Turn your gaze upward! emotions, concerns, and regulatory strategies in Kierkegaard’s Christian Discourses

International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 84 (3):323-343 (2018)
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This essay argues that there are concrete emotion regulation practices described, but not developed, in Kierkegaard’s Christian Discourses. These practices—such as attentiveness to emotion, attentional deployment, and cognitive reappraisal—help the reader to regulate her emotions, to get rid of negative, unwanted emotions such as worry, and to cultivate and nourish positive emotions such as faith, gratitude, and trust. An examination of the Discourses also expose Kierkegaard’s understanding of the emotions; his view is akin to a perceptual theory of the emotions that closely connects emotions and concerns. In particular, this analysis unearths two main regulatory strategies located in the Discourses, strategies that closely resemble present-day psychological accounts of emotion regulation. I conclude that contemporary research reinforces Kierkegaard’s philosophical analysis of emotions and emotion-regulation strategies. Drawing on this research provides the most persuasive interpretation of Kierkegaard’s understanding of the emotions and emotion-regulation strategies. Additionally, present-day research clarifies the otherwise elusive, opaque strategies he describes. Finally, my analysis demonstrates that Kierkegaard’s work can uniquely contribute to the present-day psychological research by emphasizing the need for diachronic regulation strategies, while the contemporary literature overwhelmingly focuses on synchronic strategies.

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Paul E. Carron
Baylor University


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