Book Review  

Possessed: Why We Want More Than We Need by Bruce Hood

Possessed: Why We Want More Than We Need by Bruce Hood

This book is an interesting examination of society’s addiction to possessions by the psychology academic Bruce Hood.

He starts by looking at what is property, and says the definition of this concept is not always easy and can change over time.

An example was when women were considered to be owned by their husbands.

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Mr Hood describes some sombre examples of the effect on someone of losing what is still considered their ‘property’ in this context.


One of the leading causes of death in the world of women of child-bearing age is murder by a current or former partner.

The ending of a relationship has led some men to kill their families, destroy  possessions and then commit suicide.

Aside from relationships, and whether or not we ‘own’ our partner, Mr Hood highlights that many of us see our status and identity as coming from increasing ownership of things, or being “possessed”; it is all about gaining more and more stuff and not losing anything.

He refers to many credible studies which have clearly identified that having more stuff actually makes people feel less satisfied, and that increased materialism reduces well-being.

But that ownership is one of the strongest human urges.

He warns about the cost to society of increased inequality and the sense of unfulfillment that ownership creates. What we need, he says, is a simpler life, something that we do not understand until we are near the end.

Many will understand when Mr Hood talks about our need to gain value by comparing ourselves with others and how this is made worse by social media and Fomo (fear of missing out).

He warns that this is foolish because those that we hope to impress are actually less interested than we think; they are often superficial, have their own prejudices and can be wrong.

In addition, our expectation to be constantly happy, and that this should be a basic human right, is also wrong.

He highlights that we actually need highs and lows. 

This book helped me to understand the effect on my clients when they are going through the process of divorce and the feeling of loss of their partner, and of some of the shared possessions.

Linda Lamb is director and lawyer at LSL Family Law

Published by Allen Lane