Emotions of Menace and Enchantment: Disgust, Horror, Awe, and Fascination, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Emotions of Menace and Enchantment

Disgust, Horror, Awe, and Fascination, 1st Edition

By Susan Beth Miller


168 pages

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Emotions of Menace and Enchantment examines four pivotal human emotions. It explores what defines these emotions, how they interact, and how they impact the experience of self-boundary. All four feelings speak to the boundary around the self, to whether we stiffen that boundary, relax it or worry about its fraying. 

Psychoanalysis has looked closely at conflicts that human beings experience, but has paid relatively less attention to the specific emotions through which conflict is known and managed. The disgust emotion is unique in operating like a gatekeeper that manages what approaches us closely. Disgust appears prominently in our relationship with the physical world, but surprisingly, is just as common in the world of politics. It moves people to action, including deeds of great violence. Horror occurs when we feel invaded and altered by something that leads to profound insecurity. Human beings behaving inhumanly is one common source of horror. While disgust is a moral emotion, horror makes no judgments but speaks to the misery of being unsafe. Awe opens the self to the outside world, and creates moments that sustain us through times of stress. Fascination also involves openness but its characteristic attitude and attention shows its differences from awe. It forms the foundation for deep learning. All four emotions find their way into psychopathology; for example, fascination plays a role in addiction and awe in masochism and cult formation.

Emotions of Menace and Enchantment will help mental health professionals in psychoanalysis, psychotherapy, psychiatry and social work to better parse clinical encounters with the four emotions and to think as well about defensive patterns aimed at blunting contact with them. It will engage anyone interested in examining the roles these emotions play in politics, societal violence, addictions, and everyday joys and suffering.


"Susan Beth Miller skillfully portrays emotions as fluid, multifaceted (experiential, physiological, cognitive, conscious, unconscious), sometimes contradictory, and intrinsically relational. Our feelings reflect appraisals of the world and they reconfigure our selves accordingly, prompting us toward receptive engagement or guarded defensiveness. To her research, Miller brings the knowledge and sensitivity of a sophisticated psychoanalytic clinician, supplemented with insights from anthropology, philosophy, psychology, and literature. Her impressive meditation on emotion will stimulate valuable thoughts in readers, intensifying and enriching their interest in, and understanding of, the affective spectra they encounter in themselves, their patients, and others."-Brent Willock, author of Comparative-Integrative Psychoanalysis, is Founding President, Toronto Institute for Contemporary Psychoanalysis.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Entering the World of Emotion

Chapter 2: The Gatekeeper Emotion: Disgust

Chapter 3: The Breakdown Emotion: Horror

Chapter 4: The Imbibing Emotion: Awe

Chapter 5: The Fixed Eye of Fascination

Concluding Comments

About the Author

Susan Beth Miller is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She enjoys writing fiction as well as non-fiction and has published the novel, Indigo Rose, in addition to The Shame Experience, Shame in Context, Disgust: The Gatekeeper Emotion and a book for teenagers with troubled parents entitled When Parents Have Problems.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PSYCHOLOGY / Movements / Psychoanalysis
PSYCHOLOGY / Mental Health