The celebrated psychotherapist explores the works that help you get to grips with your psyche

Please don’t look to the ever expanding Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) that lists many of our quite understandable moods, behaviours, desires and states of mind – such as grief following loss – as pathological. It is easy to find yourself in the descriptions of “disorders” and yet it doesn’t teach us very much about ourselves or our psyches. For that we need to look to the poets, artists, musicians and writers, and, of course, the psychoanalytical theorists, who spend years listening to and learning from individuals in clinical situations.

Donald Winnicott, who worked with children and their parents in a kind of snack bar consultation method at Paddington Green hospital, London, as well as running a regular psychoanalytic practice, did not see himself as a theorist, but his propositions about how and why we feel authentic or false are beautiful and profound. I go for his technical rather than his popular writing. Paradoxically it’s easier and more comprehensible. My favourite collection is The Maturational Processes and the Facilitating Environment.

Alison Bechdel's – she of the...

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Mental health is a level of psychological well-being, or an absence of a mental disorder; it is the "psychological state of someone who is functioning at a satisfactory level of emotional and behavioral adjustment".