It was an unbearably steamy August afternoon in New York City, the kind of sweaty day that makes people sullen with discomfort. I was heading back to a hotel, and as I stepped onto a bus up Madison Avenue I was startled by the driver, a middle-aged black man with an enthusiastic smile, who welcomed me with a friendly, “Hi! How you doing?” as I got on, a greeting he proffered to everyone else who entered as the bus wormed through the thick midtown traffic. Each passenger was as startled as I, and, locked into the morose mood of the day, few returned his greeting.
Anyone can become angry—that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way—that is not easy.
Aristotle, The Nichomachean Ethics
But as the bus crawled uptown through the gridlock, a slow, rather magical transformation occurred. The driver gave a running monologue for our benefit, a lively commentary on the passing scene around us: there was a terrific sale at that store, a wonderful exhibit at this museum, did you hear about the new movie that just opened at that cinema down the block? His delight in the rich possibilities the city offered was infectious.
By the time people got off the bus, each in turn had shaken off the sullen shell they had entered with, and when the driver shouted out a “So long, have a great day!” each gave a smiling response.
The memory of that encounter has stayed with me for close to twenty years. When I rode that Madison Avenue bus, I had just finished my own doctorate in psychology—but there was scant attention paid in the psychology of the day to just how such a transformation could happen. Psychological science knew little or nothing of the mechanics of emotion. And yet, imagining the spreading virus of good feeling that must have rippled through the city, starting from passengers on his bus, I saw that this bus driver was an urban peacemaker of sorts, wizardlike in his power to transmute the sullen irritability that seethed in his passengers, to soften and open their hearts a bit.
In stark contrast, some items from this week’s paper:
• At a local school, a nine-year-old goes on a rampage, pouring paint over school desks, computers, and printers, and vandalizing a car in the school parking lot. The reason: some third-grade classmates called him a “baby” and he wanted to impress them.
• Eight youngsters are wounded when an inadvertent bump in a crowd of teenagers milling outside a Manhattan rap club leads to a shoving match, which ends when one of those affronted starts shooting a .38 caliber automatic handgun into the crowd. The report notes that such shootings over seemingly minor slights, which are perceived as acts of disrespect, have become increasingly common around the country in recent years.
• For murder victims under twelve, says a report, 57 percent of the murderers are their parents or stepparents. In almost half the cases, the parents say they were “merely trying to discipline the child.” The fatal beatings were prompted by “infractions” such as the child blocking the TV, crying, or soiling diapers.
• A German youth is on trial for murdering five Turkish women and girls in a fire he set while they slept. Part of a neo-Nazi group, he tells of failing to hold jobs, of drinking, of blaming his hard luck on foreigners. In a barely audible voice, he pleads, “I can’t stop being sorry for what we’ve done, and I am infinitely ashamed.”
PART ONE: THE EMOTIONAL BRAIN
1. What Are Emotions For?
2. Anatomy of an Emotional Hijacking
PART TWO: THE NATURE OF EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE
3. When Smart Is Dumb
4. Know Thyself
5. Passion’s Slaves
6. The Master Aptitude
7. The Roots of Empathy
8. The Social Arts
PART THREE: EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE APPLIED
9. Intimate Enemies
10. Managing with Heart
11. Mind and Medicine
PART FOUR: WINDOWS OF OPPORTUNITY
12. The Family Crucible
13. Trauma and Emotional Relearning
14. Temperament Is Not Destiny
PART FIVE: EMOTIONAL LITERACY
15. The Cost of Emotional Illiteracy
16. Schooling the Emotions Appendix A: What Is Emotion?
Appendix B: Flallmarks of the Emotional Mind
Appendix C: The Neural Circuitry of Fear
Appendix D: W. T. Grant Consortium: Active Ingredients of Prevention Programs
Appendix E: The Self Science Curriculum
Appendix F: Social and Emotional Learning: Results
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