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Healing Through the Dark Emotions: The Wisdom of Grief, Fear, and Despair
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Healing Through the Dark Emotions: The Wisdom of Grief, Fear, and Despair

4.21  ·  Rating Details ·  308 Ratings  ·  45 Reviews
Nautilus Book Award Winner - Gold

We are all touched at some point by the dark emotions of grief, fear, or despair. In an age of global threat, these emotions have become widespread and overwhelming. While conventional wisdom warns us of the harmful effects of "negative" emotions, this revolutionary book offers a more hopeful view: there is a redemptive power in our worst f
Paperback, 336 pages
Published May 11th 2004 by Shambhala (first published 2003)
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Raymond J
Jun 20, 2007 Raymond J rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone and their mother
I don't normally say such things, but this book could change your life, and then, the world. The way people quote "The Secret", I quote this text which I call "The Book". I can be a bit of a sucker for psychology/self-help books but find the majority of them disappointing. Not this one -- every page was illuminating, and never was my intelligence insulted.
May 29, 2008 Lia rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: those who are depressed, grieving, in despair, etc.
Shelves: healing
"We pay psychotherapists to cure it, take Prozac to mute it, seek counsel from religions that exhort us to rise above it, read inspirational books to overcome it, join recovery programs and self-help groups to cope with it, spend millions of dollars to escape it, use alcohol, drugs, food, work, possessions, sex, entertainment, and all the techno-toys we can get to distract ourselves from it. . . . [But] grief, despair, and fear are our human birthright as much as joy, wonder, and love."
—Miriam G
Leanne Ellis
Aug 06, 2008 Leanne Ellis rated it really liked it
This book shines a light on the dark emotions that we as a society view as negative: fear, grief, despair, as well as their companion emotions like anger. We all experience these feelings, but we really are trained to ignore them, bury them, but certainly not listen to and experience them fully. We all live in a world of violence and global challenge, but we are also told to feel good and be happy. This book honors all the parts of the Self and the wisdom of your emotions. It also reminds me of ...more
During a Skype conversation between my best friend and I (he was in India and I was in the US) in September 2012, my best friend of 6 years told me "Katie, no matter what happens, I will love you forever." The second most heartbreaking phone call I've received in my adult life came just two months later when my other best friend called me on a Monday morning in mid November. "Katie, he's gone."

I've experienced deaths of loved ones in my life (one of the most painful of my childhood occurred whe
Sep 16, 2014 George rated it really liked it
Great book. As a psychologist, I think this is one of the most important books I have read. One of the main ideas presented in the book is that we live in a culture that has become emotion phobic -- particularly of the "dark" feelings-- and this is negatively impacting our ability to achieve well-being for a variety of reasons. If we can learn to accept, experience, and listen to our dark feelings, we can learn how to change & grow. In the context of a culture that is espousing positive psyc ...more
Apr 13, 2014 Josie rated it it was amazing
This book was massively useful to me during a period of grief and anxiety.

It's one of the only books I've ever read about psychology and healing that acknowledges cultural context as a legitimate source of suffering beyond the classic "all of your anxiety must go back to your parents." Of course, ones upbringing affects emotional health, but there is often much much much more at play

I found this book particularly helpful at a identifying the cultural disconnection I've felt during much of my lif
Aug 28, 2011 Susan rated it liked it
Not your usual self-help book. Greenspan uses her own experience as a child of Holocaust survivors and mother of a child who lived only two months along with Jewish wisdom literature as well as stories from her psychotherapy clients to argue that recognizing rather than suppressing our so-called negative emotions creates opportunities for growth. Similar ideas about the beauty of the imperfect life can be found in Erik Erikson's classic IDENTITY: YOUTH AND CRISIS. Although I was set not to like ...more
Aug 15, 2011 Laura rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. The author does a good job of elucidating a lot of the mental health problems facing our culture. Namely, that an inability to name and face our more uncomfortable emotions causes bottled up anger, neuroses, and impaired functionality.

I also thought it was brave of her to incorporate her own personal experiences of losing a son and raising a disabled daughter. It made the book a lot more real.

Some of her statements were a little out there. Discussions of reiki, energ
Nov 14, 2009 Ellen rated it it was amazing
This is a remarkable book! (recommended by Annie, facilitator for Process Painting workshop). Turns on its ear the current culture viewpoint, including psychotherapy, about the value of "dark" emotions, esp grief, despair and fear. That emotions are felt in the body, not the mind. And she provides "how to" advice on how to work with them, rather than trying to get rid of them. How they can become toxic when you push them away. I think this will be a turning point book for me.
An ongoing, pick-up
Mary Hammer
Aug 18, 2007 Mary Hammer rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone grieving over anything
this book was essential in getting me through some dark, dank bleak. i had never thought of grieving as being good, and i certainly didn't know how to go about doing it healthily until i read this.
May 20, 2008 Sarah rated it it was amazing
This has to be the most insightful book I've read in years. Highly recomment to anyone.
Oct 21, 2007 Kim rated it it was amazing
This book proves that we must embrace darkness. The only way to heal is to go straight into the dark parts of ourselves and make friends with whatever we find there.
Aug 28, 2007 Sam rated it it was amazing
I have been reading this book for over a year now.
I can quite confidently say it is my FAVORITE book ever.
(and that's not something i take lightly, let me assure you!)
Jun 19, 2017 Brian rated it liked it
This book gives you a lot to think about! I didn't exactly agree with everything but it certainly gave me some new perspectives and helpful ways of thinking about "the dark emotions".
Jun 30, 2009 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Elizabeth by: laurie my pool therapist
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 22, 2016 Brook rated it it was amazing
Wow. Wow. Wow. This is a book that I wish I could have read years ago. Although, I wonder if it would have had as much meaning to me if I hadn't experienced the dark emotions of grief, fear, and despair. I wish that this could be a course that was taught to everyone. I think I may have highlighted at least half of the book. It was full of truths that made my soul sing and had me nodding again and again. It brought a huge amount of peace and relief for me to understand that these emotions were no ...more
Feb 18, 2016 Nicole rated it it was ok
Shelves: psychology
I had a hard time getting through this book. Some parts of it were useful, but I was mostly bored. The author has a more holistic approach to grief, fear, and despair, especially in the idea that everyone on this planet is interconnected emotionally with each other and with nature in general. It went a little beyond what I was looking for from a book like this. I wanted something a little more self-focused. I feel a little badly only giving it two stars, but it's a personal rating. I can see how ...more
Jul 10, 2013 Jo rated it really liked it
Shelves: mind-wellbeing
The author makes some interesting points on the different ways in which men and women are socialised to deal differently with emotions and her perspective on the impact of world events, politics, economic crisis affect our psychology.

She shows how these emotions are not inherently negative but simply difficult emotions which have much to teach us if we can learn to bear them and make sense of them. That you cannot have joy, gratitude and hope without them. How they keep resurfacing from our unco
Jul 12, 2014 Alice rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
I read the first seven chapters of this book before I gave up. The foundation of the argument is sound, but the way it is presented, as well as the specifics, negate whatever good was in it. Sometimes I thought I was reading genius, often I thought I was reading complete codswallop, and the rest fell somewhere in between, making the book as a whole hard to take seriously. My biggest problem with it is that her clear anti-psychiatry perspective and desire to "prove" her ideas minimizes or rejects ...more
Mar 03, 2011 Marion rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is going on my "Favorites" shelf for sure. Greenspan's work is phenomenal. She clearly elucidates and expands on everything I believe about the power and possibility of actually confronting the "dark emotions" (grief, despair, and fear) and the transformation that is possible through this process. It is a very reader-friendly book that is accessible for interested readers as well as clinicians and Greenspan offers numerous "emotional exercises" to help readers engage in a process of "emotio ...more
Dec 30, 2012 Hannah added it
A little formulaic, after a while. A good formula, but then it's just variations on a theme throughout the rest of the whole book. I did like her discussion of those who are identified as "sick" (usually carrying the burden of "sickness" in the organism), and those who allow someone else to be Identified. I can't remember the exact terms she used, but it is an important discussions that I think can be especially helpful in current discussions regarding guns, violence, and mental health.
Nov 29, 2009 *elasticfate rated it it was amazing
One of the most honest, amazing, beautiful books on the wisdom & gifts that come to us when we allow ourselves to surrender to the darkness. This process of feeling our way through our dark emotions is beyond under-emphasized in our current culture & era, so it's a true gift that someone is sharing the value of this with the world. The only way out is through...there is so much ecstasy buried underneath our sorrow.
May 18, 2011 Sidra rated it liked it
I'm not quite finished with this book, but feel I've read enough to rate and comment. I think this is a fabulous book to help those trying to navigate through those dark emotions of grief, fear and despair. The first part of this book spoke to me much more than the second half, but overall it is a book I would recommend and will definitely keep on my shelf.
Jul 16, 2014 Gail rated it liked it
Shelves: unfiinished-ng
Guess I need to work on things more organically. Another factor in not finishing: this book was on my Kindle Paperwhite and while I can read novels in that format, I don't do as well with non-fiction there. I may go back to it one day.
Feb 06, 2010 Mariana rated it liked it
This is worth reading, especially the parts about compassion for the world and ecology. The author made a conscious decision to leave anger out, so she could write an additional book. Since I have a problem with anger, I miss this part.
Jun 24, 2016 Ari rated it liked it
"Interesting read"

The author shares her experience of how she overcame her grief of losing one's child and the journey to peace and recovery. She suggested the embracing of one's dark emotions such as sadness and shame to the road of enlightenment. Interesting read. Some inspiring thoughts.
Roan Kaufman
Jan 01, 2017 Roan Kaufman rated it really liked it
Offers some really good perspectives on working through more challenging emotional states such as grief, fear, and dispair. I didn't care for the examples from biblical characters and stories, but at the same time there were many examples from Buddhism as well. Overall good stuff, however.
Jan 01, 2009 Mary added it
This is a slow read, only because of the intensity. This book is good to read if you are grieving over any loss. I like the way she writes about ''the redemptive power of your
worst feelings''.
Jan 02, 2009 Sky is currently reading it
loving it. she articulates my brain/heart so accurately, it hurts. in a good way.
Aug 31, 2012 MaryAnne rated it it was amazing
Based on solid experience as a therapist and a personal story of grief, Greenspan shows how grief, fear and despair can transform into courage,joy and strength. Personal, practical and theoretical.
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“When we psychologize human suffering, we narrow our focus to the individual—perhaps in order to be less overwhelmed by the sheer enormity of human suffering, which, in the modern era, has reached a crescendo of atrocity. In doing so, we lose the connection to anything larger than our family of origin. The sense or meaning we give to pain keeps us stuck in a kind of narcissistic individualism that paradoxically fuels neurosis and emotional suffering.” 4 likes
“anyone who’s ever lost a parent, child, lover, spouse, or close friend, knows that grief is one of the most powerful emotional forces there is—powerful enough to shatter the self we’ve carefully constructed.” 2 likes
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