Karla McLaren, M.Ed. is an award-winning author, social science researcher, and empathy pioneer. She is the author of The Language of Emotions: What Your Feelings are Trying to Tell You (2010), The Art of Empathy (2013), and the multi-media online course Emotional Flow: Becoming Fluent in the Language of Emotions (2012). Her most recent book is Embracing Anxiety: How to Access the Genius of this Vital Emotion (June 2020).
Karla’s lifelong work focuses on her theory of emotions, which revalues even the most “negative” emotions and opens new pathways into self-awareness, effective communication, and healthy empathy. She is the founder and CEO of Emotion Dynamics LLC and the developer of the Empathy Academy online learning site.
Her applied work, Dynamic Emotional Integration® (also known as DEI) is a trailblazing approach to emotions and empathy that reveals the genius and the healing power within the emotional realm. Karla has also developed the groundbreaking Six Essential Aspects of Empathy model that highlights all of the processes in healthy empathy and makes them easily understandable, accessible, and attainable. This model teaches people how to access, develop, and manage their empathy intentionally. It also explicitly welcomes people who have been exiled from earlier models of empathy (such as men, boys, and autistic people).
Karla is also the coauthor (with cult expert Dr. Janja Lalich) of Escaping Utopia: Growing Up in a Cult, Getting Out, and Starting Over (Routledge, 2017), which focuses on Dr. Lalich’s groundbreaking study of seventy people who were born in or grew up in forty different cults spanning twelve countries. With Dr. Lalich, Karla also co-authored a research study on the multiple stigmatizations that GLBTQ people experience in fundamentalist religions (Inside and Outcast: Multifaceted Stigma and Redemption in the Lives of Gay and Lesbian Jehovah’s Witnesses). Karla also served as a researcher and editor on Dr. Lalich's Take Back Your Life: Recovering from Cults and Abusive Relationships.
Karla is in production on a book about emotions in the workplace, The Power of Emotions at Work (Sounds True, 2021), and an illustrated children’s book: Emotions! The Smart Kid’s Field Guide to the Wonderful World of Feelings.
Prior to 2003, Karla authored numerous books and audio learning sets. She then made a change in her career and left her metaphysical, paranormal approach behind. After a seven-year sabbatical that included extensive research and a degree in the social sciences, she resumed her public career in 2010, with a message to followers of her earlier work. Her work is now focused on teaching empathic mindfulness skills that help people interpret the messages and gifts inside their emotions so that they can increase their empathy and emotional awareness. While the particulars of her work have changed considerably, the essence is in essence what it was then: She wants all of us to live as intelligently, as compassionately, and as deeply as we can.
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Listening to the immeasurable genius that exists within the emotional realm. The emotions are the most fascinating and brilliant things, and I am so lucky to be able to spend my life listening to them, studying them, arguing with them, and being taught by them.
There are so many, and they usually revolve around finding a researcher or writer who dedicates their life and their unique intelligence to studying the most difficult and destructive aspects of human nature -- and proposing a grounded and well-considered path forward. Some of these people are Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Viktor Frankl, Erving Goffman, James Baldwin, Sobonfu Some, Michael Meade, Malidoma Some, Arlie Hochschild, Don Cupitt, Pascal Boyer, Robert Carroll, William Dement, Angela Davis, Gavin de Becker, Susan Fiske, Antonio Damasio, Mary Oliver, Jennifer Michael Hecht, Janja Lalich, Erica Lee, Lisa Feldman Barrett, Jack Shaheen, Edward Said, and Ibram Kendi. Of course, I'll think of a dozen more as soon as I submit this list.
The late Professor Bob Carroll treated me with absolute respect and kindness when I reached out to him as I was leaving my previous New Age beliefs and identity behind. Though members of his community were and are deeply unkind to believers, Bob welcomed me as an equal. Though we only emailed for a few weeks, and never met until many years later, his kindness was pivotal in getting me out of a world that was intellectually stifling, and that I had outgrown.
To see true democracy, justice, and equality arise in the United States, finally.
Emotions are not the problems; they bring the intelligence and energy you need to deal with the problems. Learn their language, and you can change the world.