In one word: Mind-Altering
Cannonball Read Bingo: Heart
I was already a big Brene Brown fan before I opened this book, so I knew to steel myself for something that was going to teach me, challenge me, and break my brain a little bit. Guess what? That’s exactly what happened! This is not something to read cover to cover but is a manual for understanding and navigating emotions. It’s a good read, great even, but it took me over four months to read by design; I would pick it up, read a section, ponder it a little, and put it down for another day.
In the book, she outlines 87 (!!!) emotions and identifies the experiences that have us go to those places in our minds and hearts. For example, in the section “Places We Go When We Compare,” she covers comparison, admiration, reverence, envy, jealousy, resentment, schadenfreude, and freudenfruede. For each emotion, she gives a brief definition and explanation of how it can manifest, the good, the bad, and the ugly, weaving in anecdotes from her research and her own life. (Side note: As someone who has been using the German word schadenfreude my whole life to discuss taking pleasure at the expense of others, I was giddy to discover it actually had a positive opposite in freudenfruede, taking joy from someone else’s success. WORD NERD).
One of my major takeaways was that in misidentifying your emotions, you will stumble in understanding yourself and your needs. This dissonance can lead to inadvertently applying a good solution to the wrong problem, thereby not solving the problem. To think of it another way, if you have a stuffy nose and you take an allergy pill, but it isn’t your allergies that are the problem, then you are wasting that anti-histamine, and doing nothing for yourself (Yes, my nose is in fact rather stuffy at the moment. Inspiration, she runs close by, unlike my nose, which is not running at all). One key misidentification is jealousy versus envy. According to researchers, jealousy typically involves a triad, two people in a relationship and a rival, and the feeling of jealousy stems from a fear of losing a relationship with another person; however, the word jealous has morphed in our modern lexicon. Labeling jealousy has become a knee-jerk sensation, especially with social media ever present to show us what other people have and do, every moment that we take a peek. So “I’m so jelly” over someone else’s vacation rolls off the tongue, sounding almost compliementary of their cool experience. But if it’s really envy and not jealousy you’re experiencing, how does that change the feeling and the outcome?
Another key takeaway I had was from the section “the places we go with others” on comparative suffering. One of my most oft-used phrases is “comparison is the thief of joy,” which is a reminder that comparing yourself to others, especially if the “other” is a curated snip of what you see of someone’s lifea\, is a recipe for heartache. Almost the converse of this energy-sapping activity is comparative suffering, i.e., the feeling that you shouldn’t complain about something that’s bothering you because other people may have it worse. Brown says, “You’re worried about your teenager becoming disconnected and isolated during quarantine when thousands of people in India are dying? What we fail to understand is that the family in India doesn’t benefit more if you conserve your concern only for them and withhold it from your child who is also suffering.”
You can change the variables and apply it to any situation where you are not allowing yourself to feel hurt or complain. “What we fail to understand is that x doesn’t benefit more if you conserve your concern only for them and withhold it from y.” The Y in the equation can be yourself or others, if you are using comparitive suffering as a way to not let others vent about their own woes.
If you are wanting to dig a bit into both the human condition and your condition, specifically as a human roaming the earth with emotions to deal with, I cannot recommend this enough as an addition to your home library. I’m sure I’ll be referring to it often, and though we aren’t supposed to judge books by the covers, this one is gooorgeous.