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Thursday, March 3, 2022

Book Review: Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience by Brené Brown

BOOK review
Started on: 11 February 2021
Finished on: 21 February 2022
Title: Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience
Author: Brené Brown
Publisher: Random House
Pages: 464 pages / 318 pages (e-book)
Year of Publication: 2021
Price: Rp 356,000 (

Rating: 4/5
"Without understanding how our feelings, thoughts, and behaviors work together, it's almost impossible to find our way back to ourselves and each other. When we don't understand how our emotions shape our thoughts and decisions, we become disembodied from our own experiences and disconnected from each other."
In this book, Brené Brown takes us on a journey through eighty-seven emotions and human experiences that define what it means to be human. As she maps the necessary skills and framework for meaningful connection, she gives us the language and tools to access a universe where we can share and steward the stories of our bravest and heartbreaking moments with one another in a way that builds connection. Over the past two decades, Brené Brown's extensive research show us how accurately naming an experience gives us more power of understanding, meaning, and choice. This book is meant to be an atlas for us; with an adventurous heart and the right maps, we can travel anywhere and never fear losing ourselves.
"My hope for this book is that together we can learn more about the emotions and experiences that define what it means to be human—including the language that allows us to make sense of what we experience."
"What does it mean if the vastness of human emotion and experience can only be expressed as mad, sad, or happy? What about shame, disappointment, wonder, awe, disgust, embarrassment, despair, contentment, boredom, anxiety, stress, love, overwhelm, surprise, and all of the other emotions and experiences that define what it means to be human?"
I've been a huge fan of Brené Brown since a few years ago when I first read a book written by her. Her research helped me gain a new perspective about courage and vulnerability and changed my way of thinking about certain things. That's why I was so excited when she announced the release of this book, which talks about making meaningful connection and understanding the language of human experience. At the start of this book, Brené Brown emphasizes the importance of recognizing our emotions and being able to name them accurately—which will then help us to make meaningful connection with ourselves and others. I definitely learned so much and ended up taking a lot of notes as I'm reading. However, this book seems like an in-depth dictionary on various emotions and human experience—almost like a textbook, which can feel a bit dry at times. Brené Brown's skill at storytelling doesn't really shine through this book, that's why I ended up giving this book a 4-star rating despite learning so much from it.
"Language is our portal to meaning-making, connection, healing, learning, and self-awareness... Language shows us that naming an experience doesn't give the experience more power, it gives us the power of understanding and meaning."
"To form meaningful connections with others, we must first connect with ourselves, but to do either, we must first establish a common understanding of the language of emotion and human experience."
According to a survey done by the author regarding the emotions that people could recognize and name, the average number of emotions was three: happy, sad, and angry. These are very limiting because the vastness of human emotion and experience cannot be expressed with these 3 words. In Atlas of the Heart, Brené Brown explored 87 emotions and experiences (thoughts that lead to emotion) which have been organized into 13 chapters according to various situations:
  • Places We Go When Things Are Uncertain or Too Much;
  • When We Compare;
  • When Things Don't Go as Planned;
  • When It's Beyond Us;
  • When Things Aren't What They Seem;
  • When We're Hurting, Places We Go With Others;
  • When We Fall Short;
  • When We Search for Connection;
  • When the Heart Is Open;
  • When Life Is Good;
  • When We Feel Wronged;
  • and Places We Go to Self-Assess.
Dividing them based on the circumstances helped me understand the meaning better as I reflect on my personal experiences regarding certain emotions. Brené Brown also give practical examples that helped me grasp the true meaning of an emotion—I have to admit that before reading this book, I misunderstood and misused some of them. Through this book, I learned the differences between empathy and sympathy. I used to think that empathy is when we have experienced what the other person is going through, while sympathy is showing compassion even when we haven't experienced it. The author dispel the myth that empathy is 'walking in someone else's shoes', but it's more about listening, understanding, and believing the other person's story. On the other hand, sympathy is nothing like empathy and it's actually a form of disconnection. That part was really mind-opening for me personally 😊.

Through this book, I also discovered the concept of near enemy and far enemy. Near enemies are states that appear similar to the desired quality but actually undermine it, while far enemies are the opposite of what we are trying to achieve. For example, the near enemy of compassion is pity—similar but different, and the far enemy is cruelty. If we're not careful, the near enemies of emotions can drive us to be disconnected even when it can look or feel like connection. It's important to understand this because most of the time, the far enemies—the real opposites—are not what get in the way in our attempt to cultivate meaningful connection with ourselves and other people.

"There's nothing more limiting than tapping out of tension and oversimplifying the thoughts and feelings that have the power to help us understand who we are and what we need."
"One of the arguments of this book is that language matters. It's the raw material of story, it changes how we feel about ourselves and others, and it's a portal to connection. With the same amount of power, language can also be used to strip people of their dignity and humanity."
In the last chapter, Brené Brown shared a grounded theory on cultivating meaningful connection—a vulnerable practice that requires grounded confidence, the courage to walk alongside others, and story stewardship. She then explained the importance of knowing and applying the language of human experience and emotion along with other necessary skill sets to achieve these qualities, such as respecting boundaries, practicing non-judgement, practicing compassion and empathy, staying curious, embodiment, and more. This book definitely encouraged me to keep on learning about all these emotions and experiences that will allow me to form a deep connection with myself and others.

Overall, this is a wonderful book that helped me gain a new perspective and debunked some misconceptions that I have regarding certain emotion or human experience. I highly recommend this book for people who find it difficult to label/name the emotions they are currently feeling. I think the information that Brené Brown shared will help us to figure out why we are feeling a certain way and how to navigate through that emotion. I also need to remind myself that the insights I got through this book have to become a daily practice and put it to good use 😊. Looking forward to more books by Brené Brown in the future because they have impacted my life so much throughout the years!
"In this life, we will know and bear witness to incredible sorrow and anguish, and we will experience breathless love and joy. There will be boring days and exciting moments, low-grade disappointment and seething anger, wonder and confusion. The wild and ever-changing nature of emotions and experiences leaves our hearts stretch-marked and strong, worn and willing."
"The real gift of learning language, practicing this work, and cultivating meaningful connection is being able to go anywhere without fear of getting lost. Even when we have no idea where we are or where we're going, with the right map, we can find our way back to our heart and to our truest self."

by.stefaniesugia♥ .

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