Tara Bennett-Goleman, a psychotherapist and teacher, has been doing workshops on the synthesis of Buddhism and Western psychology for close to ten years with her husband Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence. Using illustrative material from her life and work along with insights from meditation instruction and neuroscience, the author explains a variety of paths that can be taken toward the transformation of our emotions especially those explosive and tricky ones that deeply unsettle us.
Through the regular practice of mindfulness, which Bennett-Goleman defines as "a method for training the mind to expand the scope of awareness while refining its precision," individuals can repair those "maladaptive emotional habits" that compel us to react in ways that are unhealthy for mind, body, and soul. Under the umbrella term of schema therapy, the author describes ten of these ingrained patterns of perception and response including feelings of abandonment, entitlement, failure, mistrust, unlovability, and vulnerability.
According to ancient Buddhist recipes for inner work, it is possible to harness negative emotions or mental minefields to positive ends. One way is to move these afflictive emotions to their antidotes; hence, anger can be alleviated by turning to loving-kindness. Another approach developed by Tibetan Buddhists is to use "the energy of emotions as part of spiritual work." This is called "the steep path" for it takes plenty of practice to transform a passion like pride into a vehicle for awakening.
Bennett-Goleman's melding of insights from cognitive psychology with ancient Buddhist knowledge of human emotions is masterful. The spiritual lens she uses to magnify these processes is helpful: "In the end, emotional alchemy boils down to wisdom and compassion. The meltdown of our habits of clinging and pushing away, and of centering everything on ourselves, reveals a wise compassion. There emerges a sense of interconnectedness and a deep wish for everyone, all of us, to experience that freedom."