Book Review: The Language of Emotions by Karla McLaren



I used to frown upon “negative” emotions because I was anxious about what others thought of me.

If I am scared of something, they might think I am a coward…

If I get mad, they might think I’m not kind…

And if  I cry because I’m sad, I’m emotional…

But, according to Gabor Mate, a renowned physician and author, our behaviors do not come from our choices but from our environment. They are responses to what's happening around us.

In other words, our belief about “negative” emotions rose from our homes, schools, and communities. One way or the other, we absorb what our family, teachers, friends, and other people believe, and make them our own. But then, just because the majority think a certain way doesn't mean it's right. The “normal” way of treating positive, negative, and neutral emotions can lead to miscommunication, misunderstanding, and physical, mental, and emotional pain. 

The book, The Language of Emotions, written by Kara McLaren, an empathy expert and CEO of  Emotion Dynamics Inc., explores the deepest meanings of these emotions. McLaren created a “unified theory of emotions” to demystify the complexity of these inner-body forces and their function, unraveling their wisdom that guides us in responding to our feelings without destroying ourselves and others. 

McLaren also wrote several other books about the power of emotions such as The Power of Emotions at Work (2021), Embracing Anxiety (2020), and The Art of Empathy (2013). 


Emotions are a basic part of our being. They carry a huge amount of energy that could hurt us if they are suppressed or released without care. 

Managing them, which is crucial for our health, is like managing a campfire. It can be warm and comforting, giving you light and heat. But if left unchecked, it could turn into a raging fire that causes harm and danger. Because of this, emotions are commonly divided into light and dark, embraced or shunned. 

To unravel the other side of the emotions, Karla McLaren wrote The Language of Emotions to explain what they are, what their families are, and how to work with them. She shares her own experiences that brought her intense emotions and exposed the effects of other strategies in dealing with them. 

The book goes beyond categorizing emotions into good or bad, positive or negative, or honored or dishonored. 


  1. What did you learn from the book?
  2. Which parts of the book do you like the best?
  3. Did any examples in the book change your beliefs about emotions?
  4. Are there any parts of the book you disagree with, and why?
  5. How do the book’s ideas help you manage your emotions?
  6. What have you learned about yourself while reading?
  7. How can you manage “negative” emotions better?
  8. What questions would you ask the author? Why?
  9. How does the book’s take on emotions help you reach your long-term goals?
  10. Would you recommend this book? Why or why not?




  • In the first part of the book, with raw honesty, McLaren bares her soul by revealing the painful events in her life that overwhelmed her mentally, physically, and spiritually. As a highly empathic person, she couldn’t control the deluge of emotions and their effects on her body. She went on trying different ways to handle them but they didn’t work. Never giving up, she decided to dig deeper into understanding emotions and their message.  
  • McLaren explains comprehensively each major emotion- fear, anger, sadness, and happiness. They play a role in keeping different emotions flowing. She also touches on the other feelings related to each major one and explains their nuances. For example, sadness helps us to let go of things that don’t work. Grief and depression are part of the sadness family and they also carry important information that we could use to move forward in life. 
  • After the stories and explanations, McLaren went on listing and elaborating the simple yet effective techniques of handling the enormous energy of emotions that can be applied in a few minutes anytime, anywhere. 


  • Some explanations are repetitive but it didn’t bother me that much. I somehow find it helpful in deeply understanding the concept being taught in the book. 


Karla McLaren is an empath who underwent tumultuous events in her life that caused her to feel a deluge of different emotions. She explored different strategies for handling the energy coming from these emotions but they didn’t completely help her. Instead, she digs deeply to understand the function of every positive and negative emotion and to create her own techniques for handling them. All of these are included in her book, The Language of Emotions. 

The book does a great job of explaining the definition and roles of emotions including their nuances. The families of sadness, anger, fear, and happiness are broken down further with more examples and real-life applications. If the goal of the author is to make the reader appreciate even the “negative” emotions, then she succeeds. Emotions are not good or bad, they carry a message that needs to be heeded, otherwise, they mess with our psyches and life choices. Self-awareness can help us connect with them so we can healthily express them.

Furthermore, emotions are massive energies that are created within our bodies. They need to move and flow. To do this, the author designed techniques that are easy to do and can be applied anytime, anywhere. After practicing these methods, relief, and clarity set in that gives way to stronger relationships with yourself and others. 

If you want to know how to handle your emotions well, this book is for you. 

Thank you, Karla MacLean, Sounds True, and NetGalley for the ARC and the chance to share my honest thoughts about this book. 


Book Information:

The Language of Emotions by Karla McLaren 
Published on June 1, 2010, by Sounds True 
434 pages (eBook)

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