Heaven and Hell: The Psychology of the Emotions

To control our emotions is to control ourselves, and to control ourselves is to control our destiny.

The mind is its own place, and in itself/ Can make a Heav’n of Hell, a Hell of Heav’n.
—Milton, Paradise Lost

It has forever been said that we are ruled by our emotions, but this today is truer than ever. Much more than reason or tradition, it is our emotions that determine our choice of profession, partner, and politics, and our relation to money, sex, and religion. Nothing can make us feel more alive, or more human, than our emotions, or hurt us more. Yet, the emotions are utterly neglected by our system of education, leading to millions of mis-lived lives.

This book proposes to redress the balance, exploring over 25 emotions and drawing some powerful and astonishing conclusions along the way. Areas covered include: loneliness, humiliation, envy, greed, ambition, anger, forgiveness, empathy, love, self-esteem, and many more.

How can we turn boredom inside out? How can nostalgia help us? When is anger justified? What do all instances of love have in common? What is the secret to self-esteem? Get your copy now to find out.

A wide-ranging and impassioned survey. —Publishers Weekly

Burton is never short of an interesting and sharp judgment. —Prof Peter Toohey, Psychology Today

[Heaven and Hell] challenges our understanding of emotions we experience but do not really think about… a fascinating read. —British Medical Association Book Awards

Emotions propel all of human life, yet few people take the time to understand their power. In this fascinating work, a psychiatrist explores the passions that drive us: pride, fear, loneliness, love, and more. —BookBub

An entirely new way of looking at the emotions. —Readers’ Favorite

★★★★★ I do love to read a book on occasion that gives me a mental workout, and this one certainly had my brain doing calisthenics! —Jamie Bee, Amazon Top 50 Reviewer

Burton guides the reader to unlearn, rediscover, and return to wholeness. It is a journey out of Plato’s cave… —The International Review of Books

I’ve read many Neel Burton books. He’s a wonderful writer and able to immerse you lightly in pretty heavy stuff. —Adrian Bailey, Vine Voice

Neel is an incredibly insightful and elegant writer, with a deep knowledge of all he surveys. —James Davies, medical anthropologist and psychotherapist, author of Cracked

About the author

Dr Neel Burton FRSA is a psychiatrist, philosopher, and wine-lover who lives and teaches in Oxford, England. He is a Fellow of Green-Templeton College in the University of Oxford, and the recipient of the Society of Authors’ Richard Asher Prize, the British Medical Association’s Young Authors’ Award, the Medical Journalists’ Association Open Book Award, and a Best in the World Gourmand Award. His work has featured in the likes of Aeon, the Spectator, and the Times, and been translated into several languages.




1. Boredom
2. Loneliness
3. Laziness
4. Embarrassment, Shame, and Guilt
5. Pride
6. Snobbery
7. Humiliation
8. Humility
9. Gratitude
10. Envy
11. Greed
12. Desire
13. Hope
14. Nostalgia
15. Ambition
16. Anger
17. Patience
18. Trust
19. Forgiveness
20. Empathy
21. Love
22. Kissing
23. Laughter
24. Self-esteem
25. Wonder
26. Ecstasy


A book on the emotions

There is an old Japanese story about a monk and a samurai. One day, a Zen monk was going from temple to temple, following the shaded path along a babbling brook, when he fell upon a bedraggled and badly bruised samurai. “Whatever happened to you?” asked the monk. 

“We were conveying our lord’s treasure when we were set upon by bandits. But I played dead and was the only one of my company to survive. As I lay on the ground with my eyes shut, a question kept turning in my mind. Tell me, little monk, what is the difference between heaven and hell?” 

“What samurai plays dead while his companions are slain! Shame on you! You ought to have fought to the death. Look at the sight of you, a disgrace to your class, your master, and every one of your ancestors. You are not worthy of the food that you eat or the air that you breathe, let alone of my hard-won wisdom!” 

At all this, the samurai puffed up with rage and appeared to double in size as he drew out his sword, swung it over his head, and brought it down onto the monk. But just before being struck, the monk changed his tone and composure, and calmly said, “This is hell.” 

The samurai dropped his sword. Filled with shame and remorse, he fell to his knees with a clatter of armour: “Thank you for risking your life simply to teach a stranger a lesson” he said, his eyes wet with tears. “Please, if you could, forgive me for threatening you.” 

“And that” said the monk, “is heaven.”

Purchase now from Amazon or Apple, or go back to the Ataraxia series page.