“The Language of Emotions” by Karla McLaren

Subtitle: What Your Feelings are Trying to Tell You

Recommended to me by: a client

I read a couple of books lately that had their good points, but I only got half way through them, and when I started to post about them I had more negative thoughts than positive ones, so I deleted the drafts.

This book was the opposite experience. When it came due at the library and I was only half way through, I went out and bought a copy. While there were aspects that didn’t work for me, overall I encountered a lot of solid, useful insights.

Karla McLaren shares her history as an abuse survivor and an empath, offers simple practices to work skillfully with emotions, and then analyzes how each emotion fits into her framework. All emotions are equally valid, from anger to joy to suicidal urges. Trauma recovery is woven through the book.

Emotions (corresponding with water) are seen as part of an inner village with the intellect (air), body (earth), and spirit/vision (fire). Health is a village in dynamic balance, responding with agility to ongoing events.

The practices she recommends are grounding, defining boundaries, burning contracts, conscious complaining, and rejuvenation.

I’ve found that visualization is a superficial activity for me, so visualizing a grounding cord descending into the earth does not substantially change my energy. Visualizing the destruction of my “contracts” with old behaviors and memories sounds wonderful, but I haven’t seen much effect from cutting cords and similar rituals.

She suggests sending anger into one’s boundary, which sounds like great advice, although I’m not quite sure how to do it. She also says, “People won’t know you’re angry,” which sounds like a bit of judgment about anger sneaking in.

Since these practices form the core of McLaren’s work with emotions, I wish I resonated better with them. I suspect I do some form of them in a more wordless way, sensing rather than visualizing.

The detailed analysis of each emotion includes associated questions to ask or statements to make when the emotion arises, along with gifts the emotion brings and advice on how to integrate the emotion honorably into one’s life.

Emotion Purpose Questions/Statements
Anger Protection and Restoration What must be protected? What must be restored?
Apathy and Boredom The Mask for Anger What is being avoided? What must be made conscious?
Guilt and Shame Restoring Integrity Who has been hurt? What must be made right?
Hatred The Profound Mirror What has fallen into my shadow? What must be reintegrated?
Fear Intuition and Action What action must be taken?
Confusion The Mask for Fear What is my intention? What action should be taken?
Jealousy and Envy Relational Radar What has been betrayed? What must be healed and restored?
Panic and Terror Frozen Fire What has been frozen in time? What healing action must be taken?
Sadness Release and Rejuvenation What must be released? What must be rejuvenated?
Grief The Deep River of the Soul What must be mourned? What must be released completely?
Depression Ingenious Stagnation Where has my energy gone? Why was it sent away?
Suicidal Urges The Darkness Before Dawn What idea or behavior must end now? What can no longer be tolerated in my soul?
Happiness Amusement and Anticipation Thank you for this lively celebration!
Contentment Appreciation and Recognition Thank you for renewing my faith in myself!
Joy Affinity and Communion Thank you for this radiant moment!

There is much more information in the book than I have covered here. Highly recommended!

Available at Powell’s Books.

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