How We Break

Vincent Deary


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Penguin Books Ltd
25 January 2024
ISBN: 9780241008355
304 pages

From the publisher

‘Exhilarating… Wise and compassionate’ New Statesman

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

What happens when our minds and bodies are pushed beyond their limits? Vincent Deary is a health psychologist who has spent years helping his patients cope with whatever life has thrown at them. In How We Break, he has written a book for all of us who sometimes feel we have reached our breaking point.

Drawing on clinical case studies, cutting-edge scientific research, intimate personal stories and references from philosophy, literature and film, How We Break offers a consoling new vision of everyday human struggle. The big traumas in life, Deary points out, are relatively rare. More common is when too many things go wrong at once, or we are exposed to prolonged periods of difficulty or precarity. When the world shrinks to nothing but our daily coping, we become unhappy, worried, hopeless, exhausted. In other words, we break. Breaking, he shows us, happens when the same systems that enable us to navigate through life become dysregulated. But if we understand how the wear and tear of life affects us, then we have a better chance of navigating through times of burnout, stress, fatigue and despair.

By equipping us with a better understanding of what happens to us when we're struggling to cope, and making a bold case for the power of rest and recuperation, How We Break helps chart a path through difficult times.