Book Review: Atlas of the Heart

 

For this quarter of our book club, we read Brené Brown’s newest book, Atlas of the Heart. The first thing you’ll notice about this book is its gorgeous cover and layout. Throughout chapters you’ll find motivational quotes, comics, and inspirational pictures. The breathtaking cover and the colorful inside of the book makes Atlas of the Heart an ideal coffee-table book or gift for a loved one. Although its design will ensure many people pick this book up, the beauty of Atlas of the Heart is more than skin deep: this is a book about cultivating human connection on the most vulnerable level.

It’s Kind of an Atlas

Each chapter talks about the places we go at different times in our lives. Flipping through the wide range of emotions in Atlas of the Heart, you’ll probably find that you go to many places each and every day. After all, we humans can go from feeling bored to inspired in the briefest span of time. However, this book is more than just a dictionary of emotions. Atlas of the Heart provides an in depth look at what it means to feel each and every emotion. And, most importantly, the book shows us why we need to feel each emotion. So many people struggle with running away from their negative emotions. Atlas of the Heart breaks those difficult emotions down and helps normalize the feelings that make us human.

Labeling Your Emotions

Sometimes it’s difficult for people to understand just how important it is to label your emotions accurately. In fact, some people may feel as though it’s not okay to feel certain emotions. And others may struggle to understand what they’re feeling which can lead to emotional outbursts. Being able to accurately label how you’re feeling in the moment may be a crucial part of coping with your emotions in a healthy and effective way. When you feel comfortable labeling your emotions, you can understand exactly what you’re feeling and make the decision to cope in a helpful way instead of acting out in self destructive ways.

Empathizing with Others

This book can also help you understand and empathize with those around you. If you’re going to all these “places” in a single day, you can likely imagine that those around you are also traveling to many different places as well. Atlas of the Heart not only helps you understand the different emotional places you go, but it also helps you understand how to empathize with the places others are at as well. The ending of Atlas of the Heart demonstrates the importance of empathizing with others around you. Understanding your own emotions is the first step in understanding and empathizing with the emotions of those around you.

Sharing Your Emotions

Not only is it important to be able to understand your own emotions, it’s also important to be able to share those emotions with others. This doesn’t mean that you need to break down and cry in front of others when you’re sad–although it’s totally okay to do that if that’s your style. However, being an emotionally mature person means that you’re able to tell others how you’re feeling and what you need. Some people don’t feel the need to cry when they’re sad and would rather be left alone. That’s okay too! But if you’re feeling sad and need some space, you need to be able to communicate that with those around you. 

Cultivating Connection

The end of Atlas of the Heart is without a doubt the most impactful part of the book: when we understand what we’re feeling, we can understand what others are feeling and foster connection. When someone chooses to be vulnerable and share their feelings with you, it’s important to listen. You may not understand everything they’re saying, and they likely don’t expect you to understand it all, but these moments are the time to cultivate human connection. Atlas of the Heart is all about connecting with others through understanding the places other people are currently in. When you don’t understand how someone is feeling, you can build human connection by asking questions to show that you’re invested in understanding what they’re going through right now.

Improving Your Understanding of You

Self-help has such a negative connotation in the present day: nobody wants to be a person who needs to read a self-help book. But, perhaps, maybe we’re all the sort of people who need to read a self-help book. In this life, we’re all in it together; we’re all struggling with something. If it’s normal to struggle, shouldn’t it be normal to make an attempt to improve? If you’re looking to improve your understanding of all the places the human heart goes, Atlas of the Heart may be just the book for you. As previously mentioned, we’re all in this together. So why not make an effort to connect with others on a deeper level?