How to Cure 'Destructive Emotions'

Best-selling author Daniel Goleman finds in Buddhism a possible cure-all for anger, depression, and more.

Daniel Goleman, author of the best-selling "Emotional Intelligence," attended a meeting of the Mind and Life Institute, a gathering of scientists and Buddhist thinkers, in Dharamsala, India in March 2000. His latest book, "Destructive Emotions: How Can We Overcome Them?" narrates the discussions that took place there between the Dalai Lama, other Buddhist scholars, and western psychologists and neuroscientists. The Buddhists and scientists worked together to review research and determine methods to conquer what they have termed "destructive emotions"--feelings like anger, depression, and fear. In an interview, Goleman explained the institute's findings, especially the effect of meditation on emotional health.

What exactly do you mean by 'destructive emotions'?

Destructive emotions refer to an emotion that leads us to do something that harms ourselves or someone else. The premise [of the meeting] was that there are helpful insights from both the deep spiritual wisdom of Buddhism and from modern findings in science, and that each might inform the other.

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What emotions are included?

Almost any emotion can become destructive. Even too much happiness, if it's manic excitement, can lead us to do destructive things. But we're mainly talking about anger, paralyzing fear, and depression. Most of the discussions focused on anger, but we also had presentations on, for example, craving and addiction.

 



Are there times when some of those emotions can be positive?

Anger, from an evolutionary point of view, serves a purpose. It's helped us survive. Anger is quite appropriate in response to an injustice or a wrong that needs to be righted. But, as the Dalai Lama pointed out, if you're going to be effective in responding to what makes you angry, you need to keep the focus and energy of the anger, but drop the anger itself in order to act more skillfully.

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Interview by Rebecca Phillips
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