Happy Valentine’s Day! Here’s my gift to you — a book that will help us understand and love ourselves better so that we can understand and love others better.
Book: Atlas of the Heart by Brené Brown
Publisher: Random House
Publication date: 2021
Source: Hardback borrowed from the library
Summary: Atlas of the Heart is a map of our emotional landscape. When Brené Brown asked workshop participants “to list all of the emotions that they could recognize and name as they were experiencing them” the average number of responses she got was three — happy, sad, and angry.
Atlas of the Heart offers us more words to describe our emotions and experiences.
Without accurate language, we struggle to get the help we need, we don’t always regulate or manage our emotions and experiences in a way that allows us to move through them productively, and our self-awareness is diminished. Language shows us that naming an experience doesn’t give the experience more power, it gives us the power of understanding and meaning. p. xxi
Thoughts: I listened to Atlas of the Heart as an audiobook last year and it’s a delightful experience. Brené Brown can’t help herself from adding little asides, here and there, and it’s great fun to hear her describe the pictures. But I didn’t retain the information very well.
This year, I decided to try it again in print. An equally great, but very different, experience.
I keep revisiting the chapter called “Places We Go When Things Are Uncertain or Too Much.” The distinction between stress and anxiety has been helpful to me. I experience anxiety more often than I experience stress. There are things that I can do about that, including work through my ruminations and worries while getting on top of things that I might be avoiding.
There are some surprises in this exploration. My favorite chapter was “Places We Go When Life Is Good.” It turns out that “happiness” isn’t well-defined, even by the researchers who study it. Looking into it more deeply, Brené Brown came to this unexpected conclusion:
We need happy moments and happiness in our lives; however, I’m growing more convinced that the pursuit of happiness may get in the way of deeper, more meaningful experiences like joy and gratitude.
The same chapter covers gratitude, which seems to underlie a lot of the emotions that we experience as positive. Also in this chapter, I was surprised by how much I was attracted to calm, contentment, and tranquility as experiences that I want to cultivate.
Atlas of the Heart in hardback is a gorgeous physical object. You can see the beautiful cover. There are color photographs throughout that help set the mood. Pull quotes are printed in color or on colorful backgrounds. Lots of comic-style pictures illustrate points made in the text.
Appeal: Read Atlas of the Heart to gain a better understanding of human beings and the human experience.
Challenges: I’m counting this as my science book for the 2023 Nonfiction Reader Challenge. There’s a lot here about how and why people do qualitative research. There’s even a chart in the back called the Circle of Science.
Have you read this book? What did you think?