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Sehnsucht (‘Longing’) by the Nederlands Dans Theater at Sadler’s Wells, London, in 2014. Photo by Leo Mason/Popperfoto/Getty

Essay/
Dance and theatre
To the core

A devastating loss can shatter the façade we put up for others, exposing our deepest, rawest self. A work of art can do the same

Julia F Christensen

Samuel Beckett on the set of Film in New York during his only visit to the United States in 1964. Photo by I C Rappaport/Getty

Essay/
Stories and literature
The wisdom of surrender

Samuel Beckett turned an obscure 17th-century Christian heresy into an artistic vision and an unusual personal philosophy

Andy Wimbush

Photo by Jerome Sessini/Magnum Photos

Essay/
Neurodiversity
Am I disabled?

With my pen hovering over a form, there is no easy answer: better to provoke stigma with support, or resist classification?

Joanne Limburg

Leonard Bernstein (far right) with members of the Ex-Concentration Camp Orchestra on 10 May 1948 in Munich, Germany. Bernstein was on a working tour of Europe when he conducted this small orchestra comprised of Holocaust survivors at a displaced persons camp. Photo courtesy of Sonia Beker, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Essay/
Meaning and the good life
Humanity at night

A violinist plays in a concentration camp. A refugee carries a book of poetry. Art sustains us when survival is uncertain

Sarah Fine

The Stephen sisters playing cricket in St Ives, Cornwall, England, c1893-94. Photo courtesy the Houghton Library, Harvard University

Essay/
Biography and memoir
My sister, my mirror

Vanessa and Virginia – intimates in art, adversaries in love. Can we ever transcend the primal envy of the sisterly bond?

Lily Dunn

Detail from Sunset (Zarathustra), 1917 by Christian Rohlfs. Landesmuseum Oldenburg, Germany. Photo by AKG

Essay/
Stories and literature
The inward gaze

In Hermann Hesse’s novels, as in his life, self-discovery walked a tightrope between deep insights and profound solipsism

M M Owen

Two girls with their Cabbage Patch dolls. New York City, 1986. Photo by Leonard Freed/Magnum

Essay/
Mood and emotion
The bittersweet madeleine

It is a guilty pleasure and undergirds nationalist bombast, yet nostalgia for the past can help propel us into the future

Elizabeth Svoboda

Valparaíso, Chile, 1992. From Sergio Larrain’s Valparaiso. Courtesy of Magnum Photos

Essay/
Psychiatry and psychotherapy
Intimate strangers

By chance, I grew up without a father. As an adult, I chose to meet him. Through the prism of this event, life slowly made sense

Vincenzo Di Nicola

Albert Einstein’s original passport. Photo by Jean-Pierre Clatot/AFP/Getty

Essay/
Race and ethnicity
Identifying Einstein

For Albert Einstein, being Jewish and German were not questions of identity but rather mutable matters of identification

Michael D Gordin

Photo by Mark Cornick from the Soho Nights series

Essay/
Mental health
My psychosis

It was one terrifying, exciting night of delusions, hallucinations and paranoia. What would it teach a future psychologist?

Tom Hartley

From Voyage dans l’Amérique Méridionale, (v.IX, 1835-47), by Alcide Dessalines d’Orbigny. Courtesy the Biodiversity Heritage Library/Public Domain

Essay/
Illness and disease
This ragged claw

It is a crab; no, a worm; no, a wolf. Early physicians weren’t entirely wrong to imagine cancer as a ravenous disease

Ellen Wayland-Smith

Five O’Clock. Plate VII from the series Intimacies (1898), by Félix Edouard Vallotton. Courtesy the Art Institute of Chicago

Essay/
Love and friendship
The joy of intimacy

A polyamorous friend challenges me: are you really happily monogamous or are you just hung up about your philandering dad?

Lily Dunn

Virginia Woolf pictured at Monk’s House, Sussex, England c1928. Photo courtesy Houghton Library, Harvard University

Essay/
Stories and literature
Highbrows and self-helpers

Woolf loathed it but it spurred her on. Hemingway drew ideas of manliness from it. Self-help haunted the modernist imagination

Beth Blum

The Memorial Hall, Harvard University, c1900. Photo courtesy Library of Congress

Essay/
Education
Pluck versus luck

Meritocracy emphasises the power of the individual to overcome obstacles, but the real story is quite a different one

David Labaree

Detail from Woman at a Window, Waving at a Girl, by Jacobus Vrel (c1650). Fondation Custodia/Frits Lugt Collection, Paris

Essay/
Family life
Keeping secrets

All families have secrets, from the innocent to the deeply sinister. Are there good reasons to keep them under wraps?

Karen Vallgårda