Atlas of the Heart, by Brené Brown

Atlas of the Heart

Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of the Human Experience

by Brené Brown

Random House, 2021. 304 pages.
Review written March 17, 2022, from a library book
Starred Review

Brené Brown does an amazing job of taking scholarly research on human emotions and communicating the information in a way people can understand and apply it to their lives. With this book, she’s outdone herself.

This book is in a large format with glossy pages and color photographs, so it’s something of an art book as well. The bulk of the book is a catalog of emotions. They’re presented in thirteen chapters, which gather similar emotions. For example, the first chapter is “Places We Go When Things Are Uncertain or Too Much” and includes Stress, Overwhelm, Anxiety, Worry, Avoidance, Excitement, Dread, Fear, and Vulnerability.

With each emotion, she explains what it is and how you can notice it in yourself, as well as what psychological research says about it. It’s all fascinating as well as helpful. And it helps us understand ourselves better.

But the end of the book quietly packs a punch. After exploring all the emotions, there’s a section called “Cultivating Meaningful Connection,” which she explains is built on grounded confidence, the courage to walk alongside others, and story stewardship. It’s all explained beautifully, and there’s even a comic to help the reader understand how it looks.

At the back, she explains how the entire “atlas” of emotions was building to these ideas:

As you review the model, you’ll see that knowing and applying the language of human experience and emotion is a key property of all the major categories that support meaningful connection. That’s how we ended up here, together, sharing this book. When this emerged from the data, I thought, “Damn. I can’t write a book on meaningful connection without including some kind of glossary or compendium of emotion and experience words.” It was and remains weirdly shocking to me that access to and application of language are central to grounded confidence, walking alongside one another, and story stewardship. I wouldn’t have been surprised to see language emerge as core to one of these, but that it’s central to all three speaks to its power.

So learn about the language of emotions in order to build meaningful connection with the people in your life. This book will help you on that journey.

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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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