The managed heart

A few years ago I bought a book called The Managed Heart on the basis of the title alone. At the time I was deeper than a decade into full-time parish ministry, serving a congregation of some 400 souls in rural north Georgia. My heart was sore from overuse. I had what is sometimes called "compassion fatigue," and I was looking for anything that might help.

The book, by Arlie Russell Hochschild, turned out to be a study of people whose jobs involve more emotional labor than either physical or mental work. By "emotional labor," she means work that requires the production of certain feelings in the worker, whose job entails the production of feelings in others. She focuses on flight attendants and bill collectors, among others. Hochschild interviewed scores of people whose livelihoods depend on the careful management of their feelings. Her particular interest is what happens to people's hearts when they agree to do emotional labor for pay.


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