Review: Destructive Emotions

Destructive Emotions (and how we can overcome them) narrated by Daniel Goleman, the author of Emotional Intelligence, is the account of a five day seminar of philosophers, psychologists, neuroscientists and Buddhist monks, hosted by Daniel Goleman and the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala in 2000. The purpose of the meeting was to explore destructive emotions from both scientific and Buddhist perspectives, and how they might be addressed.

This book starts with a chapter entitled ‘The Lama in the Lab’ hints reveals the surprising results of what happens if you have a sustained meditation practice. It hints at the topics to come. This is followed by a brief biography of the Dalai Lama particularly his interest in science and the interface with Buddhist thought. The rest of the book is split into five sections corresponding with the days of the seminar.

  • Day 1: What are destructive emotions? Investigated from Western and Buddhist perspectives.
  • Day 2: Feelings in every day life. The universality of emotions and cultivating emotional balance.
  • Day 3: Windows into the brain. The neuroscience of emotion and our potential for change.
  • Day 4: Mastering emotional skills. The influence of culture, schooling for a good heart and encouraging compassion.
  • Day 5: Reasons for optimism. The study of conciousness and the Protean Brain.

Each day is presented by a different scientist or philosopher with commentary and questions. Although the book is almost 400 pages of quite small type I found it fascinating both in the ideas presented and the quality of the discussion that goes around them. If you are a meditator with an interest in the psychology and biology I think you’ll find this rewarding. It’s obvious that Daniel Goleman is very fond of the Dalai Lama and sometimes it shows just a bit too much in the ways he writes about him, that’s the only criticism I have of an otherwise excellent book.