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Atlas of the Heart

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Hi, I am Holly Mercer, Library Director at the Dodge City Community College. If you are like me, you may have several authors you look forward to reading whenever a new book is published. For me, Brené Brown is one such author. Two of my favorite titles from her are Raising Strong and Dare to Lead.

Her latest book, Atlas of the Heart was published this year. The book brings together research from her other books and research from subject matter experts. The subtitle further specifies the focus of the book, Atlas of the Heart, Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience. Although not labeled or marketed as a book on emotional intelligence, this book is all about the complexities of our emotions and the emotions of others. The actions of naming emotions, thinking about emotions, deciding how to act on an emotion are at the heart of the book. Brené’s goal in writing the book is to help us attach words to emotions so we can gain a better understand of ourselves and others to help cultivate meaningful connections. In other words, she is striving to improve emotional literacy through her book because she believes language is a key part in defining our experiences. She does this by defining and explaining 87 experiences and emotions in the book.

The majority of the book reads almost like a dictionary of emotions. This seems to be intentional by the author because her goal is to label emotion. Labeling emotions may help us decide what to do next in any given situation. Among the definitions is helpful bits of information on the optional zone for emotions, a place where the emotion is not considered good or bad.

Two emotions that I found most interesting to read about were Cognitive Dissonance and Foreboding Joy. Chapter 5, “Places We Go When Things Aren’t What They Seem” defines cognitive dissonance. The emotion is a state of tension that occurs when a person holds two cognitions that are psychologically inconsistent with each other. In the author’s own words she says, “When we’re faced with information that challenges what we believe, our first instinct is to make the discomfort, irritation, and vulnerability go away by resolving the dissonance. We might do this by rejecting the new information, decreasing its importance, or avoiding it altogether. In these challenging moments of dissonance, we need to stay curious and resist choosing comfort over courage. It’s brave to invite new information to the table, to sit with it and hear it out. It’s also rare these days.”

The second emotion is Foreboding Joy explored in Chapter 11,” Places We Go When Life is Good.” The author explains that joy is a vulnerable human emotion. Often individuals are nervous to be joyful, commonly thinking that the joy will soon be spoiled with bad news. This phenomenon is foreboding joy. Brené encourages readers to lean into joy. This allows us to build resilience, strength, and courage.

When contemplating the material in the book, I find myself combining the material in this book with information in other books, especially books on emotional intelligence. I do support Brené’s premise on the importance of emotional literacy. However, I don’t believe this title can serve as the only source for understanding emotions. I encourage you to read this book and explore similar titles.

I’m Holly Mercer for HPPR Radio Readers Book Club.

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Summer Read 2022: Summer Reading List 2022 Summer ReadHPPR Radio Readers Book Club
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