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  • Published: 26 January 2024
  • ISBN: 9780241008362
  • Imprint: Penguin eBooks
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 304

How We Break

Navigating the Wear and Tear of Living




An expert, empathetic guide to the science, psychology and physiology of breaking, from the acclaimed author of How We Are

Vincent Deary is a practitioner health psychologist who helps people cope with whatever life has thrown at them. In How We Break, he examines, with great empathy, what happens to our minds and bodies when we are pushed to, and beyond, our limits.

Drawing on clinical case studies, cutting edge scientific research, intimate personal stories and references from philosophy, literature and film, How We Break offers us a map through the challenging terrain of everyday human suffering. The big traumas in life, Deary points out, are relatively rare. Much more common is when too many things go wrong at once, or when we are exposed to prolonged periods of difficulty or precarity. In these scenarios, he shows us, our breaking is embodied, as our physical and mental distress are linked, and what happens when the same systems that enable us to navigate through life become dysregulated. Moreover, we break where we live: stress and pressure interact with our individual genetics, life experiences and circumstances in entirely unique and personal ways. Ultimately, anyone can be laid low in the right conditions, no matter how stoic: the book reveals that it's a clinical falsehood to assume we can weather life's storms through force of will alone.

In these anxious times, Vincent Deary's voice is a reassuring hand on the shoulder. By equipping us with a better understanding of what happens to us when we're struggling to cope, Deary charts a path through the suffering, helping us find compassion for ourselves and for those around us.

  • Published: 26 January 2024
  • ISBN: 9780241008362
  • Imprint: Penguin eBooks
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 304

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Praise for How We Break

Drawing on a wide range of sources about the human experience, Vincent Deary has written a warm and compassionate book about how we hurt and how we heal. A rich and humane work

Gwen Adshead, forensic psychiatrist and author of THE DEVIL YOU KNOW

From a deep mine of science, philosophy, art and personal experience, Vincent Deary has produced a treasure of a book. Every page of How We Break gleams with wisdom and insight. Nobody could fail to be enriched by it

Matt Rowland Hill, author of ORIGINAL SINS

Deary’s exhilarating new book mixes science, philosophy and memoir to argue that self-acceptance is our best defence against the stress of living… Deary’s writing is wise and compassionate, sometimes florid and always interesting – few writers could jump so nimbly between Proust and RuPaul, neuroscience and the occult. … Deary’s is the rare book that helps you see the world a little differently

Sophie McBain, The New Statesman

The psychologist and researcher’s persuasive inquiry into how life’s struggles take their toll is full of hard-won wisdom... There is a rawness to Deary’s analysis that gives a compelling human edge to his theorising

Tim Adams, Observer (Book of the Day)

A lyrical and ultimately uplifting examination of what happens when our minds and bodies are put under extreme stress or suffering

Isabel Berwick, The Financial Times

Deary offers a thought experiment that just might be a game-changer

Niamh Jimenez, The Irish Times

In How We Break, the health psychologist Vincent Deary suggests some answers for ­‘navigating the wear and tear of living’… This essential self-exploration underlines the deeply humane plea which is the heartbeat of the book: for more self-compassion… There is much wisdom in Deary’s regret that this society has neglected the idea of convalescence’

Bel Mooney, The Daily Mail

A particular strength of the book is the way Deary weaves between different schools of thought within psychology, philosophy and religion. The result is not merely a discussion of abstract ideas, but a collection of valuable observations about what it means to be human in the modern world

the Guardian

An extraordinary book... There are so many insights and moments of poetry along the way... The book is all the more useful because it is uncomfortable and disturbing; it makes you re-examine your priorities and habits

The Guardian (Paperback of the Week), Nick Lezard

Exhilarating... a lyrical, consoling exploration... It takes guts to recognise that change is called for, and more to follow it through. This book - so long as you don't read it on autopilot - should help

Review for 'How We Are', Guardian

Fascinating, profound, wonderfully well-observed... [How We Are] could change lives

Review for 'How We Are', Daily Mail

This is a book that gets your mind whizzing off in lots of directions... It's crammed with ideas. It makes your head spin, in a good way

Review for 'How We Are', Spectator