Heaven and Hell: The Psychology of the Emotions
Neel Burton, author
To control our emotions is to control ourselves, and to control ourselves is to control our destiny. It has forever been said that we are ruled by our emotions, but this today is truer than ever. Much more than reason or tradition, it is our emotions that determine our choice of profession, partner, and politics, and our relation to money, sex, and religion. Nothing can make us feel more alive, or more human, than our emotions, or hurt us more. Yet, the emotions are utterly neglected by our system of education, leading to millions of mis-lived lives. This book proposes to redress the balance, exploring over 30 emotions and drawing some powerful and astonishing conclusions along the way. Areas covered include: depression, anxiety, anger, boredom, laziness, guilt, envy, greed, ambition, lust, sadomasochism, humiliation, loneliness, courage, empathy, friendship, love, self-esteem, and much much more.
Emotions “have come to assume an increasingly dominant role in our lives,” argues psychiatrist Burton (Hypersanity) in this wide-ranging and impassioned survey. In 29 essays, he considers feelings including ecstasy, pride, and anger, as well as “emotional expressions” such as kissing. In “Embarrassment, Shame, and Guilt,” he teases out the difference between the three, explaining that embarrassment is a feeling of discomfort, while “shame says, ‘I am bad,’ [and] guilt says, ‘I did something bad.’ ” In “Boredom,” he meditates on the “deeply unpleasant state of unmet arousal” as being universal, and recommends meditation to cope with it, while in “Ecstasy” he writes that the defining trait of euphoric joy is “the dissolution of boundaries, with the ego merging into all of being.” Most of his analyses lean on philosophy more than psychology, and some of his interpretations are dubious: he considers depression as a mental disorder to be little more than “a socially constructed dustbin for all manner of human suffering,” and in “Sadomasochism,” he writes that “in almost every relationship, one partner is more attached than the other.” Still, there is much to ponder, and lay readers will enjoy most of Burton’s entertaining theories. (Self-published)