Sharon Salzberg – Metta Hour – Ep. 190 – Dr. Barbara Fredrickson

For episode 190 of the Metta Hour, Sharon welcomes Dr. Barbara Fredrickson.

Dr. Barbara Fredrickson is a Kenan Distinguished Professor in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at UNC-Chapel Hill. Barbara is the director of the Positive Emotions and Psychophysiology Laboratory. She is an award-winning teacher and also among the most highly-cited scientists worldwide. Her books, Positivity and Love 2.0 have been translated into dozens of languages. Barbara has been President of the International Positive Psychology Association and the Society for Affective Science.

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In this episode, Sharon and Barbara discuss:

How Barbara and Sharon first connected •  The history of the study of emotions in modern psychology • Experiential states that aren’t recognized as emotions • The peril of glorifying achievement • Evolutionary Psychology • The consilience of contemplative wisdom and science • The process of creating the Broaden & Build Theory • How Lovingkindness meditation (Metta) affected Barbara’s work • Barbara’s definition of “love” • The contagion of emotions • The collective creation of positive states • The application of Lovingkindness (Metta) • The Brahma Viharas (Four Immeasurables) • Barbara’s cat Mudita • The importance of acceptance • Mindful awareness versus savoring • Barbara’s book “Love 2.0” • “Short Moments, Many Times” study • The Research of Lovingkindness (Metta) meditation • What Barbara is working on next

To learn more about Barbara’s work, you can visit her website positiveemotions.org and and get yourself a copy of her books, Positivity and Love 2.0
Human Nature and Positivity

Barbara talks about her focus on human nature in her research. She describes how there was not much interest or curiosity in the science of why people do the things they do. She and Sharon discuss her research into positive emotions and how they may promote survival. 

Tune into Ep. 80 of The Indie Spiritualist to learn more about the benefits of positivity: Positive Mental Attitude with John Joseph
Pleasant Moment Awareness (14:20)

Our culture often glorifies achievement rather than feeling good. Being present helps us pay attention to what feels good. Barbara refers to this as ‘pleasant moment’ awareness. What types of states feel good for you? We may think of positive states as being with a lover or basking in nature, but things like learning and contemplating can also provide us with a source of awe and positivity. Even just focusing on what it is like to be human can provide us with great wisdom and contentment.

“We ignore these states at our own peril. We ignore them and we don’t grow as much. We ignore them and we can’t be truly alive. We gain a lot out of redirecting our attention to these more subtle pleasant states.” – Dr. Barbara Fredrickson

Evolutionary Psychology (23:02)

Barbara has a background in evolutionary psychology. She poses that a broadened awareness provides nutriments for our well-being and this may have helped our ancestors’ survival. Broadened awareness builds our resources and relationships. These tools help us when we are in danger. Play is prominent in youth because those positive emotions fuel our learning. When we learn better, we grow and we survive. When we are enjoying ourselves we do not even notice how much growth is taking place; positivity causes incidental growth. While the emotion may be transient, the things that are built out of that emotion are long-lasting.

Love In Context (44:38)

Sharon and Barbara discuss the positive state of Lovingkindness. Love can be the same concept in different contexts. Sometimes, we embody love through the awareness of somebody else’s suffering. This in turn causes compassion. The ways that love can transform us internally and then manifest into the world is fascinating to Dr. Barbara, personally and scientifically. When we offer someone our compassion we can give them a sense of relief and share sympathetic joy. One positive interaction like this can be the first step to a domino effect of goodness.

“What you do have control over is your own inner state of kindness and connection, and when you become aware of what is happening with the other person that love gets transformed into compassion.” – Dr. Barbara Fredrickson

Click here to check out another Metta Hour episode for answers to some questions you may have about Lovingkindness