The gifts of ALL emotions—including depression

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May 12, 2015

The gifts of ALL emotions—including depression

Karla McLaren May 12, 2015

Karla McLaren is an award-winning author, social science researcher, and educator whose empathic approach to emotions informs her studies of sociology, anthropology, neurology, and cognitive psychology. With Sounds True, Karla has most recently contributed to the anthology Darkness Before Dawn: Redefining the Journey Through Depression. In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Karla and Tami Simon discuss depression as an essential human emotion—one that may carry important messages about what’s no longer working for you. They also talk about the questions you can ask of your emotions to determine their cause and the course of action they are asking you to take. Finally, Tami and Karla speak on the necessity of understanding and embracing the full range of human emotions—even those you deem unpleasant—in order to live a fuller, healthier life. (58 minutes)

Karla McLaren, M.Ed., is an award-winning author, social science researcher, and empathy innovator. She is CEO of Emotion Dynamics, developer of Dynamic Emotional Integration®, and creator of EmpathyAcademy.org. Karla is the author of Embracing AnxietyThe Dynamic Emotional Integration WorkbookThe Art of EmpathyThe Power of Emotions at Work, and the multimedia online course Emotional Flow: Becoming Fluent in the Language of Emotions. For more, visit karlamclaren.com.

Author photo © Michael Leras

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Also By Author

What Your Feelings Are Trying to Tell You

Though I’m fairly certain you’ve heard otherwise, emotions are a vital part of everything you are: every thought, every choice, every relationship, every dream, every failure, every triumph, every act of violence, and every act of love. When you can learn their language, you can change your life for the better.

And when we can all learn their language, we can change the world.

Hello! I’m Karla McLaren, and I’m excited to announce the upcoming release of the revised and updated edition of The Language of Emotions: What Your Feelings Are Trying to Tell You, which will be available in bookstores on June 27th.

Whether you’re a reader of the original Language of Emotions, or if you’re new to this work, I welcome you to this complete guide to the wisdom in every emotion you have.

The original 2010 version of The Language of Emotions was the first book to approach the emotions in terms of how they function, what they do, and how to work with them. Instead of treating emotions as problems to be solved or eradicated, I focused on them as essential aspects of meaning-making, behavior, and intelligence (which is what they truly are). I approached the emotional realm as an intelligent system that requires all of its members, including tragically disrespected emotions such as shame, anxiety, depression, jealousy, envy, panic, and the suicidal urge (among others). And in so doing, I discovered the healing messages inside all emotions.

But because most of us have been taught to distrust emotions, I was working without a net as I wrote the original version of this book, and I missed some things. Now, after more than a decade of further research and practice, and with the support and camaraderie of an international community of colleagues and friends, I’ve had the opportunity to understand the emotions more deeply.

For centuries, emotions have been repressed, idealized, distrusted, and even despised, yet they were never truly understood. I’m honored to share this updated celebration of the brilliance, ingenuity, healing power, and jaw-dropping genius of our emotions.

 

Welcome!

Karla McLaren, M.Ed.

Karla McLaren, M.Ed., is an award-winning author, social science researcher, and empathy innovator. She is CEO of Emotion Dynamics Inc., developer of Dynamic Emotional Integration®, and creator of EmpathyAcademy.org. Karla is the author of Embracing Anxiety, The Dynamic Emotional Integration Workbook, The Art of Empathy, The Power of Emotions at Work, and the multimedia online course Emotional Flow: Becoming Fluent in the Language of Emotions. For more, visit karlamclaren.com.

The Power of Emotions at Work

Karla McLaren is an award-winning author, social science researcher, and renowned expert in emotions and empathy. Her work focuses on her grand unified theory of emotions, which reconsiders how we think of “negative” emotions and opens new pathways into self-awareness, communication, and empathy. With Sounds True, Karla is the author of the landmark book The Language of Emotions, a book on The Art of Empathy, and a new book called The Power of Emotions at Work: Accessing the Vital Intelligence in Your Workplace. In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Tami Simon speaks with Karla about why the full range of emotions is necessary for us to bring forth our best thinking. They discuss the “toxic positivity bias” that has become the norm in the contemporary workplace, how this leads to widespread suffering and dysfunction, and how we can achieve an “emotionally well-regulated” workplace that works for all of us.

Karla McLaren:Making Friends with Anxiety … and All ...

Karla McLaren is an award-winning author, social science researcher, and empathy pioneer. Her work focuses on a “grand unified theory of emotions,” in which she moves us beyond looking at some emotions as negative and some as positive, and instead helps people see the genius that lives inside every single emotion. In this podcast, Tami Simon speaks with Karla about managing the multiple emotions that many of us are experiencing as we navigate both a pandemic and a time of societal transformation. Tami and Karla also discuss the importance of creating a community that shares an “emotional vocabulary,” the four keys to unlocking the wisdom of our emotions, and much more.

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The Modern Science of Nostalgia

In the first two decades of this new century, the science of nostalgia has exploded. There are now hundreds of published scientific studies exploring a wide range of questions about how humans experience nostalgia and the different roles it plays in daily life. Scholars from all over the world are now conducting diverse studies about the ways nostalgia influences our lives.

Keeping in mind the history of nostalgia, it’s amazing what we are now learning. Nostalgia is certainly not a disease and it’s far more than just a source of entertainment. By using the gold standard of science—experiments in which research participants are randomly assigned to different treatment conditions—we’ve been able to answer a number of key questions. What causes people to experience nostalgia? How does nostalgia impact how people feel about their current lives? Does nostalgia influence our interests, goals, and behavior? If so, in what ways? Do the effects of nostalgia differ from person to person?

In addition to experimental studies, we have now conducted rigorous survey studies observing how nostalgia naturally occurs and what psychological characteristics, life experiences, and behaviors it tends to be associated with. This has helped us answer other intriguing questions. Are some individuals naturally more nostalgic than others? Is there a nostalgic personality type? Are people more or less nostalgic at different ages? Are people more or less nostalgic when experiencing different life changes such as moving away from home, starting a new career, facing personal tragedy and loss, or experiencing major life disruptions such as a global pandemic?

Over the last two decades, we have asked thousands of people to document their nostalgic memories. This has given us a great deal of insight into the more qualitative experience of nostalgia, which has in turn helped us develop a more complete picture of what happens inside a person’s mind when they take a nostalgic trip down memory lane. These personal stories have guided a lot of my research questions on the topic.

Combining these different approaches to researching nostalgia, mycolleagues and I have made a number of discoveries that cast this old emotional experience in a brand-new light. We’ve put nostalgia under the microscope, and what we’ve discovered is that nostalgia doesn’t cause problems as proposed by past scholars, physicians, and psychologists. On the contrary, problems cause nostalgia.

When people are down because they feel sad, lonely, meaningless, uncertain, or even just bored, they often turn to nostalgia. Nostalgia lifts our spirits and offers stability and guidance when life becomes chaotic and the future feels uncertain. Even though nostalgia contains sentiments of loss, it ultimately makes people feel happier, more authentic and self-confident, more loved and supported, and more likely to perceive life as meaningful. In addition, nostalgia inspires action. Nostalgia starts with people self-reflecting on cherished memories, but it also drives people to look outside of themselves, help others, create, and innovate.

Though I’ve been researching nostalgia for a couple of decades now, I’ve remained excited about the topic because there is still so much to learn and so many ways to apply the knowledge we’ve gained to helping people improve their lives and the world we all share.

Journal Prompts:

Get out a pen or pencil and a piece of paper; or use a digital device, such as a phone, tablet, or computer. Briefly jot down your reactions to the following questions: 

  • How would you define nostalgia?
  • Do you consider yourself to be highly nostalgic, moderately nostalgic, or rarely nostalgic? 
  • Do you think the activities in which you engage in the present—from your work to your personal hobbies—are meaningfully influenced by nostalgia? 
  • Do you think nostalgia can help you pursue your current goals and make plans for the future? Finally, what is a nostalgic memory that really stands out as special to you? Describe this memory and how it makes you feel. 

Excerpted from Past Forward: How Nostalgia Can Help You Live a More Meaningful Life by Clay Routledge, PhD.

Clay Routledge, PhD, is a leading expert in existential psychology. His work has been featured inn the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the Guardian, the Atlantic, The New Yorker, Wired, Forbes, and more. He is the vice president of research and director of the Human Flourishing Lab at the Archbridge Institute. For more, visit clayroutledge.com.

Past Forward

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Self-Love is a Superpower

Dear Sounds True friends,

I believe self-love is a superpower.

When we treat ourselves with kindness, it turns on the learning centers of the brain and gives us the resources to face challenges and learn from our mistakes. Transformation requires a compassionate mindset, not shame.

And yet, people often worry that self-love will make them lazy, self-indulgent, or self-absorbed. Science shows just the opposite: people with greater self-love are more compassionate toward others, more successful and productive, and more resilient to stress.

The best news of all: self-love can be learned. We can rewire the structure of our brain and strengthen the neural circuitry of love toward ourselves and others. Each time we practice self-love, we grow this pathway.

My new children’s book, Good Morning, I Love You, Violet!, offers a road map for strengthening your child’s brain circuitry of deep calm, contentment, and self-love.

It is built on principles of psychology and neuroscience and offers a simple yet powerful practice.

As a mother, when asked what I believe is the most important thing we can teach our children, I always answer “self-love.” Learning to be on our own team and to treat ourselves with kindness is life-changing. There is no greater gift we can give our children. There is no greater gift we can give ourselves.

May this book plant seeds of kindness that ripple out into the world.

Shauna's signature

Shauna Shapiro, PhD

P.S. I invite you to download a free coloring sheet from the book, created by illustrator Susi Schaefer, to enjoy with the children in your life.

Shauna Shapiro is a mother, bestselling author, professor, clinical psychologist, and internationally recognized expert in mindfulness and self-compassion. She lives in Mill Valley, California. Learn more at drshaunashapiro.com.

Nataly Kogan: Living in a Friendly and Joy-Filled Univ...

What brings you your greatest joy? How do you access your inner “awesome”? Nataly Kogan has made it her life’s work to help people overcome burnout and break free from endless busyness. In this podcast, Tami Simon speaks with Nataly about her new book, The Awesome Human Journal, and the practical steps we can begin to take right now to shift out of self-defeating thought patterns (and their corresponding emotions), reclaim our energy, and share our gifts with the world. 

Tune in as Tami and Nataly discuss insights from neuroscience that everyone should know; the human brain’s negativity bias; creating a better relationship with your thoughts—a key to well-being and emotional fitness; the worst-case scenario exercise; finding certainty in uncertain times; working within your sphere of impact; cultivating agency; freedom from skepticism and mistrust; living an aligned life in a universe that is friendly; energetic self-care; breaking the habit of denying ourselves joy; changing our habitual frame of reference to something positive and supportive; and more.

Note: This episode originally aired on Sounds True One, where these special episodes of Insights at the Edge are available to watch live on video and with exclusive access to Q&As with our guests. Learn more at join.soundstrue.com.

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