The Psychobiology of Destructive Emotions (Part Two)

The Psychobiology of Destructive Emotions (Part Two)


From the Buddhist perspective, and given the neurological insights, we revisit the question of the boundary between the utility of negative emotions and their destructive nature. Are certain negative emotions-specifically anger-always destructive? When might negative emotions such as fear and sadness be useful? Is awareness a factor that can transform negative emotion that is potentially destructive into one that is potentially instructive, or even utilitarian? What can Buddhism teach the science of emotion about using awareness as a fulcrum to keep from falling sway to destructive emotions, and as a tool for exploring the richness of information conveyed by emotions? How can we best distinguish between the necessary features of positive affect such as the social attachment between a parent and child from the pathological varieties of attachment seen in craving? Finally, on the positive side, are there biases in perception associated with happiness?

  • Dialogue 8
    11 sessions
  • March 22, 2000
    Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh, India
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Richard Davidson

Richard J. Davidson, PhD, is the founder and chairman of the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at the Waisman Center, and the director of the Laboratory for Affective Neuroscience and the Waisman Laboratory for Brain Imaging and Behavior, both at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He was educated at New York University and Harvard University, where he received his bachelor’s of arts and PhD degrees, respectively, in psychology. Over the course of his research career, he has focused on the relationship between brain and emotion. He is currently the William James professor and Vilas research professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin. He is co-author or editor of 13 books, including Visions of Compassion: Western Scientists and Tibetan Buddhists Examine Human Nature, The Handbook of Affective Science, and The Emotional Life of Your Brain. Davidson has published more than 300 chapters and journal articles, and is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards for his work, including the Research Scientist Award from the National Institute of Mental Health, the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award from the American Psychological Association, and election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has served on the board of directors for the Mind & Life Institute since 1992. In 2006, Time named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world, and he received the first Mani Bhaumik Award from UCLA for advances in the understanding of the role of the brain and the conscious mind in healing.