PASSION AND REASON by Richard S. Lazarus


Understanding Our Emotions
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 A compelling argument that ``far from being irrational, the emotions have a logic of their own,'' and some advice on how to identify and change counterproductive emotional patterns. According to retired psychology professor Richard Lazarus (Emotion and Adaptation, not reviewed) and his wife, a freelance writer, we feel an emotion when ``we are motivated to gain something or prevent something unwanted from happening.'' Emotions, they argue, are intimately linked to our ability to appraise and interpret actions and events, so it is no accident that humans are both the most intelligent and the most emotional of animals. Each of our emotions, furthermore, has ``a distinctive dramatic plot'': Anger stems from perceiving something as an unfair slight, sadness from experiencing an irrevocable loss, happiness from making progress toward attaining a goal, and so on. Biology hardwires emotions in us; culture acts as our software, programming certain acts to trigger each emotion and teaching us how--or whether--that emotion should be expressed. Differences in personality and experience complete the program, giving each individual a distinct emotional configuration. The authors supply practical advice on when it is best to express emotion and when it is best to suppress it, along with examples of how to do both. For example, in an instance of being angered by one's spouse, they suggest reinterpreting the event to lessen the distress it evokes; one might excuse the spouse's insensitive behavior as being the result of exhaustion or stress. The authors discuss various psychotherapy options for those who need extra help in regulating their emotions. And in sketchier, less convincing chapters, they explore stress and the possible influence of emotional states on physical health. For the most part a helpful, clearly written user's guide to the human emotions.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-19-508757-7
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Oxford Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1994