I have been reading Brené Brown’s Atlas of the Heart (AotH) and man, have I been so inspired! Inserting a small sidenote on practicing GTM cum book review here; part 2 of practicing GTM will be published in March. (Link to Part 1 here)
In oftentimes-funny and always humbly empathetic prose, AotH maps out “eighty-seven of the emotions and experiences that define what it means to be human and walk through a new framework for cultivating meaningful connection”. As Brown used a GTM (I’m guessing a social constructivist approach from how she described it), it is inspiring to see how this research culminated into this highly readable book.
The fundamental importance of this research is that our emotional life is shaped by language, and thus poverty of vocabulary can limit the way we connect to ourselves and others. Through extensive interviewing, Brown distills the essence of each of the 87 emotions and experiences.
As a GTM practitioner, I particularly admire how the themes are organised and communicated. In line with the adventure and map metaphors that encourage an openness in exploring the sometimes inscrutable processes of ourselves and others, emotions are grouped under headings starting with “Places we go when…” There is such creativity together with a passion for communicating the research here!
The book manages to maintain a scientific rigour while confidently sharing findings that have major implications for its readers, without compromising on reader engagement. This was done through understandable references to the research process, inclusion of anecdotes that increase the relatability of the findings, and highlighting areas where more research is needed. I am also impressed by how Brown and the research team behind this book triangulated their findings with other researchers’, forming a coherent map of where existing research is at.
On a personal note of one takeaway from AotH, the chapter covering shame and humiliation provoked much thought. Research has highlighted the connection between humiliation and violence, and how shame affects behaviour. Brown discusses how this has various implications on organisations and even social media behaviour, given that shame and humiliation is more of a default than supportive responses. At the heart of these two experiences is a profound social disconnection that can either paralyse or lead to acting out. Brown writes that empathy from others and self-compassion are key to neutralising shame, both about being kind to the stories we hear or have. The latter part about self-compassion was new to me, and I found the reference made to Kristin Neff’s research very helpful. You can take the self-compassion test here to understand more and grow in that area 😄