Dr. Sundararajan has an interdisciplinary background, with a Ph.D. in History of Religions from Harvard University, and an Ed.D. in Counseling Psychology from Boston University. She is past President of Division 32 (Humanistic Psychology) and the current chair of its Task Force on Indigenous Psychology. She is on the editorial board of the Journal of Humanistic Psychology, and currently works as a forensic psychologist. Dr. Sundararajan has over fifty publications, including Happiness Donut: A Confucian Critique of Positive Psychology and Hope as Rhetoric: Cultural Narratives of Wishing and Coping. Her research interests range from Chinese poetics to semiotics.
Dr. Sundararajan will be presenting an invited lecture on A Confucian Critique of Positive Psychology of Emotions.
A Confucian Critique of Positive Psychology of Emotions
Negative emotion words seem to be less popular than positive ones in the contemporary West. In sharp contrast is the centrality of negative emotion terms, such as shame (chi), in the Chinese Confucian tradition. To explore this phenomenon as a historical trend, I examine texts ranging from classical Chinese poetics to contemporary blogs in Taiwan. Implications for the theory development of emotion research may be summed up as follows: Emotion might not be evolved for its hedonic properties so much as its truth function. The crucial question for the adaptive function of emotion is, therefore, not valence so much as attention or orientation. Thus the important distinction to make about emotions is not positive or negative valence, so much as subjective or intersubjective orientation—it is with the latter, not the former, that we get outside our heads to resonate with the world as a tuning fork that connects through perturbations.