Researcher, scholar and bestselling author Brené Brown has spent the last two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame and empathy.
His TEDx lecture, “The Power of Vulnerability”, is one of the five most watched TED lectures in the world with over 50 million views.
In her sixth and most recent book, Atlas of the Heart, she takes us on a journey through 87 emotions and experiences that define what it means to be human.
Mrs Brown spoke to Anita Rani, presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, about her new book and our feelings.
Here are 7 things we learned from her …
We do not have just three emotions – it’s more like 87
Brené’s new book examines the 87 emotions and experiences that define what it means to be human. She told Woman’s Hour how she arrived at that number and why what she called “emotional granularity” matters.
“We ran a giant online course for a year and got over 500,000 comments. We anonymized them, submitted them for protocol approval of research projects involving people to do secondary analyzes, we found 150 emotions that were very difficult for people to mention, and when they were able to name and label them accurately, it led to understanding and even healing. “
“Until recently, research has shown that we can accurately name and feel three emotions: happiness, sadness and anger. That means we cram all the nuanced emotions we have – disappointment, resentment, fear, worry, admiration, amazement – in these three emotions.
“Emotional granularity is the ability to be very specific about what we feel. Studies show that the more granular we are in our ability to name what we feel, the better we can handle it, regulate it, overcome it. It is a positive emotion we can reproduce it in our life.Emotional granularity is strongly correlated with very positive life outcomes.
2. Recognizing emotions can make you feel like you have superpowers
At the opening of the book, Brené Brown talks about her childhood and how no one in her family talked about emotions. It had an unusual effect on her.
“So for me it was a kind of survival thing, and also as an elder, in the task of protecting my brothers in what was a very intense family, intense love, intense joy and also intense anger, an intense lack of predictability about how things should unfold, I learned very early, very quickly, to recognize patterns and connections between people’s behavior, their thoughts, and their emotions. “
“And I got really, really good at it. To the point that when I went to high school, I thought, maybe I’m like a witch, or I have superpowers. It worked at home, it’s worked with coaches, it’s worked with teachers, people in my class just wanted to say, ‘It’s not working, get ready’ And they said, ‘She has not said anything yet’ And I said, ‘I can feel your facial expression, it’s not working’. “
Anger is a necessary catalyst for change, but a terrible life companion.
Many of us may consider anger a “bad feeling”, but Brené Brown does not like to describe it that way.
“Anger is a necessary emotion. What we need to avoid is feeling emotions as good or bad. They just are.”
“There’s something in anger. For a long time, like other researchers, I wondered if anger was a legitimate primary emotion or always a secondary emotion that covers something else. And 91% of emotion researchers believe today. Now that anger is a primary emotion, anger is a primary emotion.it can hide things because it’s much easier to say ‘I’m so angry’ than ‘I’m hurt’ or ‘I’m disappointed’ or ‘I’m sorry’.
“But let me tell you about anger. Anger is a beautiful and necessary catalyst for change. But anger must trigger something. It is a terrible companion for life. But it is a very important catalyst for change. We see something that is unfair. , unfairly, our angry reaction is what nourishes the change.But it is costly both physically, emotionally and spiritually to stay there.
Contempt is worse than anger, in Brené Brown’s eyes
“Contempt is … Wow, what a feeling, it’s worse than anger. If you’re mad at me, I’m like, ‘Okay, she’s really mad at me,’ but I’m still engaged. Contempt is rejection, you have been dumped.You are not even worthy of discussion.So contempt is the fastest corrosion of a relationship.
“But also politically, in our macro-level culture, we have a lot of contempt for each other. I consider myself quite self-conscious, I have evolved a lot, but now with this new variant of Covid, I feel terrible. Contempt for people, who have not been vaccinated I feel contempt.
Brené Brown says that when she feels contempt, she meets it by relying on her faith.
“I just think about myself, you know, my challenge is to find God in the face of everyone I meet. Sometimes I have to look really good.”
5. Brené Brown no longer believes we can read emotions in others.
“One of the things that really changed for me in this book was this idea of our ability to read emotions in other people. I do not think we could do it. I thought we could do it in 20, used to I to say, “We just need to develop skills around recognizing emotions, ourselves and others. And I do not really think we can do that. I think emotions are biology, biography, behavior, background history. It is very complex.
“When you see someone angry, when you see someone angry, when you see someone in pain, I think you have to be curious, listen, become stewards of the stories they tell us about their experiences. And believe in them, even when their stories do not reflect our lived experiences. “
“One of the things I always wonder about, and ask other people all the time, is, when you see people angry and hurt, what do you have to say to yourself to make things right? See the Syrian refugees when “You see the brutality of the police in the United States, especially towards black men. What do you have to tell yourself to do that?”
“Is it the fear of discomfort? Is it the fear of complicity? Is it the fear of recognizing a privilege? Is it the fear of closing the door to the idea that this country is not what you thought it was? Bankruptcy? It works exactly as it was designed, which I think it does. “
“I think one of the reasons we are so separated from each other is that we are quite separated from ourselves. And I think if we are to find each other again, we will have to to find our way to ourselves first.And we will have to find some humanity in ourselves so that we can embrace humanity and the pain of others.
6. Nostalgia is a double-edged sword
For some people, nostalgia can be something you feel when you reflect on memories of happy days and times when things seemed easier. But for Brené Brown, this feeling has two sides.
“I thought the nostalgia was just dangerous. But I really struggled with it because there’s a big scene in the movie Ratatouille when the food critic comes in and the chef’s mouse makes him into a ratatouille and everyone says, ‘He’s a food critic, and you have to serve a pawn dish? And they put the ratatouille in front of the food reviewer … And he takes a bite and in a second he’s 5. He’s standing outside the back door of his house, looks like he fell off his bike or something. and he cries.His mother hugs him to her breast and comforts him.So she makes him sit at the kitchen table and serve him a ratatouille.Then the food critic cries.So there’s this beautiful part of nostalgia.
“It turns out that there are two sides to nostalgia. There is this, as I described in the Ratatouille scene, this reflective part. But there is also the kind of nostalgia that can be a language policy coded for everything from white supremacy over for the oppression of people of color and the oppression of women. It can be anything, “how things were when people knew their place.” “Make America Great Again was an entire campaign brilliantly built on nostalgia reminiscent of a America that has never been. In the 1950s, the rate of domestic violence was much higher than it is now, the rates of dependence were worse. “
“What researchers have found, and I am very grateful for this, is that the difference between healthy, enjoyable nostalgia and dangerously coded political nostalgia is mental ruminating.”
“I was in London, maybe 2016, and there was a time when I was sitting in the back seat of a black taxi. The taxi driver was an older white man. And he said, ‘This is where I grew up, this is where I grew up. . My school, now it’s a mosque, everything goes to hell “. And I remember thinking it’s the dangerous part of nostalgia. It’s the part where, if used properly, by powerful politicians, if you give people who are afraid of someone to blame and then validate why it’s okay for them to take their pain to other people you can control the world. “
7. To find joy and happiness, start with gratitude
“I do not think you start with joy and happiness. I think you start with gratitude. Do you think about what you are really grateful for in your life? And what do you need to do to practice gratitude around it?
“So in my case playing tennis, family dinners, laughing with my sisters. I’m so grateful for those things. But what do I do every day that my choices show that I’m trying to bring more of it into my life?