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Tune into PBS's "This Emotional Life."

Posted Jan 05 2010 11:14pm

I just watched episode two of a three-part PBS series called "This Emotional Life", which explores mental health issues. I really liked it; it was intelligently written, supported its point of view using up-to-date science, and did a wonderful job of exhibiting the human costs of mental illness -- the lost relationships and the ruined careers and the ever-more entrenched self-esteem issues and so on. This particular episode was called "Facing Our Fears'; here is how it's described on the PBS website:
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. We 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. We also meet veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and follow their journeys to find effective treatment.

Across the episode, science reminds us that we are of 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, and it is the endless struggle that makes our lives so painful, so joyous and so interesting.

This is good stuff. It was difficult for me to watch at times -- the stories it told reminded me of some of my own stories, and it was a kind of prolonged exposure therapy to sit through it. But that only makes me surer this show is getting at these issues in a direct and honest manner. The website supporting the program is quite good, as well -- it's full of everything from information about stress and anxiety to videos like this one, which shows neuroscientist Robert Sapolsky discussing positive and negative stress.

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