Dr. Saul Levine begins with a fascinating concept: that each of us should consider what emotional footprint we will leave behind as a legacy. He then presents ten composite-character emotional-footprint case studies created from his professional experiences in psychiatry.
To determine emotional footprint ratings, he uses these benchmarks, along with a person’s resilience:
- Being: whether someone had been decent, caring and estimable
- Belonging: whether someone had been close to/caring towards others, feeling appreciated and liked in return
- Believing: whether someone had meaningful values and ethical principles governing his or her behaviors
- Benevolence: whether someone enhanced the lives of families, friends and communities
At the end of each case study, Levine evaluates the composite person described, giving his professional opinion about his or her emotional footprint – the intangible legacy that someone leaves behind.
These in-depth case studies are interspersed with helpful information about issues faced by the person described. These include sexual abuse, the power of charismatic mentors over youth, suicide, having a gay child and many more.
Levine writes clearly, and his professional expertise is apparent. Some readers who lead relatively “normal” lives may not relate well to these composites – people whose lives were full of dramatic events – and may struggle to apply Levine’s concepts to their more mundane lives. As one example, one composite character was a Vietnamese “boat person” who lived a tumultuous life in Vietnam before being taken into custody along with his family, including five children, for 18 months after fleeing.
Nevertheless, this book is chock full of useful insights into human nature and the challenges we face, and it’s likely that almost every reader will learn something of significance that helps him or her to live a more meaningful life and leave behind a more positive emotional footprint.