Thursday, February 07, 2008

What I'm reading

Emotions Revealed. By Paul Ekman.

Psychologist Paul Ekman is a smart cookie who has worked with the Dalai Lama at the latter's Mind and Life dialogs. He's done cross-cultural research on the facial expressions that accompany emotions, so he can make the argument that some feelings and their outward show are universal. More interestingly, he shows that emotions are not experiences which we can control. We get angry when someone gets between us and a goal. Even babies do. All of which is to say, you can't try to not be angry. Anger has evolved as a useful response. I bet it was more useful before we had traffic gridlock. In the meantime there are things we can do about our emotional behavior. He talks about developing the habit of attentiveness -- know yourself. The book offers the empirical underpinning for the therapeutic process of working on our bad habits; not surprisingly, it is better at analysis than the how-then-shall-we-live part.

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