May 16, 2012
The Emotional Life of Your Brain: How Its Unique Patterns Affect the Way You Think, Feel, and Live–and How You Can Change Them by Richard J. Davidson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This book is absolutely fascinating. Author Davidson is the founder of the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at UW-Madison. He’s gotten a lot of attention with his work doing brain scans on Tibetan monks while they meditate.
This book is an introduction to the work he’s been doing. He has come up with six different categorizations of types of mental/emotional styles that operate something like the Myers-Briggs type indicator. Each category places you on a spectrum between two extremes, which leads to an infinite variety of styles. Unlike Myers-Briggs, Davidson’s styles are based on actual neuroscience studies.
Davidson gives a great history of his work in the book, lays out the details of the emotional types and how they work, then provides a brief introduction into how people can work to modify their emotional styles. If I have one complaint with the book, it’s that the section on “how-to” could have been longer. I hope at some point in the future he will maybe devote an entire book to the practical applications of how the styles work, and how we can modify the workings of our own mind.
I especially love this book, and Davidson’s work, for it’s tight integration with Buddhism. The Dalai Lama has been a strong supporter of Davidson’s research, which I think is very cool. When Davidson’s new Center opened at UW-Madison, I was able to go to Madison to see a discussion between Davidson and the Dalai Lama facilitated by Daniel Goleman. It was unbelievably cool to listen to the Dalai Lama discuss the importance of scientific research for bettering our understanding of humanity (while wearing a Badgers baseball cap no less!).
This is a worthwhile read, and be sure to check out the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds.