Sharon Salzberg – Metta Hour – Ep. 138 – Real Change Series: David DeSteno

In this conversation, David and Sharon speak about how David became interested in his career as a researcher exploring how emotions shapes our lives.

For episode 138 of the Metta Hour, Sharon speaks with David DeSteno.

David is a Psychologist who studies the ways in which emotions guide decisions and behaviors fundamental to social living. David is a professor of psychology at Northeastern University, where he directs the Social Emotions Group. At the broadest level, his work examines the mechanisms of the mind that shape vice and virtue. Studying hypocrisy and compassion, pride and punishment, cheating and trust, his work continually reveals that human moral behavior is much more variable than most would predict. The National Science Foundation has repeatedly funded his work and he is the author of several book, “Emotional Success,” “The Truth About Trust,” and co-author of The Wall Street Journal bestseller “Out of Character.”

This recording is the eleventh episode of the Real Change Podcast series. In this conversation, David and Sharon speak about how David became interested in his career as a researcher exploring how emotions shapes our lives. They discuss several studies that explore the ways meditation can affect how we respond to others with greater compassion and inclusivity, and how that does or does not translate to the systemic injustices around us. They also discuss resilience through the lens of David’s work, and what leads different people to have greater resilience and joy, regardless of their life circumstances. Explore David’s offering at

Curating Positive States: Resilient Emotional Intelligence

How do emotions like compassion and gratitude foster resilience and reduce inequality and discrimination in the world? Through this lens, how can we use our emotions as tools for curating positive states of wellbeing for ourself and others? Sharon and David elucidate the double-edged sword of gratitude, unveiling it’s true power as resting in the future, as it motivates us to pay forward whatever we are grateful for.

“If we think about emotions in a certain way, we can change what we’re feeling, we can curate our own states, and in doing that, use them to achieve goals we believe are positive ones for ourself.” – David DeSteno

Learn to cultivate a deep inner-resilience and sense of emotional wellbeing through merging meditation and neuroscience, on Ep. 113 of The Indie Spiritualist
Meditation for Equanimity: Moving Past Vengeance & Enemies  (34:18)

Through the Buddhist lens of interconnection, Sharon and David explore the concepts of vengeance and enemies. Merging mindfulness with science, David adapted a study with his team to see if meditation actually has a compassionate outcome affecting the ideas of vengeance and enemies in an individual. The results were staggering, in that almost on the whole, compared to non-meditators, the meditators showed acts of compassion towards purposefully vengeful actors, not in the sense that they wouldn’t stand up for themselves, but in that they choose not to inflict any added pain.

“It’s not that in meditation the compassion you feel is making you a doormat. It’s not like you’re saying ‘Yes, do it to me.’ It’s that, ‘I don’t believe the way to solve this problem is by acting out in a vengeful way and causing you pain. I want to talk to you about it. I’d like to correct that behavior,’ but pain is not the way to do it.” – David DeSteno

‘See No Stranger’ with Sharon Salzberg and activist Valarie Kaur as they move past the concepts of enemies and vengeance, on Ep. 126 of the Metta Hour
Real Perseverance: Compassion, Gratitude, & Pride (44:26)

How can we persevere when fighting against the deeply engrained status quo? Pulling from David’s book, Emotional Success, Sharon invites in the theme of perseverance, a timely topic in relation to the immense outpouring of activism in the world today. David explains that usually people equate perseverance with grit, as a cognitive skill of focused willpower, rather than the more well-rounded view he holds for perseverance, as compassion, gratitude, and pride.

“I think about the single mom working two jobs to put her kids through college; I think about the grandfather who has emphysema who’s dragging the oxygen tank behind him to make sure’s he’s there for his granddaughter’s theatrical performance; things that are hard to do, but we do them because we love people and we care about things.” – David DeSteno

For a timely and illuminating conversation surrounding perseverance, activism, and fighting on the side of love, tune into Ep. 347 of Mindrolling

This is the first episode of the Real Change Podcast series. In this conversation, Joshin and Sharon discuss some of the themes from her new book, Real Change, exploring the ways that meditation practice can inform social action. They discuss working with anger, pathological altruism, finding long term resilience and joy in activism, and working to find balance. To close the conversation, Joshin leads a ten-minute meditation practice on equanimity.