. Now treat yourself and go take a barefoot walk in the garden and feel the sun on your face because this certainly will do you more good than giving in to another capitalist lure of buying something.

Alain de Botton is an advocate for the tender-hearted. He knows that a harsh word can linger on your mind for days and “getting over things” fast is not something everyone should feel is within their emotional capabilities. He knows ALL the types of arguments we are having in our relationships and with remarkable ease and little help of psychoanalysis shows us that we are hurting in one or more ways and therefore pick a fight. Sure, we all know it is never about the unwashed dishes but how much we analyse our the emotions behind our actions on a day to day basis? Not enough, I dare say.

There is so much to take home from this book that I don’t even know what to point out. I am fairly sure we will see it becoming Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence for the modern era.
Profile Image for Diz.
1,532 reviews85 followers
November 3, 2021
This book combines psychology and philosophy to teach emotional intelligence. There is a lot of good advice on how to reduce the stresses and anxieties of the modern world. In particular, the author argues for reducing the influence of romanticism with its emphasis on the primacy of emotions in favor of increasing the influence of classicalism with its emphasis on careful contemplation. The section that I enjoyed the most was one at the end that showed the connection between art and understanding how to live a good life.

One small point that detracts from this book is that the author writes from a privileged position, so some of the issues might seem like rich people's problems. That might make it feel a bit out of touch for those who are not in the upper-middle class or higher.
Profile Image for Melania.
66 reviews20 followers
October 25, 2020
I have mixed feelings about this book, and since this was supossed to be an emotional education the authour clearly hasn't reached his goal with me.
The introduction of the book - about where we stand as a society nowdays (although this is true only for the developed countries and not entirely, when it comes to the role that religion plays in our lives - which is thought to be increasingly small, but personally I don't believe that is the case, since from my own experience I know more religious persons or believers, than agnostics or atheists) and the first chapter s (about the "Self" and about "The others") were interesting to read - sort of a recap of ideas that are out there for quite a while, not provable, but probable, something that makes good sense (although the subchapter about therapy seems heavily biased and idealised).
Then.. it all went downhill when the "Relationships" started, and the authour just started rambling, stating one thing, only to disagree with it later on, stating very confusing ideas about human behaviour in general. I would've been better of skipping this, and the "Work" chapter, which also contained a lot of unuseful informations.
While I asked myself "What the hell is hapenning here?" I arrived at the final chapter "Culture".
Finally, a sigh of relief, everything is on track once again, the comparison between romanticism and clasicism was beautifully described, the potential healing of art was once again stated, and the end was as commonly plain as it could be.
Although Esther Perel is the person who knows what she is talking about when it comes to relationships, and even though I don't feel a bit more educated in terms of my emotional intelligence, there are some positive ideas stated in this book, so I can't say I didn't feel good reading it. And sometimes annoyed, bored, perplexed, and so on.
2,171 reviews31 followers
December 5, 2019

3.5 Stars!

De Botton may only take credit for the introduction to this book, but you can hear his voice all the way through it. This is a compilation of philosophy, advice and other insights, most of which will be familiar to those who have watched those many videos online or have read any of the books.

I can see both sides of the coin with this book, in one sense I see why the growing franchise can be accused of stating the obvious and repeating old ideas, but on the other hand it gets into some really compelling areas. This covers a lot of ground, but because it tries to cover so many areas it rarely gets to examine them to a satisfying degree, which can be a little frustrating.

I am a fan of de Botton and this brand, but it has plenty of flaws, there is an increasing habit of recycling and rebranding old material and after a while the twee, white, middle class, middle England feel of this book really started to grate on me. But then where would the publishing industry be if it weren’t for twee, white, middle class, middle England?...

Without doubt I enjoyed this collection and got a lot out of it, but I have come across almost all of it before in the SoL’s previous work, so if like me you have read and watched much of the stuff already, there will not be much new in here for you, but if you haven’t come across it before then this is maybe a decent starting place.
Profile Image for aqilahreads.
535 reviews42 followers
November 11, 2020
this book brings together ten years of essential and transformative research on emotional intelligence.

i personally like "the school of life" series like anxiety, insomnia, small pleasures and on being nice etc. decided to pick this one up as its one of the books that i have not read in the series. i really love how there are some that i could relate, but the others - not so much. they are a bit redundant and can be too factual. but either way, will always look forward to TSOL works. highly recommend if you would like to explore more on your emotional side of life.
Profile Image for Rachel.
1,292 reviews97 followers
May 24, 2020
This book. THIS BOOK. Saved my life today.

It's only May 24, but it may be my book of the year. It's only 2020, but it may be my book of the century.

My best friend handed it to me because I was weeping inconsolably about a boy who didn't notice me - but also about the pandemic, and my job, and the economy, and my brain. She said this would help - and it did. I feel comforted and validated in a way that I have rarely felt from other people, because this book told me that other people feel this mad most of the time too. 'Almost sane' is what the book says we strive for, by being polite and pessimistic and accepting and hopeful. I am not alone.

"Much anxiety surrounds the question of how good the next generation will be at maths; very little around their abilities at marriage or kindness."


"We have the appetites and destructive furies of primitive primates who have come into possession of thermonuclear warheads."


"[The sane] can - at their best - be dryly funny about the tragedy of being human. They lay bare the fears, doubts, longings, desires and habits that don't belong to the story we commonly tell ourselves about who we are."

The core of vulnerability (my least favourite thing).

"Emotional life is never done with showing us how much we might have to suffer for 'small' things."

But this was SUCH a revelation
Because I should have suffered terrible abuse and neglect to have turned into such a highly anxious, frantic, fucked-up adult right? Instead of the perfectly pleasant, middle-class childhood I got
And that's okay
Jesus Christ I love Alain and his co-pilots SO MUCH

"Maturity involves accepting with good grace that we are all - like marionettes - manipulated by the past. And, when we can manage it, it may also require that we develop our capacity to judge and act in the ambiguous here and now with somewhat greater fairness and neutrality."

This feels like holy writ to me.

"The causes of our primal wounds are rarely outwardly dramatic but their effects are rarely insignificant. Such is the fragile base of childhood that nothing outwardly appalling needs to have happened for us to wind up inwardly profoundly scrambled."

This is one of many times I had to stop and put the book down and hold my heart inside my chest because thank you. Thank you for helping me realise this vital fact.

"[Parents] did not, all the while, ask that we thank them, understand them or show them sympathy. They didn't demand that we enquire how their days went or how they were sleeping at night (they weren't much). They treated us like royalty, so that we would later on be able to submit to the rigours and humiliations of an ordinary life. This temporarily one-sided relationship guaranteed our eventual ability to form a two-sided kind."

No greater paean to parenthood has ever been written.

"Diplomacy seeks to teach us how many good things can still be accomplished when we make some necessary accommodations with the crooked, sometimes touching and hugely unreliable material of human nature."


"We should stop worrying quite so much whether or not people like us, and make that far more interesting and socially useful move: concentrate on showing that we like them."

he's right though

Should be on the log-in screen of Tinder
And in school textbooks

"Two people should see a relationship as a constant opportunity to improve and be improved. When lovers teach each other uncomfortable truths, they are not abandoning the spirit of love. They are trying to do something very true to genuine love, which is to make their partners more worthy of admiration."


"The only people we can think of as profoundly admirable are those we don't yet know very well."


"Those we love, we honour with our worst moods, our most unfair accusations, our most wounding insults. It is to our lovers that we direct blame for everything that has gone wrong in our lives; we expect them to know everything we mean without bothering to explain it; their minor errors and misunderstandings occasion our sulks and rages. By comparison [...] we are, in the company of our friends, our best selves."

More oof.

"The Classical person pays special attention to what can go wrong. They are very concerned to mitigate the downside. They are aware that most things could be a lot worse. Before condemning a government, they consider the standard of governments across history and may regard a current arrangement as bearable, under the circumstances. Their view of people is fundamentally rather dark. They believe that everyone is probably slightly worse than they seem. They feel we have deeply dangerous impulses, lusts and drives and take bad behaviour for granted when it manifests itself. They simply feel this is what humans are prone to do. High ideals make them nervous."

Ha, well. One thing I congratulate myself on is that this sounds like me.
Profile Image for Oana Filip.
54 reviews13 followers
January 18, 2020
I am mesmerized about the density of concepts presented so wisely by Alain de Botton. The beauty of this book lies in how common yet challenging notions about life are put together to offer a more authentic and thoughtful perspective. For those of us preoccupied with self-discovery, this read reveals valuable insights that could work like great reminders of the lessons we once learned.

I love Botton's book for both the lens he encourages us to see the world through (with more gentleness and acceptance) and the clarity he has in packing ideas and theories into swallowable messages. I have at least to favorite quotes, as I remember:
''Love is a skill, not a feeling.''
''Authencity is the sign of supreme morality.''
Profile Image for Irene.
131 reviews6 followers
January 31, 2020
I think most humans on this planet would benefit from reading this book. It's beautiful, concise, wise, universal and deeply understanding.
Profile Image for Steve.
389 reviews16 followers
November 3, 2019
This is a profound book that provides some incisive advice on life and relationships from the perspective of one's emotional life. The prose is often close to poetic and no punches are pulled when it comes to facing reality and living well. Almost every paragraph has something useful and memorable to say. This is no platitudinous self-help book. It is challenging and sometimes confronting, but deeply resonant with those who know they are flawed human beings struggling to live a better life. If that's you, then read this book!
Profile Image for Jessie.
22 reviews8 followers
August 22, 2020
I told my daughter last night that if I had a dying wish it would be for her to read this book. (She hates reading and I feel strongly about the insight it offers enough to make this sort of impression.) I hope that she will remember I said this and pick it up someday (before I die) and we can talk about it.

Edited to add: It can be repetitive at times, but there’s quite a few nuggets of insight that many adults (at least it seems) are not privy to. Logical, basic perspectives that make you think past what you think you know and believe.
Profile Image for S..
542 reviews124 followers
January 8, 2023
The end of year procrastination has a new shape this time, Marie-Knodoing our currently reading shelf, ditching any book that didn't spark some joy and also it has been years since the last time my currently reading shelf was empty.

There is something appealing about the moderately nihilistic views de Botton holds - is it the usual artistic references, or the low expectations he manages to set at the start of each one of his books, I dunno !

The main idea of the book is that a lot of human suffering is the result of our emotional illiteracy despite the big strides humanity made technology wise. It's the culmination of little distresses and small unseen frustrations, that end up challenging our mental health. Having a steady mental health hygiene or as I love to call it "protocol" to keep yourself in check is a great life enhancing step towards debunking your emotions and processing them. A key lesson in the book as well is our human capacity to learn, unlearn and relearn, so at every turn of paragraph the author is reassuring the reader that yes they're normal and at the same time that there is hope that one day anyone if they want to could become emotionally fluent.

Now hear me out, if you pick this book to learn about relationships, you'll get that too BUT it's better if you focus more on the other parts of the book they're the real foundation for what he is writing about romantic relationships especially. De Botton sets your expectations in a realistic manner, highlighting where we usually go wrong, the fact that childhood traumas shape pretty most of our romantic choices (although, I don't agree with this - resilience studies have shown otherwise, but not everyone is for sure). Again, giving you a real feedback to slit your Fanta-seas in two halves. Reality should always be your anchor ... Be real in your expectations ... And also know where do you stand on the spectrum of the tragic duality that's been giving us all headaches: Romantic or Classic, there is no one side to choose, again in reality life is grey ... so you'll have to find your right shade to better understand yourself and avoid the DRAMA, duh!

Let's recap:
1- Know Thyself
2- Love Thyself
3- Treat Thyself (not shopping sprees, seek professional help if you need it)

Always remember staying sane on this journey is already a big ambition, so if by the end of the day you didn't lash out into some sort of weird craziness: BE GRATEFUL, it could always be worse ...

And the author says that if you're a bookworm you're just lonely, congrats!

Henri Matisse began painting people reading from his early twenties and continued to do so throughout his life; at least thirty of his canvases tackle the theme. What gives these images their poignancy is that we recognize them as records of loneliness that has at least in part been redeemed through culture. The figures may be on their own, their gaze often distant and melancholy, but they have to hand perhaps the best possible replacement when the immediate community has let us down: books.
Profile Image for Ali Hussein.
112 reviews4 followers
November 5, 2019
WOW. What a Boring and Tedious book. Truly a let down and overhyped. The book seemed to go on a constant tangent throughout. Constantly going excessively into detail about anything and everything. £17 price point for this book is ridiculous. The only reason I haven’t given it 1 star is because I learnt a couple of things from it aha.
Profile Image for BB.
3 reviews1 follower
March 4, 2021

If you’re like me and you have watched all the school of life content on YouTube... this book will be highly repetitive. The breadth of topics covered was too extensive to draw any meaningful lessons.

If you’re not familiar with any of the school of life content then maybe you’ll enjoy this one !
Profile Image for charlots.
28 reviews
January 13, 2022
I REALLY needed this when I was eighteen. So glad that I will have it forever.
Profile Image for Val.
84 reviews10 followers
August 7, 2022
Even if the title includes the word "school", I didn't think this audiobook was going to feel like somebody was lecturing me for hours. I don't like the tone of this book, it even feels a bit condescending and, what is more important, after listening to almost 4 hours of it I can't say I'm learning anything from it.

This book is simply not for me, so that's it. DNF at 40% of the audiobook version.
43 reviews
November 18, 2019
Great ideas, though it feels too much of a compilation of them. Would have liked it if the ideas were more connected.
Profile Image for Bilge.
195 reviews20 followers
February 23, 2023
Anxiety is not a sign of sickness, a weakness of the mind, or an error for which we should always seek a medical solution. It is mostly a hugely reasonable and sensitive response to the genuine strangeness, terror, uncertainty, and riskiness of existence.

First I started the School of Life as an audiobook, but then I realize I want to underline a lot of sentences so switched to the Kindle edition and started reading from the beginning. After a couple of pages, I realized I want to take notes while underlying the sentences along with going and coming back between pages so the e-book wasn’t good enough either and bought the physical book. I restarted all over again and play the audiobook while I was reading. Finally, I was not only reading and feeding my eyes but also listening so feeding my ears as if satisfying as many senses as possible. That’s how much I loved it.

It’s deeply poignant that we should expend so much effort on trying to look strong before the world when, all the while, it’s really only ever the revelation of the somewhat embarrassing, sad, melancholy, and anxious bits of us that renders us endearing to others and transforms strangers into friends.
Profile Image for Kareem.
14 reviews27 followers
August 29, 2021
3.5 Stars

If you're familiar with the YouTube channel "The School of Life", you'll be familiar with the same prose and tone that characterizes their videos in this book. The book is divided into 5 parts: Self, Others, Relationships, Work, and Culture. The book is offering a new perspective to some of hardships of being human in the modern world that makes life less sufferable and more enjoyable. Their approach is rather Stoic. Through many essays and by blending psychology, philosophy and arts in all its forms, they are probing at our most insecure places, twisted logic to challenge certain ideas that ails us. They're inviting us to more compassionate interpretation of one another. They're challengingly our take on love, sex, emotions, childhood, friendship, relationships, status.

One fact I disliked about the book is that there were so many ideas and insights without a strong link between them, dispersed ideas throughout the book in the form of short essays. But it was, nevertheless, enjoyable, and at many times, an insightful read.
Profile Image for Johan Olausson.
24 reviews
July 6, 2021
Alain de Botton brings joyfully composed insights for anyone who wishes to understand more about themselves. In this essay collection, de Botton provides explanations of complicated emotional aspects of life in plain and simple language. The strength of the book is clearly its simplicity, with real life examples that anyone can relate too, even without having given emotions much previous thought. The downside is that sometimes it gets overly simple. Furthermore, with the author delving into diverse areas such as psychology, philosophy, history, the great arts, and biology, one would have excepted an extensive section of references and links on further reading and original research. But de Botton offers nothing of this sort. At least not in his book. The author simply expects the reader to accept his words as they stand. Together, this sometimes over-simplified narrative and the lack of references and further reading bring down my overall rating of this otherwise very enjoyable book.
Profile Image for Mariia Manko.
Author 2 books132 followers
January 19, 2022
Fist of all I think Alain de Botton is really wise. He knows the life. His personality took my interest. I watched some of his performance also on TED. Listen to him, and you will not waste your time.
Every topic he was writing about is actual. Also he looks deep inside in the problem, searching for real reason(not for surface). I agree with Alain that we need an emotional education. Do emotions control us? Do we control emotions? It is a big job to understand the emotions and to deal with them. We already know about IQ and EQ. Aldo there is creative intelligence - the highest level. We study all our life and there always will be more to study.

And never enough reading!
Profile Image for Oeystein Hanssen.
39 reviews13 followers
February 17, 2020
If you’ve mainly read «classical» philosophy, De Botton offers a fresh and more accessible, modern take on «practical philosophy». The book is a collection of advice (mostly based, I think, on the School of Life-Youtube videos) and perspectives where De Botton tries to help people understand themselves and live more fulfilled lives.

I found some of the content to hit a nerve and at times to be comforting, so I’m looking forward to discover more of the School of Life from https://www.theschooloflife.com and Youtube.
Profile Image for Jessica Min.
76 reviews7 followers
March 26, 2022
I really enjoy Alain de Botton’s style of writing: it’s elaborate and full of flourishes at time, but also whimsical and easy to understand.

This book is full of lots of interesting thoughts and ideas that align with the direction a lot of my beliefs about life and emotion. At times there are over-broad generalisations, but most self-help/psychology style books do this to some extent.

All in all well worth reading - it definitely brings a sense of peace at times, by reminding me that I’m not alone in all my emotion and turmoil.
Profile Image for Mathis Sötje.
22 reviews2 followers
December 3, 2022
Great read, highly recommended.
An emotional education that provides perspective, compassion and understanding for oneself and others, as well as acceptance through a realistic outlook on human life and all it's shortcomings that are caused by our nature. This enables the reader to appreciate the beautiful small things and be resilient when it comes to the inevitable challenges and tragedies. It helps with being a better person for oneself and others.

TLDR: The book is packed with wisdom that is relevant for everyone.
Profile Image for Madalina Nastase.
120 reviews11 followers
September 22, 2019
This is a wonderful introduction to the concepts and philosophy of The School.

However, if you're already familiar with them and have been following them for a while and have read some of their other books, you'll find very little new material here. The 'Relationship' section of the book is identical with their 'Relationships' book published a few years ago, which was disappointing to find out.
Profile Image for Charles.
4 reviews
January 31, 2020
The School of Life is a quietly very well written guide to your own inner thoughts and worries which, rather than bringing you an influx of new ideas, reminds you of ideals you already have and brings them back to the foreground with clarity in a way you perhaps hadn’t considered before.

This is a book I’m sure I will refer back to in the future and will be recommending to friends!
Profile Image for Smit Hinsu.
20 reviews20 followers
December 18, 2021
Alain de Botton’s talks always leave me chuckling because of his insightful yet obvious observations and perspectives. Although only the introduction of this book is written by him, it is nonetheless quite interesting and presents similar ideas.

Before industrialization in the 18th century, religion was mainly responsible for providing emotional education and it talked about ethics, meaning, community, purpose, how to live and handled personal emotional crises. Post industrialization, the role of religion in people’s lives went into decline and there wasn’t any replacement. Around the same time, romanticism also spread through Europe. Romanticism casted doubt on using reason to emotional life, preferring to let spontaneous feelings play an unhampered role instead in decisions like whom to marry and the work. Despite all the economic growth and individual freedom, people aren’t happier now and are simple-minded in the management of emotions. In fact, the rate of suicide is generally 20x in modern times compared to the pre-modern times. Book attempts to address this. However, the book doesn’t talk about adopting convervative ideas but instead encourages us to better understand emotions in self and others, use logic to interpret these and use that to set better expectations. These felt similar to parts of Stoicism and four noble truths in Buddhism. It also aptly references literature, music, paintings, play, history and philosophy throughout the book.

There are two major themes that run throughout the book:

1) People generally have a wrong idea of what is normal about people, relationships and work. Most don’t realize that everyone is compulsive, anxious, sexual, tender, mean, generous, playful, thoughtful, dazed and at sea than what is considered normal. Similarly, an average couple will have 30 to 50 significant arguments in a year which includes screaming, histrionic accusations, slammed doors and verbal abuses.

2) As Aristotle said “Give me a child until he is 7 and I will show you the man.”, our childhood experiences mostly define our emotional state as an adult. Understanding that can help better interpret and regulate our thoughts and actions. People inadvertently feel better when they are treated like a child but can’t handle other people’s childish emotional behavior especially in relationships. People feel attracted to someone who provides familiarity with the primary caregiver even if they are abusive or absent.

Other interesting insights from the book:

1) Markers of emotional health are self-love, candor with self, communication ability and ability to trust others.

2) People simply never need to harm others if they are not first tormented themselves. Fear or sadness are generally the primary emotion behind anger.

3) Frank vs polite people. Frank people believe in being radically open, are confident in their assessments, are kind in a grand practical way, assume others are similar to them and robust internally. On the other hand, polite people are suspicious of themselves and their assessments, believe in small gestures like brief conversations with a neighbor and don't make any assumptions about others. Frank people are generally put in high regard over polite people but it is better to be honest yet polite by combining the best of both.

4) Good psychotherapy involves active listening, worldliness, giving time, witnessing, kindness, interpretation, an ideal relationship and changing inner voices to make them productive. Good listening shouldn’t give anecdotes and personal experience to not derail the conversation.

5) The romantic idea of having a perfect relationship where there are no arguments, partners are accepted as they are without judgements, having permanent love and attraction, having no secrets, being brutally honest and understanding each other intuitively without communication is impossible.

6) Good practical relationships involve understanding that we are extremely difficult person to live around, accepting that the other person is deeply flawed (like us) and better interpreting their failings, seeing the love lurking behind partner’s most cold, or stern moments, accepting partner’s childish behavior and helping each other to become better.

7) We should interpret people’s weaknesses as the inevitable downside of certain merits that drew us to them, and from which we will benefit at other points (even if none of these benefits are apparent right now). What we’re seeing are not their faults, pure and simple, but rather the shadow side of things that are genuinely good about them.

8) Periodic philosophical meditation to identify and write down our fears, resentment and hopes is effective to take out repeated anxious thoughts.

The section talking about the taxonomy of arguments was fun and helpful to identify the underlying cause of arguments. The types of arguments are interminable argument, defensive argument, spoiling argument, pathologizing argument, absentee argument, argument of normality, parental-resemblance argument and argument from excessive logic. Other interesting sections include how to choose a partner, case for marriage over committed relationships despite legal and financial drawbacks.

I felt that the section about work towards the end became slow and long. The book has a bunch of essays possibly written by different authors over time so the book was missing a coherent narrative. At some places, I also felt that the book takes only the kind and compassionate approach in some places but I would have liked it to have a balanced approach everywhere like it did for frank vs polite person comparison. The book is really useful in better understanding various situations but it felt that it was missing on when to leave an abusive relationship despite understanding the root causes.

Overall, this was an enlightening read and I plan to re-read parts of it again in the future and hence I took detailed notes. I would recommend the associated YouTube channel by the organization covering these and similar topics.
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42 reviews6 followers
March 20, 2022
Any subject in high school at any point in time can be dropped, making the space for every single teenager to read and comment on this book. If a list of absolute basics (in my humble opinion) should be made, this one would make it in the top 5. A beautiful book, cleverly written, a journey through life's most common mysteries & maybe misconceptions. The overarching tone of voice just transmits this feeling of deep kindness and utter understanding of how we fail to show up for ourselves and for each other in our lives. Alain softly explains the hidden layers of our misjudgements & desires. From self to others, to relationships, work and culture, easing between the topics, covering the most basics concepts in the philosophy of a good life. Not more shall be said to it, for more to be read in this review takes your time from actually getting your hands on it. Read it - read it - read it!

My personal "pause and stare" quotes:
1. "The difference between an adult and a child is that an adult misleadingly looks like an adult."
2. "Change is only possible when the pitch of one's tone of voice requesting change implies that the life in absence of the change can still be bearable."
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