The School Of Life

Everything you need to know about yourself and others

Dagmar Van Gucht
4 min readMay 10, 2022


Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

I remember watching Alain De Botton’s Ted Talk on a kinder, gentler philosophy for success many years ago as a teenager.

I loved it, but then managed to forget about his existence until recently, when I was in the Shakespeare and Company bookstore in Paris. There, his newest book “The School of Life” caught my attention.

And not just because of its bright blue with yellow cover — but because of its subtitle “an emotional education”, and its promise to learn us everything we were never taught at school.

Alain dares to claim that “The School of Life” is the ultimate guide to how we might achieve emotional maturity and self-understanding. Sounds exactly like my cup of tea, so I decided to give it a try and see whether it lives up to its promise (spoiler: it absolutely did).


  1. Even if we had a loving and safe childhood, all of us still end up with psychological ‘damage’, or primal wounds that become our habitual templates as adults. Emotional maturity is being open to the truth and recognizing these patterns so we can break free of the past.
  2. It’s when we are in conflict with ourselves that we do hurt to others. We thus need to use a complex lens to the behaviors of those around us and empathize with the origins of their doings.
  3. Romanticism is unrealistically hopeful about love and relationships. We will never find everything in one person (nor they in us), and we need to make deliberate efforts to understand one another because intuition isn’t enough.

#1 — We all have primal wounds.

Humans are biased. We think we are and know better than everyone else.

We also have the tendency to shut our ears to the major truths about ourselves and condemn anyone who mentions our blind spots or insufficiencies.

It’s thus not shocking that while we think we do, most of us don’t really know ourselves at all.

In reality, most of our behaviors as adults stem from our time as children.

When we were little, we didn’t have the capacity to comprehend the things that happened…



Dagmar Van Gucht

Business psychologist who writes about holistic self-growth: mind, body, spirit, and work.