Mens Sana Monographs
: 2008  |  Volume : 6  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 48--62

Positive Emotions, Spirituality and the Practice of Psychiatry

George E Vaillant 
 M.D. Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, USA

Correspondence Address:
George E Vaillant
Brigham and Women«SQ»s Hospital, 1249 Boylston Street, 3rd Floor, Boston, MA 02215

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.

How to cite this article:
Vaillant GE. Positive Emotions, Spirituality and the Practice of Psychiatry.Mens Sana Monogr 2008;6:48-62

How to cite this URL:
Vaillant GE. Positive Emotions, Spirituality and the Practice of Psychiatry. Mens Sana Monogr [serial online] 2008 [cited 2020 Jul 15 ];6:48-62
Available from:;year=2008;volume=6;issue=1;spage=48;epage=62;aulast=Vaillant;type=0