Destructive Emotions

Destructive Emotions

This Dialogue explores a perennial human predicament: the nature and destructive potential of “negative” emotions; for example, when jealousy turns into murderous rage. The Buddhist tradition has long pointed out that recognizing and transforming negative emotions lies at the heart of spiritual practice. From the perspective of science, these same emotional states pose a perplexing challenge. These are brain responses that have shaped the human mind and presumably played a key role in human survival but now, in modern life, they pose grave dangers to our individual and collective fate. In examining the nature of emotions and when they become “destructive,” distinctive answers come from Buddhist and Western philosophy. From the perspective of affective neuroscience and evolutionary theory, the destructive emotions are seen within the wider context of the full human range, such as maternal love, pleasure seeking, and defense — functions that have shaped the neural architecture that now forms the basis of our emotional repertoire.

Dialogue Sessions

The Universality of Emotion

This presentation sets out a scientific framework for understanding emotions based in both fact and theory. Dr. Ekman first shares scientific findings on facial expressions and a universal grounding of emotions, the differences between voluntary and involuntary emotional expression, and the cues that indicate lying or truthfulness. His Holiness the Dalai and Dr. Ekman then dialogue about the emergent nature of emotions and our momentary experiences of them, continuing into a discussion of the varieties of human emotion and the nature of compassion.

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Honorary Board Chair
  • His Holiness the Dalai Lama
  • Thupten Jinpa
  • B. Alan Wallace
  • Francisco Varela
  • Richard Davidson
  • Jeanne Tsai
  • Paul Ekman
  • Owen Flanagan
  • Mark Greenberg
  • Matthieu Ricard
  • B. Alan Wallace