Dec 20

“Atlas of the Heart” by Brene Brown: Feelings to Know

In Brené Brown‘s newest book, Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience, 87 different emotions and experiences are described and defined, giving readers “the nuanced language to fully understand our feelings and express them to others” (Seira WilsonAmazon Editor, review).

The popularity of Brown’s research, talks, and writing is so off the charts that HBO Max has already optioned the book for a series you’ll someday be able to stream. So, read the book now—or wait to watch.

Why do we need this book/series from the woman Belinda Luscombe, Time, calls “the Dr. Fauci of feelings”? Luscombe states, “In surveys taken by 7,000 people over five years, Brown and her team found that on average people can identify only three emotions as they are actually feeling them: happiness, sadness and anger. For Brown, who made her name by illuminating the finer contours of humans’ emotional landscape, this is not nearly enough.”

According to Luscombe, in addition to Brown continuing her modeling of vulnerability by sharing personal aspects of her own life, in Atlas of the Heart she also makes a confession about her professional life: she has frequently touted something she now considers misguided.

For two decades, I’ve said, “We need to understand emotion so we can recognize it in ourselves and others,” she writes. “Well, let me go on the record right now: I no longer believe that we can recognize emotion in other people, regardless of how well we understand human emotion and experience or how much language we have.”

Luscombe goes on to add, “This is not to dismiss psychotherapy (we presume), but to encourage people to talk about what they’re going through rather than expecting others to know—and to listen, rather than guess.”

Selected Atlas of the Heart Quotes (culled from various online sources):

In our research, we found that everyone who showed a deep capacity for joy had one thing in common: they practiced gratitude. In the midst of joy, there’s often a quiver, a shudder of vulnerability. Rather than using that as a warning sign to practice imagining the worst-case scenario, the people who lean into joy use the quiver as a reminder to practice gratitude.

Anxiety and excitement feel the same, but how we interpret and label them can determine how we experience them.

Do I have enough information to freak out? The answer is normally no. Will freaking out help? The answer is always no.

Hope is a function of struggle—we develop hope not during the easy or comfortable times, but through adversity and discomfort.

Don’t look away. Don’t look down. Don’t pretend not to see hurt. Look people in the eye. Even when their pain is overwhelming. And when you’re hurting and in pain, find the people who can look you in the eye.
Dec 13

“The Emotionary” Offers Unique Terms and Meanings for Feelings

Words that don’t exist for feelings that do. Tagline for The Emotionary

So, the thing is, sometimes we have trouble naming feelings, especially those beyond the basics of mad, glad, sad, and bad. Some of the more complex emotions are pride, guilt, and shame, for example.

And some feelings are so complex or confusing or deep or whatever that we don’t even have the words for them.

In 2016 actress Eden Sher turned her previously existent website into a book, The Emotionary: A Dictionary of Words That Don’t Exist for Feelings That Do. It’s illustrated by Julia Wertz.

From Kirkus Reviews: “Situated somewhere between Urban Dictionary and a beginner’s guide to anxiety and introversion, the book highlights the importance of emotional literacy but stops short of addressing emotional competence, relying instead on the audience’s developed sense of irony to understand the validity of the newly named feelings while also managing to recognize any unhealthy emotional practices.”

Sher’s past site included thoughts on the importance of the relationship between feelings, communication, and connecting with others:

Think of the Emotionary as a toolbox that can help you figure out exactly what you’re feeling: instead of having a hammer for ‘Sad,’ a Phillips head screwdriver for ‘Angry’ and a wrench for ‘Anxiety,’ you now have a fancy-schmancy selection of endless gadgets for every possible emotional gradation.

Because here’s the thing: we need words to label our otherwise incomprehensible feelings in order to understand each other and relate to one another. It’s great to be able to feel. But to actually be aware of our feelings so we can talk about them together-that’s pretty exceptional.

A selection of Emotionary words:

  • guiltroversion n. the guilt from wanting to see no one and do nothing, to want to be completely alone and feel all your feelings; esp. when you don’t have the energy to explain to another person
  • crisitunity n. an opportunity that arises from a crisis
  • intempetent adj. possessing the inability to live in the present
  • strympathy n. the effortful kindness one gives to well-intentioned annoyers
  • nonversation n. the act of trying to be heard but falling upon deaf ears

And here’s one Emotionary word I’ve actually used a lot—but not as defined below:

therapize v. to give advice to others based on things you learned in therapy, but never follow the same guidance yourself

The other meaning, the one behind my own usage, has to do with the act of being involved in therapy. As in, Could having your individual therapy, couples therapy, and group therapy appointments all in the same day be overtherapizing?

Whatever. Both versions are good; and both in their various forms, by the way, equally tick off the spell-check. And that feels…I don’t know…unspellbinding?