How to Cure 'Destructive Emotions'

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

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That seems to be happening with the positive psychology movement.

Of course, within the last few years we've had that whole movement toward positive psychology. But it turns out there's a very useful set of methods in Buddhism and other spiritual traditions for doing this that have been around for centuries. The Dalai Lama said, 'Look, study our methods and if you find anything that is of use to people, that will alleviate their suffering or make them happier, take it out of the Buddhist context and share it widely.'

How can you reach out to psychiatrists and psychologists about this?

The way to do that is through sound research and publishing in a psychiatry journal.


So you will keep it in the scientific realm. Are the participants in the 2000 meeting continuing this research?

Most of the scientists in the meeting have been inspired to go on and bring this back into their own work. Richard Davidson, for example, at the University of Wisconsin, is regularly bringing advanced practitioners into his lab to study their brains using state-of-the-art brain-imaging methods. Several of the other researchers are doing programs. Paul Ekman at the University of California, San Francisco, is now piloting a program with teachers and nurses to teach them 'mindfulness' as a way of helping them to manage their lives and work better and to have more positive emotions.


Do you think there would be fewer people on anti-depressants if more people meditated?


Yes, I do. That would be a great experiment to try.

Will people be more skeptical about this method than they would about trying medication?

I think people are open to it. The Dalai Lama is quite smart in saying, 'Look at all this through a scientific lens, and if science validates the method then publish it and share that.'

In a recent book, "Why God Won't Go Away," Andrew Newberg, at the University of Pennsylvania, seemed to imply that his research on meditation proved that people have an impulse to believe in the divine. Did anything about the divine or transcendent come up in your discussion?

The Dalai Lama is immensely practical in his interests. And he really wants to see what there might be that would be of actual use to people to help them suffer less and be more happy.

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Interview by Rebecca Phillips
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