Let’s get our learn on!

April 4, 2011

Cover of The Language of EmotionsAs a “do-it-aheader,” I’m preparing the curriculum for my Language of Emotions 8-week online course that starts on Tuesday, March 13th.

The course is Emotional Flow: Becoming Fluent in the Language of Emotions, and I’ll post registration information as soon as I have it (probably in December or January). This will be a wonderful, affordable, and interactive way to deepen your understanding of empathy and emotional awareness. It will be awesome!

This course will be provided through Sounds True’s online architecture, and it will have video, audio, and text components, an online forum, three live sessions for direct teaching and Q&A, and a number of downloadable learning modules.

I’m taking three of Sounds True’s courses right now so that I can take the online infrastructure out for a spin. It’s fun! I think we’ll be able to create a really interactive and informative way to explore empathy and emotions in a community forum. Yeeha!

Here’s my question for you as I prepare the course materials: As a reader, what would you want to focus on in an online course? What specific areas are of interest to you, and what would you want to learn?

Thanks for your input. I appreciate you!


Stephanie April 4, 2011 at 11:26 pm

More of the specific, real life, what it looks like when it’s at home examples for ferreting out emotional clarity. Because of your book, I have recently told a friend that her “gut reaction” is telling the truth — but the truth about what? That’s what she has to figure out. I’d like to see some good clear instructions on How To Find the Current in the stream we stand in.

Martha Cravens. PhD April 5, 2011 at 12:37 am

Karla, I love your work. I especially hunger for learning around energetic boundaries, self-care, and self-awareness. BTW, I liked the Levine clip, but found myself distracting myself by trying to decipher the book titles immediately behind him (I’m sure one was “The Gift” by Hafiz….!

Terre Spencer April 5, 2011 at 9:35 am

Hi Karla,

• Correlating body sensations with nascent feelings.
• Returning to the body after a dissociation
• Dealing with the dissociations of others
• How to identify—early on—that the feelings you are experiencing really belong to someone else (Attachment theory in real time, if you will)
• Using feelings to set appropriate boundaries
• The interplay of discernment and emotions

Very much looking forward to the course. A feeling of excited anticipation! 🙂

Many Blessings,

Kallie April 5, 2011 at 12:06 pm


Thanks for the opportunity to contribute. I second the items Terre Spencer has listed, especially the skills around discerning what feelings are yours and what are likely someone else’s.

I’d also like to learn more about how to stay grounded in who and where you are in the moment, while allowing others to have their feelings – so supporting them in this way (without being taken over by what’s going on for them, and also not running away).

And yes, more practical examples in tough places like work and family situations.

Much gratitude for your work!

Jill Rosen April 5, 2011 at 12:52 pm

I would particularly like to know how to let myself cry. Every once in a while it spontaneously happens, but most of the time the impetus rises, then fades, and I’m suspicious that I’m repressing it – even when I’m alone and in a safe place.

One other difference is the involvement of my throat. When it happens spontaneously, it is not a throat tightening thing, and often is not a sobbing thing, just tears streaming from my eyes; the repressed version hurts in my throat.

Julie Smith April 5, 2011 at 12:54 pm

Hi karla, I’m brand new to your site. I would like to learn more about how to become more centered in my heart when I am “triggered” and experiencing intense emotion. I want to know how to connect with myself and others in an authentic, loving way. Thanks!

Paulette April 5, 2011 at 6:59 pm

I cried at many points while reading The Language of Emotions. I had finally found not only a kindred “weirdo” but realized that my empathic way of being in the world was close if not identical to yours. I grew up in an extremely overexpressed and violent household. I am in my 60s now and have been in and out of therapy for 40 years but have never, not once, encountered someone who treats ALL the feelings with such honor as you do.

I have been trying to attain emotional mastery for a lifetime, but without models or effective skill sets have not been able to set myself fully free, although I never stop trying. Your courage to put your personal experiences and voice to sacred use will likely save my life and many others.

I have ordered your 7 CD set and will be immersed in it for the next several months while you are preparing your online course (which I’m sure I will also experience). As I am doing this, I will also quit a 45-year smoking habit (my anger/fear distraction), and quit an enduring overeating habit (my sadness/despair distraction).

I would like some recorded guided imagery in key skill sets like grounding to earth’s core, burning contracts, conscious complaining, deep breathing for sadness release… little digitized sessions of less than 10 minutes each that I can put on my iPod. I want to be able to reach for my iPod instead of a cigarette, or a drink, or a sugar hit and get true relief instead of a destructive and forever delaying distraction. I assume at some point, I will no longer need the iPod and will be able to call forth the exercise in my own self-talk.

My greatest challenge and most energized goal is to be able to set boundaries with authentic, yet measured, anger that does no harm to myself or others. So much harm came to me by the raging of others that I am literally terrified of anger in any form, inside me or coming from others. As an empath, I feel anger in a person or room before it is ever expressed and go automatically into a hyper-vigilant state of threat. Any elucidation or skill sets to neutralize that response would be a miracle for my soul.

You, your creative work, and practices are the answer to a lifelong prayer of my yearning heart. My appreciation runs deeper than you’ll ever know. You are doing your part and I’m certainly ready to do mine.

Karla April 5, 2011 at 8:46 pm

Wow, these are so great! I don’t want to break the flow here, but I love it when a community comes together to create a bigger brain. Yay!

And Paulette, great idea about the little ipod snippets of practice. I gotta look into it.

Thank you! Carry on!

Gai Kenny April 7, 2011 at 3:11 am

In the Reviving Your Essential Nature chapter, in the balancing section I want more information on how to do that. How to figure out where you are out of balance and to remedy it.

I absolutely love your book, so many great tools and explanations of what the emotions mean!

Katrina April 8, 2011 at 8:01 pm

I, too, have found “The Language of Emotions” to be invaluable in reminding me to value all my emotions — which is very necessary to my creative work as an actor and to my health as a human being.

One of my biggest struggles, though, is how to make the transitions between situations in which it is not safe to be my fully emotional self (e.g., many business environments) and situations in which I am in a safe place (e.g., with a close friend) or in which I need to tap into my emotions fully (e.g., as an actor).

I went through three years of daily teasing, bullying, and harassment in junior high school; that’s where I learned to shut down emotionally and not show any emotions at all. I still have to call on those skills today, as an adult, in order to get along in the business world (like many actors, I have a “day job” to pay the bills). But after spending 8-10 hours at work, keeping my emotions repressed, I sometimes find it very hard to “drop the armor” and let myself be tender, sensitive, and vulnerable as an actor … or as a human being.

susan johanson April 10, 2011 at 2:45 am

I am creating a laundry list of what I would like to learn.

Will get back to you soon.

Thanks for asking.

Beka April 12, 2011 at 2:09 am

I just finished The Language of Emotions (audiobook) and I think I’ll listen again. Lots of good stuff in there. Thank you.

Two emotions that I have a hard time with and would like to learn more about:
-Gratitude. (it feels like debt to me, thank you… now what do I owe you in return?)
-Compassion. (so hard to feel compassion without feeling the pain of the being who needs the compassion. I can’t watch tv news or hear stories of suffering without being effected deeply)

Louisya April 12, 2011 at 4:49 pm

Hi Karla

I too just love your book and it has help me so much in identifying the emotions I have been repressing. What are your thoughts around lack, loss or need of respect and validation? Which emotions fall into those categories? It would be great to have meditations with a choice of music and or guided meditations as I find guided meditations to be a pain to listen to.

Bee April 14, 2011 at 4:50 pm

I just finished Language of Emotions – I actually found myself making it last longer even though I wanted to finish it as fast as possible! It’s the first truly effective tool I have found (including years of therapy) that directly addressed my sensitivities, repression, a healthy look at the benefits of ‘negative emotion’ and emotional channeling – and caring in a non-coddling way. Thank you Karla! I love the idea of the 10 minute recorded tools – a great thing to have when one feels the tsunami of emotion coming until practice can create those new neural networks of allowing and release. I would also really like some suggestions and examples of positive pathways of expression subsequent to the contract burning and rejuvenation – how does one then address boundary violations in a healthy way (this coming from a dissociative represser of 50 years)(your next book?). Grateful, grateful and grateful! I have recommended your book to sooo many already. What a gift you have given to me – the power of expression instead of repression. I hear cheering….!!!!

Mary Ann Ribble April 15, 2011 at 3:39 pm


A couple of wishes:

address staying with body sensations long enough to recognize what “I am feeling” What emotion IS this?
And the connection with thoughts/memories/imagery that arise at the same time.
Also I experience that staying with these internal experiences can be difficult as a different “part ” can arise to “protect” me or “distract me from what was long ago a potentially life threatening and overwhelming emotion.
I have worked with EMDR and IFS therapy which integrates and helps me to “observe ” and feel the different parts/and their emotions and reactions. are you familiar with either?
I am also wondering about computer needs to participate in something interactive as I often have a delay in video/audio playout: The audio is ahead of the video/visual.

Karla April 16, 2011 at 7:20 pm

Here are the responses from Facebook, which I’m putting here so everything will be in one place. Check out this new post: http://karlamclaren.com/emotions-action-requiring-neurological-programs

I’ve been running around this week, but I’ll get in and respond soon. Thanks for your input!!

From Facebook:

Terre Spencer: Will give it some thought and respond. I am thinking something along the lines of correlating body sensations with nascent feelings.
And returning to the body after a dissociation. And dealing with the dissociations of others. And how to identify—early on—that the feelings you have really belong to someone else. Attachment theory in real time, if you will. Looking forward to the course. 🙂

….Janice Kramer Camp: How to work with the feelings once they are identified. In other words: how to unlock the messages they have for us.

….Kay Scott: How to be ‘present’ and ‘in the moment”/current with feelings – i.e. not being so swept away by emotions that I can’t ‘be’ with them.

….Michelle Price Emanuel: finding the blessing in the emotion and asking the questions….and taking the time to listen for the answers. shadow walk or some sort of this activity was very beneficial.

….Ian Spier: want less burnout, more courage, find more of the lotus in the mud. anger was not allowed in the house I grew up in. took a lifetime to even wake up. is no wonder why “anger shrines” spoke so clearly to me. long overdue component of dignity.

….Gail G. Kenny: When you have identified where you are out of balance, how to get back into balance.

Joan Shepherd, FNP April 17, 2011 at 12:30 pm

I work in the substance abuse field as well as family practice. after reading your work (required reading for my Mind-Body Coaching class with Abigail Steidley) I realize that most of my clients have experienced trauma. Ouch.
Because I believe there are healing modalities for these folks, I am now gently asking them about their trauma experiences. In the past, i would not want to open the can of worms if I didn’t know how to help them. there are too many time constraints to do this well in a 15 minute office setting….maybe!
I’ve made little cards I carry around in my pocket to pull out and give to patients. In the center is a human figure with flow lines circulating around. it’s divided into quadrants. Fear, Sadness, Anger in 3 of them, each with the questions to ask, the gifts they give, signs of obstruction and practice–from your work.
i’d love to keep working towards bringing this work into primary care.
so, think about that, please! thanks.

susan normandia April 20, 2011 at 1:44 am

A Few Things I Want to Learn….

Empath Lab
Your books and tapes provide ample information for a lifetime of self study. What I am needing is practice with the techniques and a forum for getting feedback with challenges. Something like a lab class for empaths.

Morning/Movement Practice
Which is the best 30 minute morning practice for my astrological elemental type Dagara water, Chinese monkey, Western astrology 7planets in fire,6 in water NO earth.

Grounding, Grounding, and more Grounding.
Practice getting connected. More on symptoms of not being grounded. Ways to reconnect quickly within the context of the work environment.

Energetic Hygiene
I know when I am off balance, but challenged discerning how and when I lost my centre. I would like a step by step check list to go through to determine which system is out. (Ref: car analogy in Energetic Boundaries Disk 1)

Things Biological
After twenty five plus years of studying the relationship between my diet and my emotional/spiritual body,I want to compare notes with other empaths. My hypothesis is that allergies are also about boundaries. How are sensitivities to food, pet dander, electromagnetic frequencies, chemicals, and the the tendency to take on heavy metals related to being empathic? The liver disabled by the stress of trauma is part of it but there is so much more to it.

Also ways to remediate the neurological damage of childhood trauma, amino acid therapy, meditation and breathing techniques, somatic work.

Fear /Faith Axis
How to move from a habitual default pattern of fear to one of faith and trust.

Empaths in Love
Sexual intimacy can be problematic for empaths. Specifically, being sexually co-dependent, feeling the other persons energy in lieu of ones own. How to reconnect with the self in this most intimate of unions.

Maria Barajas April 26, 2011 at 9:10 pm

I love the work that you are doing. After I read your book I can understand my emotions in a better way. I will like to learn more I about burning contracts and being grounded.

Karla April 27, 2011 at 4:58 am

Okay, finally home in front of my real computer. Thanks for your responses. I’m working them into my prep for the workshop. A few specific responses:

Stephanie: Articulations help, such as asking not just which emotion it is, but what intensity it has as well. The Emotional Vocabulary list can help with that. If your friend wants to identify emotions earlier in their progression, this post on the difference between feelings and emotions may be helpful.

Jill: Can you cry along with a sad movie (that is built to make you cry!), or do you still get the throat pain?

Paulette: I, too experienced rageful anger in my childhood, and for me, a big piece of the puzzle was to separate anger and fear. For many years, I experienced any threat to my voice or standpoint (which evokes anger) as a threat to my existence (which evokes fear), and wow, did that make being edited a horror! It’s nice to have them separated, and I’ll focus on that in the workshop. Thanks!

Katrina: I’m going to send out a newsletter about creating thresholds, which really seems to help sensitive people prepare for transitions. I know you’re an actor, so I’ll use a backstage/front-stage analogy here: Each place you go seems to require a different character on the front-stage, but just make sure that you have ample backstage areas or repair stations so that you can think your own thoughts and keep an interior throughline in your day (I’ll say more about that in the newsletter). I, too, have to be many different people, so I’ve become very interior, which is my portable repair station. I call myself a “non-practicing introvert” when I have to go on stage, and it sets a workable tone.

Beka: I see gratitude and compassion as more like attitudes than emotions proper, but both are very social and relational. As you look at other relational emotions, do you work well with them?

Louisya: The emotion I see around issues of respect and validation is anger!

Joan: Emotion Cards! I’m having them designed now, and they’ll be offered as a part of the workshop. Yay!

Mary Ann: There will be two live sessions where I’ll be speaking over a video feed, but I don’t think your playback issue will be a big deal. There won’t be anything taught by video that you’ll have to quickly know or else fail 😉 You’ll have plenty of time to digest the info, and I think you get to maintain your online connection to the material for weeks or months after the class has ended.

Susan: Thanks for your focused response! Possible quandary: I’m no longer working from a spiritual or metaphysical perspective. Will that be a hindrance for you?


Cynthia April 28, 2011 at 2:39 am


I love your Emotional Genius CDs. What I find challenging as a stepmom is the pain, rage, hurt, and frustration of dealing with that situation. You have suggested moving away from people who hurt you or are abusive, but this is not very doable in a step-mom’s situation. It is a huge challenge – especially for women who want to be open and loving, but are the target of a lot of anger and hurt from the kids and often the ex-wives, and there are more step-families than traditional families in America at this point. I can not disengage from my husband, his ex, and these teenage kids of his (ours). So some of what we stepmoms need are ways to build stronger boundaries, shield ourselves against toxic people, and stay grounded while suffering the slings and arrows. Any suggestions would be great. Thanks!

Karla April 28, 2011 at 9:00 pm

Hi Cynthia!

I googled “step-parent support” and got an eyeful! Wow, it’s a huge issue! But that means that there will be support groups. When you’re dealing with a social (rather than personal) issue like this, it’s imperative to surround yourself with people who share the issue. Just working on your own emotions isn’t going to do much, because the issue isn’t about you.

Here’s a national site that has some interesting stepfamily myths, and here’s a page of links to stepfamily support venues (from another site). When you’re outnumbered, it’s time to bring in a community of support!

Hope that helps,

Beka April 28, 2011 at 10:55 pm

Ummm…. what else would be “relational emotions”? (I tried to google that, twas not too helpful!)

Karla April 28, 2011 at 11:10 pm

Oh, sorry B, the relational or sociological emotions are shame, jealousy, and envy – but they’re all relational if you think about it too hard. I mean, we can’t really relate with one another if we leave emotions out of the picture! What I was looking at in your question was two emotions that help us connect with others, and wondering if the trouble was in the area of relationships and connection in general?

Mercedes April 30, 2011 at 5:11 pm

Thank you so much for asking about our emotional needs. I would love to learn to interact properly with others by using the right words to avoid triggering negative emotions, deactivating anger, resentment, guilt, etc in others and myself whenever it comes up instead of becoming defensive, learning to manage unpleasant conversations that often escalate and leave me with a very uncomfortable energy inside. In other words, I would like to be emotionally intelligent in my relationships. I’m sure you have a lot of wisdom to share in that sense. Thanks!

Debra April 30, 2011 at 6:04 pm

Hi…I would love to explore the whole emotional intersection where anxiety, fear, avoidance, and procrastination collide. I think that this would be an excellent area to investigate and better understand. It seems to me that instead of anger used as a boundary, some people learn (in a maladaptive way) that they can use anxiety as a boundary. When a person uses anxiety instead of anger to create a boundary, I believe others stay away from her because she makes the other person feel uncomfortable so that they do not have to face whatever is causing the fear in the first place. Does that make any sense?

Karla April 30, 2011 at 6:27 pm

Debra, oh hellzyeah it makes sense. Here’s a post on anxiety and procrastination, and in the book on page 238, I talk about people who use fear when they should use anger, and wow, it’s very problematic. Nice emotional detective work you did!

John May 18, 2011 at 12:18 pm

I would be interested in examining how people are emotionally seduced into joining cults and following cult leaders. The link below is to a 7 minute clip of a man who claims he is Jesus and who is “charmingly” using his understanding of how people struggle with emotional expression to seduce them. Ugh!


Karla May 18, 2011 at 4:26 pm

Thanks John! Wow, this guy is persuasive. And Jesus, no less. And he’s doing the new age schtick about anger being a cover for other emotions. Which means he’s detaching people from their anger so that they can’t set boundaries against him or against the nutty stuff that will certainly go on in the group. Wow. The thing is, I’m going to say he stumbled upon this, because I’ve known people who eventually became cult leaders, and they didn’t start out to manipulate, but rather to heal or lead or whatever, and then the thing snowballs.

Have you been to the cult awareness sites of Janja Lalich and John Knapp? Those two are really helping to identify cult manipulation, and both are working to help people get out of cults and heal afterward.

You know, I may post on the emotional manipulation that occurs in groups like this, but it’s important to note that emotional manipulation occurs in totally non-religious contexts — say, in the military, in fraternities and sororities, in abusive relationships, and in workplaces where things go insane (Enron has been likened to a cult). So it’s something to watch out for in every context. Thanks for bringing this up!

Stephanie May 18, 2011 at 4:37 pm

WOW!!! Thanks so much, John, for posting that, and thanks, Karla, for that answer! Yes, religious contexts, but all those others too, and every bit as damaging no matter where it happens. That’s really good stuff, and I’m passing it along now.

John May 20, 2011 at 12:46 pm

You are very welcome Karla and Stephanie! I agree that emotional manipulation (consciously or unconsciously on the part of any/all parties) can occur in any context. It requires emotional intelligence to identify and resist emotional manipulation! This reminds me of something I read in the “12 Keys to Spiritual Vitality: Powerful Lessons on Living Agelessly” by Robert P. Johnson, Ph.D. Key #11 is “Make Your Feelings Work For You”. Johnson writes: “Some feelings refresh the soul, inspire the mind, and renew the spirit, while others diminish the heart through discouragement and disappointment. We are not, however, trapped into feeling any particular way. Part of growing wiser as we grow ever more mature is learning that we can choose which kind of feelings we allow to linger within. Of all the functions of the personality, feelings are the most difficult for us to accept. Feelings pose the most direct pain potential of any of the functions; this is precisely because we FEEL them. We may not know what we’re thinking, but many times we have at least a vague sense of what we’re feeling, even if it’s only “good” or “bad.” Sometimes people are completely unable to express their feelings. Psychiatry calls such people alexithymic. Literally, alexithymia means having no words for feelings. When asked, “How are you feeling?” an alexithymic person will say, after a very long pause, “OK” or “good” or “no good.” Such people are not facile in expressing their feelings because they are blocked in connecting a felt sense with a word. Unfortunately, each of us is alexithymic to some degree, unable to express how we feel, and hence unable to feel.” For me, it was only through the pursuit of writing and artistic expression (drawing, painting, making collages) that I was able to learn to express how I felt and thus be able to feel. I am reminded of a great Dennis the Menace one-panel cartoon where he is starting to draw a picture and tells his mother that he won’t know what he is drawing until he finished! Automatic drawing, where one just lets go of conscious control and intention allows unconscious (denied, forbidden, fearful) emotions to be expressed, with the conscious mind then seeks to artfully shape the final product. It would be interesting to start the 8 week online course with examples of how we are all alexithymic in various ways around various emotional issues!

John May 20, 2011 at 12:51 pm

I would amend that to examples of how we have BEEN alexithymic in past, as maturation has allowed us to uncover previously hidden/unconscious/unidentified feelings!

Elizabeth May 21, 2011 at 3:10 pm

Oh Karla,

How I applaud and thank you for your gifts of very revolutionary insights!!! I’ve listened to 2 of your audio CD sets… sighing and smiling and cheering along the way. You have given validation and clarity to some of the crazy/great/weird experiences I’ve had. “Energy” is as natural and common as sunshine! And what fun to play with it in a more conscious and intentional manner.

The radical awareness of my own energetic boundaries and conduit behaviors is empowering. (I am still in the very beginning wake-up stage, able to say whoopsie! when I start running someone else’s energy. I used to think I was helping them though wasn’t comfortable with the idea that I had some power that they didn’t!) Your lessons have been teaching me that we all have the power to balance ourselves. This feels so right.

I look forward to your on-line course, and further explanations of how we can hold another’s hand and lead them back to themselves. In particular, I would love to hear your ideas about our relationships with animals — especially dogs and horses.

Bravo! Thank you!

Karla May 21, 2011 at 6:55 pm

Hi Elizabeth! Wow! Thanks for your comment. So much has changed since I produced those CD sets. It seems like I did them a lifetime ago! I’m focusing specifically on empathy now. Here’s a quick update: http://karlamclaren.com/about-karla

Collette May 31, 2011 at 5:51 am

I love your book- it has been so helpful to me with validating and identifying emotions and then knowing what to do. My problem is that once I do identify an emotion I then need to figure out what to do with it… it takes me a while to look it up in the book.
Perhaps a handy “cheat sheet”? Often by the time I look in the book the strong emotions are dissipating.
Thanks, Collette

Karla May 31, 2011 at 5:58 am

Thanks Collette! I’m actually creating a set of emotion cards that will have the five skills and all of the emotions with their gifts and the questions you ask of them. It will be a part of the online course.

I’ve been planning them for a while, but printing and distribution really were a problem. But I’ve figured out how to create them as a downloadable file for people to print at home. I’m looking forward to sharing them!

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