A CBT look at the provocative genius of Mark Twain in quotes:


The third wave of CBT is holistic – taking the best practice from psychology today, and blending it with Eastern and Western philosophy, and the wisdom of the great intellectual thinkers through the ages – including acceptance, living in the present, and mindfulness.

Taking the lead from that, this post introduces Mark Twain – writer, humorist, and intellectual thinker – ‘in his own words’.

I’ve been a little magpie on the google for you, collecting shiny trinkets to show the great mind at work. Profound, political, and provocative… these quotations capture and paint the life experience and the big picture in a unique way.

Have a scroll and have a think, you’ll be the richer for it:
(note: this is a work in progress – they’re higgledy piggledy and all over the place, but enjoy them anyway..)




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Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear. Do something every day that you don’t want to do; this is the golden rule for acquiring the habit of doing your duty without pain.
Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first. Don’t part with your illusions. When they are gone you may still exist, but you have ceased to live.
Education: that which reveals to the wise, and conceals from the stupid, the vast limits of their knowledge. Facts are stubborn things, but statistics are more pliable.
Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn’t. George Washington, as a boy, was ignorant of the commonest accomplishments of youth. He could not even lie.
Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please. Grief can take care of itself, but to get the full value of a joy you must have somebody to divide it with.
Grief can take care of itself; but to get the full value of a joy you must have someone to divide it with. Habit is habit and not to be flung out of the window by any man, but coaxed downstairs a step at a time.
Honesty is the best policy – when there is money in it. Humor is the great thing, the saving thing. The minute it crops up, all our irritations and resentments slip away and a sunny spirit takes their place.
I am opposed to millionaires, but it would be dangerous to offer me the position. I didn’t attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying that I approved of it.
I don’t give a damn for a man that can only spell a word one way. I don’t like to commit myself about heaven and hell-you see, I have friends in both places.
I have a higher and grander standard of principle than George Washington. He could not lie; I can, but I won’t. I have been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.
I have never let my schooling interfere with my education. I have never taken any exercise except sleeping and resting.
I have spent most of my life worrying about things that have never happened I thoroughly disapprove of duels. If a man should challenge me, I would take him kindly and forgivingly by the hand and lead him to a quiet place and kill him.
I was gratified to be able to answer promptly. I said I don’t know. I was seldom able to see an opportunity until it had ceased to be one.
I would rather have my ignorance than another man’s knowledge, because I have got so much more of it. If all men knew what each said of the other, there would not be four friends in the world.
If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man. Never learn to do anything: if you don’t learn, you’ll always find someone else to do it for you.
Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow. New Orleans food is as delicious as the less criminal forms of sin.
Often it does seem a pity that Noah and his party did not miss the boat. Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.
Suppose you were an idiot and suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself. The best way to cheer yourself is to try to cheer someone else up.
The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco. The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.
The first half of life consists of the capacity to enjoy without the the chance; the last half consists of the chance without the capacity. The human race has one really effective weapon, and that is laughter.
The man who doesn’t read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them. The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.
The universal brotherhood of man is our most precious possession. The worst loneliness is not to be comfortable with yourself.
There are people who strictly deprive themselves of each and every eatable, drinkable, and smokable which has in any way acquired a shady reputation. They pay this price for health. And health is all they get for it. How strange it is. It is like paying out your whole fortune for a cow that has gone dry. There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.
Time cools, time clarifies; no mood can be maintained quite unaltered through the course of hours. Truth is more of a stranger than fiction.
Under certain circumstances, profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer. Water, taken in moderation, cannot hurt anybody.
We have a criminal jury system which is superior to any in the world; and its efficiency is only marred by the difficulty of finding twelve men every day who don’t know anything and can’t read. When I was younger, I could remember anything, whether it had happened or not.
When in doubt, tell the truth. When people do not respect us we are sharply offended; yet deep down in his private heart no man much respects himself.
When we remember we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained. When you cannot get a compliment any other way pay yourself one.
Whenever you find that you are on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect. Whenever you find that you are on the side of the majority, it is time to reform.
I cannot call to mind a single instance where I have ever been irreverent, except toward the things which were sacred to other people. He had discovered a great law of human action, without knowing it – namely, that in order to make a man or a boy covet a thing, it is only necessary to make the thing difficult to obtain.
Of all the animals, man is the only one that is cruel. He is the only one that inflicts pain for the pleasure of doing it. A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.
Many a small thing has been made large by the right kind of advertising. You cannot depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.
We have not the reverent feeling for the rainbow that a savage has, because we know how it is made. We have lost as much as we gained by prying into that matter. The history of our race, and each individual’s experience, are sown thick with evidence that a truth is not hard to kill and that a lie told well is immortal.
A human being has a natural desire to have more of a good thing than he needs. The universal brotherhood of man is our most precious possession, what there is of it.
By trying we can easily learn to endure adversity. Another man’s, I mean. It is by the goodness of God that in our country we have those three unspeakably precious things: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the prudence never to practice either of them.
It takes your enemy and your friend, working together, to hurt you: the one to slander you, and the other to get the news to you. Man is the Only Animal that Blushes. Or needs to.
There are several good protections against temptations, but the surest is cowardice. The rule is perfect: in all matters of opinion our adversaries are insane.
All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence; then success is sure. Sane and intelligent human beings are like all other human beings, and carefully and cautiously and diligently conceal their private real opinions from the world and give out fictitious ones in their stead for general consumption.
Of all the creatures that were made, man is the most detestable. Of the entire brood he is the only one–the solitary one–that possesses malice. That is the basest of all instincts, passions, vices–the most hateful. He is the only creature that has pain for sport, knowing it to be pain. Also–in all the list he is the only creature that has a nasty mind. We are always more anxious to be distinguished for a talent which we do not possess, than to be praised for the fifteen which we do possess.
When a person cannot deceive himself the chances are against his being able to deceive other people. Of all God’s creatures there is only one that cannot be made the slave of the lash. That one is the cat. If man could be crossed with cat it would improve man, but it would deteriorate the cat.
The report of my death was an exaggeration. The radical of one century is the conservative of the next. The radical invents the views. When he has worn them out the conservative adopts them.
Familiarity breeds contempt – and children. Good breeding consists of concealing how much we think of ourselves and how little we think of the other person.
What a good thing Adam had. When he said a good thing he knew nobody had said it before. An enemy can partly ruin a man, but it takes a good-natured injudicious friend to complete the thing and make it perfect.
The holy passion of Friendship is of so sweet and steady and loyal and enduring a nature that it will last through a whole lifetime, if not asked to lend money. Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.
Training is everything. The peach was once a bitter almond; cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education. Our opinions do not really blossom into fruition until we have expressed them to someone else.
A classic is something that everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read. It was enough to make a body ashamed of the human race.
How little a thing can make us happy when we feel that we have earned it. Laws are sand, customs are rock. Laws can be evaded and punishment escaped but an openly transgressed custom brings sure punishment.
 [Humanity] has unquestionably one really effective weapon—laughter. Power, money, persuasion, supplication, persecution—these can lift at a colossal humbug—push it a little—weaken it a little, century by century; but only laughter can blow it to rags and atoms at a blast. Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand. I asked tom if countries always apologize when they had done wrong, and he says, ‘Yes, the little one does.’
I am not one of those who in expressing opinions confine themselves to facts. The fact that man knows right from wrong proves his intellectual superiority to other creatures; but the fact that he can do wrong proves his moral inferiority to any creature that cannot.
Our opinions do not really blossom into fruition until we have expressed them to someone else.

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