Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience

by: Brené Brown (0)

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • In her latest book, Brené Brown writes, “If we want to find the way back to ourselves and one another, we need language and the grounded confidence to both tell our stories and be stewards of the stories that we hear. This is the framework for meaningful connection.”

Don’t miss the five-part HBO Max docuseries Brené Brown: Atlas of the Heart!

Atlas of the Heart, Brown takes us on a journey through eighty-seven of the emotions and experiences that define what it means to be human. As she maps the necessary skills and an actionable framework for meaningful connection, she gives us the language and tools to access a universe of new choices and second chances—a universe where we can share and steward the stories of our bravest and most heartbreaking moments with one another in a way that builds connection.
  Over the past two decades, Brown’s extensive research into the experiences that make us who we are has shaped the cultural conversation and helped define what it means to be courageous with our lives.
Atlas of the Heart draws on this research, as well as on Brown’s singular skills as a storyteller, to show us how accurately naming an experience doesn’t give the experience more power—it gives us the power of understanding, meaning, and choice.
  Brown shares, “I want this book to be an atlas for all of us, because I believe that, with an adventurous heart and the right maps, we can travel anywhere and never fear losing ourselves.”

The Reviews

"Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience" is giftable and physically substantial. The book is weighty; the thick, glossy pages are photo book quality. My copy even smelled sweet. Like all Brene Brown books, throughout it, you'll find many passages and memorable lines worth pondering because Brene Brown has a remarkable gift for turning a phrase. The cartoon illustrating how not to "tap out" during a difficult conversation is helpful. (It is exactly what you'd find in a college-level Interpersonal Communication text book.)The reason for my 2-star review is that "Atlas of the Heart" fails to provide the guidance about "meaningful connection" that it promises. Essentially, the book is premised on the belief that ordinary people, non-researchers, don't know how to name their emotions, nor do they know how to recognize them. And so, the book is filled with short instruction on 87 emotions. Each instruction begins with Brene Brown's definition of a term. It is followed by something along the lines of "You THINK you know what X is. What I have learned is Y."You THINK you know what disappointment is, or grief, or gratitude, or belonging or surprise or curiosity. But no. You don't. So here is the correct definition, and here is the correct way to think about your experience. And this "Atlas" will provide the guidance you need. The reason to read it: "With an adverturous heart and the right maps, we can travel anywhere and never fear losing ourselves. Even when we don't know where we are."Fundamentally, the book is saying, You don't have to go out and be in the world with other people to learn about any of this, you merely read the book and believe that Brene Brown and her research team is correct. And then your learning is done. This is a problem with all self-improvement books, but "Atlas of the Heart" is especially egregious because the promise is that the book will help you connect with others more meaningfully. It does not deliver on that promise. There is almost zero proof in the book that anyone who used Brene Brown's definitions of the emotions and her instruction changed their lives in any meaningful way. Often Brene Brown concludes a passage with "This is how I want to live." After five best sellers, she's still searching and searching for the right formula. If you belong to the "Always Seaching" tribe and want a book that will help you make a long aspirational list of how you want to live, then this book might be for you. But if you aspire to do more than read books and make aspirational lists, consider investing your time and money elsewhere.The central problem with this book is that Brene Brown makes EVERYTHING in life so hard when it is not always that hard. For example, about curiosity she writes "Choosing to be curious is choosing to be vulnerable because it requires us to surrender to uncertainty. We have to ask questions, admit to not knowing, risk being told that we shouldn't be asking, and sometimes, make discoveries that lead to discomfort."In certain contexts, she's right. In certain contexts, like going up against a powerful person or group who benefits from the truth being obscured, then, yes, curiosity is a risk and your questions and discoveries will threaten the status quo. For sure, you will be vulnerable to criticism and you will probably experience scapegoating. Curiosity is very threatening to people in power who want things to remain the same. When you are curious about things that people in power and authority are doing, you ought to expect discomfort. You ought to anticipate and weigh the risk.But to define the experience of "curiosity" the way Brene Brown does is to ignore three quarters of the human experience in which curiosity is a function of a healthy human mind. Curiosity is NOT "choosing to be vulnerable." It is exercising a natural human ability that has led to the most beautiful music, painting, sculpture, architecture, theatre, dance and design. A better message would be: Do the very opposite of "surrendering" to uncertainty. Go be curious with a group of people who have each other's backs.The number of times words like "surrender" is used is hugely problematic. It is the recipe for even more vulnerabilty. It increases the demand for more books by Elizabeth Gilbert, Brene Brown and other advice-givers. Our problem in our culture is how rarely anyone advises us "Go do X with a group of people who have each other's backs.""Atlas of the Heart" is dangerous because it claims to provide "the Language of Human Experience." It offers a view of human experience as Brene Brown experienced it -- as a child who grew up with alcoholism, projection, excesses, and hurt after hurt. Tenuous friendships ended because her family relocated so many times. No one had her back until she married her awesome husband Steve. Brene Brown believes that this experience of life is what the experience of human life is for everyone. Everything is hard. Writing the book was so hard. Living up to expectations is so hard. Curiosity is so hard.Isn't it time to point out that not everything in life leads potentially to discomfort or to hurt? Not everything requires this much thinking, analyzing, researching, sorting, coding, defining, puzzling, introspection or self-disclosure. Not everything leads to so much potential exposure and vulnerability. Again and again.When are we ever going to learn that a balanced and happy life can not be found in some kind of written "Atlas" (filled with academic research and an experts' definitions) that depicts life as endlessly difficult but then magically leads to a better life and more meaningful connection?Readers already know what disappointment is, or grief, or gratitude, or belonging or surprise. This book is helpful in that it adds depth to our ways of perceiving and understanding our experiences, and it will improve readers' ability to discern one type of experience from another, but the amount of hype surrounding this book obscures a much more important message. The person you need in your life is not Brene Brown. The person you need is the person who has your back, and you have theirs. Find that person (or ideally persons) and make your own map of the world together.Surprisingly, this is exactly what Brene Brown did. What is remarkably different about "Atlas of the Heart" as compared to Brene Brown's five best-sellers is not the look and feel of this book. What is remarkably different is that for the very first time ever she openly acknowledges from the start the people who helped her and had her back.In the past, Brene Brown presented herself as the lone researcher, holed up alone coding the data, and then alone on the stage facing criticism. Her husband Steve and her therapist Diane were the only ones named as people who were there for her consistently. Yet, in this book, on page xxvi, she includes a photo of the nine therapists who helped her identify the set of emotions most important to be able to name. She then acknowledges Dr. Ronda Dearing and writes "I couldn't have done this work without her." In the past, this would have appeared in the "Acknowledgements" section. By moving this information about her process up front, Brene Brown is suggesting the recipe for a better life. With the right people, our lives are better, our work is better, things turn out to be, as she puts it "an amazing experience!" So it took her a long, long time to learn how to find the people to take the journey with.The one take-away from the book that is truly helpful is that whatever work we are doing (including the work of parenting) is less hard and is more amazing when we're with people we can trust and can turn to. I hope that in the interviews and the promotion for the book Brene Brown will shift the discourse from what she ~alone~ did to write the book and what she ~alone~ hopes that the book will achieve to what she and her colleagues did to write the book and what they together hope the book will achieve.There is an important message for the 21st century suggested in the book: With an adverturous heart and ~the right people~ we can travel anywhere and experience less hurt, less uncertainty, less risk, less shame, less distress, and more meaningful connection. In the ideal world, this "Atlas of the Heart" would be the last self-improvement book anyone would purchase. First order of priorities: do what Brene Brown did and find your people. Have each other's backs. Then go out and experience life as it can be: amazing.After five best sellers, after searching and searching for the right formula, Brene Brown finally found it. It wasn't what her publisher contracted her to write about. It didn't fit the self-improvement-by-reading paradigm. Good for her for putting it up front instead of in the "Acknowledgements." We don't need more granularity around our emotions, more distinguishable pieces around our emotions. We need each other.

I love Brene Brown and I respect her research. But I used to be a brain on a stick. If I read this book three years ago, I would have soaked it up and declared that I needed to put more language around my feelings. I would have forced myself into using more words for emotions. But that's exactly the opposite of what I needed.To really embody my emotions, I needed to drop the language. I needed the terms "open" versus "closed" to start. I needed a trained facilitator to point out that I was tensing up when I didn't realize it. I needed tacit knowledge, not more words. More words only kept me up in my brain.So while I respect what this book is trying to do and understand it may help others, if you already over-intellectualize things like I do - skip this book. Go DO the somatic / embodied work instead of reading more about it.

Brené Brown has been one of the most important teachers in my life, so I’m biased in this review. Her books have taught me about myself and helped me traverse the daily struggles of being human. Her podcasts have introduced me other teachers that have helped me too. She has been my gateway to studying about and hopefully becoming a better human, and for that I will always be grateful to her. Her books are always a resource I go back to when I need them. Her books give me the language to help me understand my hard feelings and experiences. I’ve passed on this knowledge to the students in my class and have seen how this knowledge helps children as well. So, I’ve been excitedly anticipating this book, since it was announced. I am not disappointed.This is a beautiful book and exceeded my expectations. The first thing I noticed was the size, it’s a little wider than her other books. Then I was excited because it’s in color. The layout and design of each page was thoughtful. The addition of pictures and diagrams add meaning and tone to the emotions, strategies, and research being shared.I appreciate the set-up of table of contents. Each chapter is listed with a title Places We Go … followed by the experiences and emotions that will be discussed. This gives you the ability to choose your own adventure. You can read it in order or go to where you need some knowledge. It also helps with rereading and making your way back to something you want to be reminded of. 87 emotions and experiences are a lot, and they’re written concisely so you can spend a small amount of time reading and still walk away with some new learning. Lastly, the Cultivating Meaningful Connection section at the end of the book is a useful and actionable guide to using Brené’s research to improve how you interact with yourself and others.This book is like a textbook for being human and a resource that I plan to come back to. It is written in Brené’s authentic, comforting voice. As I read it, I hear her voice in my head like we are in conversation. I did wish that some parts were expanded, but this is a manageable useful book the way it is. Also, what I’ve learned about Brené is that this book does not end her research or conversation on these topics. They will come up on her podcasts, her research will continue, and the learning will never stop.

I am not much of a reader so this book was a little daunting at first. I decided to read about a feeling or two a day. It took me a couple of months but it was worth doing it slowly. Will read it again the same way again because there is a lot to learn in this book.

This author is wonderful. I love her and her work. It started a bit slow and was hard to follow at first, but then I understood the organization.

This is a great book! Brene caught my attention with her Ted Talks. She writes like she talks which is just lovely. She shares her own personal learning of emotional terms from her research on the topic. I appreciate this look at human emotion and the definitions assigned to them which is very insightful to everyday life.

This book touched my heart. To know myself is my greatest challenge and this book helps define the emotional challenges i have faced.I am grateful for the words that I both embrace and run from

Loved the book. Taught me a lot and clarified information and beliefs. All comes back to knowing and understanding yourself in order to know and understand others.

Brene Brown’s summary of the research and expertise of mental health professionals on emotions and related human experiences gives the human race the gift of language for creating intimacy.The emotionally immature flailing of Johnny Depp and Amber Heard illustrate the cost of untreated trauma and of not having this kind of emotional language as an access to communication that enables couples, families, and coworkers to understand each other and meet each other’s needs. Those interested in doing their emotional work and escaping the trap of addiction and codependent victimhood will benefit greatly from having this tool. Emotionally immature people will criticize it for superficial reasons and be threatened by its political implications. Don’t buy into the negativity and miss out. Take what you like and leave the rest. Also don’t miss The Body Keeps the Score and any book by Lindsay Gibson on Emotionally Immature Parents (I dislike the parental blame this phrase suggests, but the book recognizes the role of our culture in widespread emotional neglect that leads to the trauma and after effects such as social anxiety.

I absolutely loved reading this book. It is so full of wisdom on what makes us human and the emotions and experiences we have on a daily basis that we often don't take the time to try to understand. She breaks each emotion and human experience down and describes them in depth. I could start over and read it again and likely learn more and pick up things I missed the first time. I highly recommend it.

One of Brene's best books. I love all of them but this one is so powerful! Her research has helped me to understand myself in a way I never would have been able to.

I like the part where she points out that the opposite of happy is sad but the opposite of joy is fear. Hmmm...

A friend recommended this book to me. I have really been enjoying it. I can look up my emotion and figure out why I am feeling it.

I could NOT stop pausing to take notes on the Audible version, so I agreed to get the kindle version for notes and listen to it again with my spouse, this time with fewer interruptions. This should be required reading for anyone in a helping field—chaplains, social workers, therapists, doctors, nurses, teachers, advocates, etc. And those of us who have been impacted by and worked through or working through our own trauma and relationship issues need it especially. Thank you, St. Brené, for this masterpiece!

Brene Brown's most honorable effort to teach and equip the world with the language which lends to the tools for dismantling the -isms and schisms that plague and prevent authentic connection.

Brené Brown will make you get up and back into the arena of your life. This book gives you the tools to take the wheel, it will allow you to increase your emotional intelligence. I’ve read all of her books, this one is by far my favorite

Expansive knowledge, this book helps me to understand and connect to myself. Really recommended for any age! Looking forward to another Brene Brown book

What an incredibly special book. I read a lot of ebooks and honestly, I don’t know why I ordered a physical copy of this book because I did not realize it was coffee table-book-esque, but it’s absolutely something to display in your home. I can’t wait to actually read the entire thing. I know I will return to it again and again throughout my lifetime. Thank you, Brené — as always. ♥️

I grew up with a dad that taught me not to feel and ignore all emotions. This book gives the emotions a voice which I can identify and share with myself and others. A GPS for our emotional connection.

I loved this book. I’d highly recommend this book to anyone trying to navigate their way to a more meaningful life.

If you’re here in hopes of increasing your emotional intelligence, you will not be disappointed. Brown’s tour of our shared humanity is intriguing and insightful, but most importantly, she challenges us to confront those aspects of our nature we tend to hide from ourselves. It’s a brief overview, but it packs a punch.”Sometimes, the most uncomfortable learning is the most powerful.”By examining the spectrum of human feeling, Brown provides us with the language we need to identify the colors of our experience. With recognition, our inner awareness begins, and we can start to understand our emotional seascape.”Our connection with others can only be as deep as our connection with ourselves.Brown’s concept of “near enemies” was especially profound. She identifies emotions that seem similar but yield opposite fruits in terms of authentic connection: kindness / sentimentality; compassion / pity ; love / attachment; equanimity / indifference; companionship / control. With Brown’s map, we can steer clear of these shoals, sailing instead toward self-acceptance and love.However, I found her frequent references to accountability troublesome. Brown repeatedly advises that we ‘hold others accountable for their behavior,’ and she does not explain her meaning. Considering the rest of the book focuses on true compassion, empathy, and nonjudgment, I found this counsel confusing. If I feel compassion for the one who has caused me pain, what does this “accountability” look like, and who am I to enforce it? Brown speaks at length on boundaries, and it is clear that to her, accountability is more than this.Like justice, accountability is a dangerous concept. There are at least two seperate perspectives in any interaction, and each individual believes theirs is the “truth”. Who is to judge between them? In practice, the viewpoint with the most support wins the day, but we have seen over and over that consensus viewpoints are not always “true” or “right”. That is why the wisest humans have always counseled nonjudgment, and accountability is meaningless without judgment.Regardless, there are powerful lessons in this book, and I recommend it for anyone with a limited emotional vocabulary.

I adore this book. It has helped me name and navigate my feelings and experiences. I never knew or understood what I was feeling until I read this book. Absolutely eye opening! I even started a book club for this book and have bought this for others. Definitely a must read, especially for teens

Reading this book clarified a great deal about the human emotional experience and gave me powerful tools to expand my emotional emotional vocabulary, and to understand and to experience the landscape of the emotions of others and my own.

I found out about Brene Brown around 10 years ago. She offered, along with Oprah Winfrey, a webinar, which I could only attend just a few times, due to work. From there on, I started listening to her audiobooks, and following her. She is an unbelievable author, that bases the content of her books on research, which is what I like the most. When I listened to this audiobook, I had to get the textbook right away. There is so much valuable information here, I couldn’t miss that. We have been brought up in a way where it is sometimes very difficult, not only to express our feelings, but also to name our feelings. And this book has helped me become more cognizant about honoring my feelings and naming them to work them through. Also, the drawings are amazing and beautiful and they depict exactly what the author is trying to convey for a better understanding from the reader standpoint. I recommend this book highly.

My weekly discussion group selected this and it was mind blowing! We did a chapter a week and sometimes we spent an extra week in the more meaty chapters. Brene is a true master at bringing academic thinking into the real word for the masses to consume, understand, appreciate and live by. My group was catapulted into embracing definitions of emotions that we thought we mostly understood, but then got to evolve. One that really hit me was Nostalgia. I’ll leave you to have your own epiphanies!! Another gift from Brene was the deep dive into Near and Far enemies. My inner geek got giddy with the tables in the back. So helpful because I was able to reflect on my own behavior and where I have fallen into both near and far enemies, but with consciousness now I can straddle a more balanced and healthy approach. Gotta say, I would have loved this book even if I had read it by myself, but taking the time to walk through it with a group of my closest friends who share this type of expansive thinking was truly a great life experience!

Oh I love Brene Brown and have read all her books. This one is a little unique in that it is not only full of beautifully written material, but is also a gorgeous book on the outside as well. This has been on my coffee table since I got it months ago, and it's nice to have a reminder of it and it's content rather than stuck away on my bookshelf. I often just flip it open and reread wherever it lands, since the structure of the book lends itself well to that.

Wow! So many emotions I didn’t have words for! So many feelings and experiences are much better understood! Advice giving is always control? Can it be empathy if it’s given without attachment, without expectations?- More tips on how to maximize and or minimize emotions. - Recommendations for how long to pursue emotions for. #lifehacks- A new 13? Book children’s novel series inspired by Dr. Seuss’ last published book in 1990, “Oh, The Places You’ll Go.” With each chapter “Places We Go…” as it’s own separate book or “Room / chamber” within the book.- A new post modern Clue murder mystery game. Where each Places We Go is a “chamber / room” within the mansion where we go to discover the true killers, properly unmasked, such as hate, heartbreak, envy, loneliness, etcAnother wonderfully brilliant display and inspiration of unlocking higher, emotional and spiritual intelligence. Thank you Brene,PS, I would love and feel honored to help in any way write said novels and / or create such a game. Maybe Mrs. Brown can be a new character in the new Clue Atlas game? Which would be a bit ironic, no?

Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience
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