The Novel Cure: Literary prescriptions for sulking

Rid yourself of sulking once and for all by returning to one of the most enchanting children's books - Elizabeth Goudge's The Little White Horse

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The Independent Culture

Ailment: Sulking

Cure: The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge

The temptation to punish someone with a stony silence while you wallow in a bubblebath of self-righteous pique is sometimes hard to resist, especially if you're the sort that hates confrontations. But allowing a sulk to go on for days – or longer – as you wait for the other person to ask what's wrong is not only manipulative but childish. Rid yourself of the tendency once and for all by returning to one of the most enchanting children's books we know (a favourite of JK Rowling's, too) in which a lifelong sulk that cast a shadow over an entire community is finally brought to an end.

When she comes to live at Moonacre Manor, Maria is delighted by everything – her spirited uncle, Sir Benjamin Merryweather, with his bottomless appetite; her turret bedroom, with its unseen servant; the moonlit glimpse of a white horse with flowing mane, paused in mid-flight to look back at her. But why does the beautiful Loveday, house-keeper to the village parson, not want Sir Benjamin to know where she lives? And why has Sir Benjamin not allowed "females" in his house for 20 years? Gradually Maria digs out the truth: a great love between contrasting personalities, an impending marriage, a midnight quarrel – and a proud woman stalking off. The cause of the epic sulk? Salmon-pink geraniums, which for one represented home, the other betrayal.

"Looking back, I really don't know how we could," says Loveday, when Maria points out how "dreadfully silly" it all was. "But… that's the way with quarrels... they begin over some quite little thing, like pink geraniums, and then the little thing seems to grow and grow until it fills the whole world." Return to childhood and learn from Loveday's mistake. If you have children, share the story with them, too. See your anger for what it is – an obstacle to a joyful life – then step back into adulthood and make the first move towards peace.