Review of Brene Brown’s ‘Atlas of the Heart’.

Continuing my series of book reviews for writers, this week I read Brene Brown’s ‘Atlas of the Heart’. I have read earlier books by Brown and enjoyed them. This one was a little harder to understand. The first thirteen chapters are a list of 87 emotions categorized into 13 groups. About half way through the 13, I wondered what was the point. Yes, these are all valid emotions that we all feel. Having the words laid out is good, as many people struggle to find the correct word to describe what they are feeling.
I hung in, assuming Brown was laying a foundation for how to use this Atlas. But I am not sure it rewarded me. After 250 pages of the 87 emotions in 13 categories are inventoried, we get to the final twenty pages on how to put this theory into practice. This is where I felt the book fell down. The 87 emotions are not mentioned again, and instead, 4 tables are presented on Cultivating Meaningful Connections. I read the final chapter twice, but I don’t see the connection.
I think this might be a case where people who enjoy her work are so deeply aware of what she is doing and saying, and Brown and her team are so immersed in their work, that they didn’t see that some sort of explanation, some bridge between parts of the book are needed.
‘Atlas of the Heart’ deeply impressed me and the 12th chapter struck a cord. ‘Places We Go when we feel Wronged’ is a litany of the current American body politic. Anger, Contempt, Disgust, Dehumanization, Hate, and Self-Righteousness. This is not a good place to go or to be, but I think most people agree it is where America is today.
A quote of contempt struck me by Arthur Schobenhauer ‘the unsullied conviction of the worthlessness of another’. Too many people in America look at each other this way. And down that road is dehumanization and rationalization of the horrible treatment of that other. We have seen it before in history.
So, how do I deal with contempt? Hate? Self-righteousness? I was expecting an answer, a map if you will. I don’t see it. We need it.
I think this is a good start, but that last 20 pages need to be expanded. A lot.

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ISBN 97803995592553

August 4, 2022