This Emotional Life
The first episode looks at the importance of relationships and why they are central to our emotional well-being. What are the cognitive and neurological processes underpinning our everyday interactions, and can they help us to understand why some relationships flourish and others fail? We meet a young boy adopted from a Russian orphanage, whose story illustrates how a lack of attachment in infancy fundamentally shapes his ability to build relationships for years to come. We meet the young parents of newborn twins; a couple in therapy for a troubled marriage; a teenager who was bullied with tragic consequences; two women grappling with the stress of workplace conflicts; and other characters - all to better understand the importance of social connections and relationships.
The second episode looks at emotions that are commonly regarded as obstacles to happiness - anger, fear, anxiety and despair. Why do we have these emotions and how can we best manage them? Everyone wants to be happy, but nature has a different plan. Our brains are designed for survival, and the negative emotions they create are vital to that mission. But those negative emotions can spiral out of control with debilitating effects. Viewers meet a woman whose inability to control her temper is jeopardizing her relationships, a college student whose fear of flying is limiting her life and a teenager who is struggling to overcome clinical depression on the eve of attending college. Viewers also meet veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and follow their journeys to find effective treatment. Across the episode, science reveals that we are two minds - a rational brain that's relatively new and an emotional brain that's older than time. Sometimes emotion overwhelms reason, sometimes reason outwits emotion; it is the endless struggle that makes our lives so painful, so joyous and so interesting.
The last episode explores happiness. It is critical to well-being, yet it remains such an elusive goal for many. What is it, why is it important and how can we attain more of it? Viewers meet individuals facing major turning points in their lives - a job loss, a cancer diagnosis, the death of a child, an accident - as well as those facing more common struggles. Viewers discover the latest research that says we often incorrectly predict what will bring greater happiness, leading us to look for it in the wrong places. As the study of behavior turns more toward positive emotions, the episode explores the latest research on the activities and qualities that foster them, such as meditation, compassion, forgiveness and altruism. The series features remarkable stories of resilient individuals whom scientists are studying to learn more about us all, including a man who overcame an abusive childhood to become a renowned surgeon and a Vietnam veteran who survived torture, solitary confinement and seven years as a POW, and yet emerged emotionally unscathed. Understanding why some people have the ability to bounce back after disaster strikes, while others do not, sheds light on how all of us can lead happier, more fulfilling lives. The film ends by coming full circle to the understanding that the quality of our relationships - with friends, family and larger community - ultimately defines our happiness.
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