The best books to help you develop emotional badassery

Who am I?

Emotions, we’ve all been told, are less than: less than logic, or spirituality, or anything else, really. Yet no matter how smart, spiritual, or talented people are, they can be brought to their knees by an emotion they don’t understand. Emotions have been thrown into the shadow, yet in the shadow lives immense power, so I dedicated my life to finding the power in the emotional realm. It’s been a magnificent adventure because our emotions contain genius, and they’re a part of everything we think and everything we do. Emotions aren’t less than anything; emotions are everything, and I’m so glad that they’ve welcomed me into their world.

I wrote...

The Language of Emotions

By Karla McLaren,

Book cover of The Language of Emotions

What is my book about?

This is the book I needed as a child, as a young woman healing from severe trauma, and as deeply emotive person in an emotionally baffled culture. Our learned distrust and even hatred of emotions creates ignorance and suffering that is entirely unnecessary, and in this book, I dive into the gorgeous and brilliant waters of the emotions in order to retrieve what has been taken from us. 

Strangely, this is the first book ever to focus on all seventeen emotions in terms of how they work, why they arise, and how you can learn to work with, befriend, and embrace all of them. It’s an owner’s manual for human social life and interior life, and it’s a love letter to the emotions. And hell yeah, it’s badass.

The books I picked & why

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The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Feeling

By Arlie Russell Hochschild,

Book cover of The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Feeling

Why this book?

We all do emotional labor, but most of us don’t get paid for it. Hell, most of us don’t even get noticed for it! The Managed Heart brings this labor out of the shadows, and it’s a life-changing book. Sociologist Arlie Hochschild developed the concept of emotional labor, which is the labor we do to manage our own emotions and the emotions of others in the context of our work. 

Emotional labor is crucial, but it’s nearly always unacknowledged, unsupported, and treated as something you should already know how to do – for free! This book helps you observe the hidden world of emotional labor and develop your own approach to this vital form of work.

The Happiness Myth: The Historical Antidote to What Isn't Working Today

By Jennifer Michael Hecht,

Book cover of The Happiness Myth: The Historical Antidote to What Isn't Working Today

Why this book?

We live with so many toxic myths about happiness, and many of these myths come from books about happiness! The Happiness Myth steps up to defend happiness from all the nonsense. It’s a rollicking and often-hilarious tour through the history of human happiness, full of surprises and strange-but-true ideas to ponder. 

Historian and poet Jennifer Michael Hecht challenges our current certainties in this irreverent and well-researched exploration of what our ancestors (and we!) need to live happy lives. She’s a wonderful and witty person to spend time with, and she’ll help you become more intelligent about the true and everlasting nature of human happiness. Happy now?

The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence

By Gavin de Becker,

Book cover of The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence

Why this book?

Fear is not the problem! Fear arises to help you deal with the problem! Gavin de Becker is a security expert who declares that fear doesn’t get in our way at all. In fact, fear contains the instincts and intuition that help us stay safe in the world.

Using stories from real cases and his own life, de Becker shows us how fear works to keep us safe – and how avoiding or ignoring fear is always a very bad idea. The Gift of Fear will help you connect to the essential intelligence in your fear, and it will help you become safer, more intuitive, and more aware of the world around you. Essential reading.

How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain

By Lisa Feldman Barrett,

Book cover of How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain

Why this book?

This is a serious WTF book! Lisa Feldman Barrett is upending the entire study of emotions, hooray! Left and right brain? Nope, we don’t have two brains, and the hemispheres aren’t all that different. Lizard brain and the 3-part or triune brain? Nope! Lizard brains are just as “evolved” as ours, and our emotions don’t live in just one area of the brain.

Reading facial expressions of emotions? Nope! Humans are actually terrible at reading emotions from the face. Are there universal emotions? Nope! Is the amygdala the seat of fear or emotions in general? Nope! How Emotions Work will prompt you to say WTF? a bunch of times, but it will also teach you more about yourself and how to work with your emotions and your “body budget,” yes!

Meeting the Shadow: The Hidden Power of the Dark Side of Human Nature

By Connie Zweig, Jeremiah Abrams,

Book cover of Meeting the Shadow: The Hidden Power of the Dark Side of Human Nature

Why this book?

Hatred is one of the most destructive emotions there is – if you have no skills for hatred, that is. If you can do your shadow work (which psychoanalyst Carl Jung developed to help you work with the lost, forbidden, and projected parts of yourself) you can perform astounding feats of self-awareness, integration, healing, and evolution.

This essential book contains 65 essays on the shadow – where to find it, how to understand it in yourself and others, and how to do the shadow work that can help you find the gold in even the most troubling, dislocated, and incomplete areas of your psyche. Bonus: when you know how to do your shadow work, you’ll become more whole, and you’ll be a much easier person to live with!

5 book lists we think you will like!

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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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