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Atlas of the Heart

Brené Brown
Random House, 336 page
Published November 30, 2021

Brené Brown, the researcher whose writings on shame and vulnerability have made her a household name, bestowed a new gift at the end of 2021 with Atlas of the Heart. Brown identified common emotions and experiences and then grouped them into categories for easier study and analysis because “When we don’t have the language to talk about what we’re experiencing, our ability to make sense of what’s happening and share it with others is severely limited.” Brown maps the full range of human emotions, creating a guide to greater self-awareness and increased ability to make meaning out of our experiences and relationships.

Atlas of the Heart’s gorgeous photos, artwork and inspiring pulled quotes give the appearance of a decorative coffee table book, but it contains serious academic research made accessible. For example, Brown tackles “places we go when we feel wronged”; while research subjects often label a range of “negative” emotions simply as “anger,” Brown goes deeper. She peels the onion to reveal contempt, disgust, self-righteousness and more. Brown applies a similar process to 87 different emotions, ranging from common (stress) to obscure (freudenfreude), illustrating with stories from her own life and work.

Brown concludes with a recommended process for “Cultivating Meaningful Connection,” laying out steps to truly see and hear others and understand what they need from us. Her process is so straightforward and the scripts are so clear that this alone is worth the purchase of the book. Further, Brown’s passion is so infectious that she draws you into a shared vision for humanity, one in which we can all be the best kinds of bosses/friends/partners possible — in short, we can become the humans God created us to be.

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