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  Mens Sana Monographs
A Monograph Series Devoted To The Understanding Of Medicine, Mental Health, Man, Mind, Music And Their Matrix
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MENTAL HEALTH, SPIRITUALITY, MIND
Year : 2008  |  Volume : 6  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 48-62

Positive Emotions, Spirituality and the Practice of Psychiatry


M.D. Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, USA

Correspondence Address:
George E Vaillant
Brigham and Women's Hospital, 1249 Boylston Street, 3rd Floor, Boston, MA 02215
USA
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/0973-1229.36504

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This paper proposes that eight positive emotions: awe, love (attachment), trust (faith), compassion, gratitude, forgiveness, joy and hope constitute what we mean by spirituality. These emotions have been grossly ignored by psychiatry. The two sciences that I shall employ to demonstrate this definition of spirituality will be ethology and neuroscience. They are both very new. I will argue that spirituality is not about ideas, sacred texts and theology; rather, spirituality is all about emotion and social connection. Specific religions, for all their limitations, are often the portal through which positive emotions are brought into conscious attention. Neither Freud nor psychiatric textbooks ever mention emotions like joy and gratitude. Hymns and psalms give these emotions pride of place. Our whole concept of psychotherapy might change if clinicians set about enhancing positive emotions rather than focusing only on negative emotions.


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