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Book Review

By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat

 

Nourishing the Spirit
The Healing Emotions of Wonder, Joy, Compassion, and Hope
James D. Whitehead, Evelyn Eaton Whitehead
Orbis Books 09/12 Paperback $22.00
ISBN: 9781626980013


Evelyn Eaton Whitehead and James D. Whitehead, long associated with the Institute of Pastoral Studies at Loyola University in Chicago, have co-authored a dozen books including Holy Eros. This rich and substantive examination of the healing emotions of wonder, joy, compassion, and hope can be read as a companion to Transforming Our Painful Emotions: Spiritual Resources in Anger, Shame, Grief, Fear, and Loneliness. Negative emotions, according to the Whiteheads, can be tamed and should be befriended as allies with much to teach us.

This paperback is divided into three sections on moral, healing, and religious emotions. Wonder and awe are catalysts to respect and reverence. They open our eyes to the beauty all around us and stop us in our tracks to savor the limits of our senses and our reason in the presence of Divine mysteries. The slang use of the "awesome" does not do justice to our encounters with astonishing experiences we cannot explain. But the term reverence does.

The Whiteheads are supportive of the contributions of spirituality and religion to psychological health and would like to see these disciplines incorporated into schools of the emotions where life-affirming human qualities are taught and practices. We affirm this visionary idea and have spent years theming all the resources recommended at Spirituality & Practice by 37 essential spiritual practices. We also affirm the accent that is being put on the positive emotions during these hard times. That is why we enjoyed the chapter on curiosity and contentment, two of our favorite members of the family of emotions; we consider them outcomes of the spiritual practices of wonder and being present.

In an expansive section on healing emotions, the authors cover joy and happiness, transformations of love, virtues of pride and humility, compassion and self-care, and mood swings in the life of faith. Changing moods and fortunes in family life, the workplace, and the nation in general can have dire effects on our emotions. Here is where joy, happiness, delight, and laughter can lift our spirits.

The Whiteheads conclude their assessments of the healing emotions in a section covering the ennobling passions of faith, hope, and charity; gratitude and generosity; the works of justice and mercy; and emotions in spiritual transformation. They herald the continuing impact religious intuitions and spiritual inspirations have upon those who are open to the emotions which sustain human flourishing.

 

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Reviews and database copyright 1970 2012
by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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