Aug 24

“Rising Strong” By Brene Brown: Dealing With Adversity

The physics of vulnerability is simple: If we are brave enough, often enough, we will fall. Rising Strong is a book about what it takes to get back up and how owning our stories of struggle gives us the power to write a daring new ending. Brené Brown

Pema Chödrön‘s upcoming book (September 1st) Fail, Fail Again, Fail Better: Wise Advice for Leaning into the Unknown contains a transcript of the commencement speech she gave last year in which she emphasizes lessons Brené Brown also imparts via her newest book, Rising Strong.

A couple of these lessons, in Chödrön’s words, are the importance of “knowing how to fail well” and “knowing how to hold the pain of things happening that you really don’t want to be happening.”

Brown, of course, has already had significant output on such topics as shame, vulnerability, and perfectionism. On her site Brown offers a concise view of how her work has progressed thus far. The Gifts of Imperfection, she says, is about “Be you.” Daring Greatly, “Be all in.” And now, Rising Strong: “Fall. Get up. Try again.” Rising Strong is “by far my most personal book,” Brown says.

A summary from Kirkus Reviews:

Brown outlines a three-step process—the reckoning, the rumble, and the revolution—that unfolds much like the three major acts in a book or play. In the reckoning stage, we identify the emotions inherent in an experience and begin to think about how the emotions interact with thoughts and behavior. In rumble, we connect with the stories we create around an event and cross-examine them to determine the truths and half-truths that might lie below the surface…In the book’s longest section, Brown identifies 15 “rumble” topics, and she breaks down each one. She analyzes how we often invent stories that aren’t necessarily true, since they may be based on experiences from the past, childhood memories, and perceived notions of another person’s thoughts and desires, which can be entirely off-base…In the revolution phase, the truth that’s been exposed in rumble gives us energy to stand back up as a changed person…

From the publisher, one of Brown’s key insights:

She asked herself, What do these people with strong and loving relationships, leaders nurturing creativity, artists pushing innovation, and clergy walking with people through faith and mystery have in common? The answer was clear: They recognize the power of emotion and they’re not afraid to lean in to discomfort.

A favorite passage of hers, as Brown writes on her blog, has to do with “reclaim[ing] the truth about our lovability, divinity, and creativity”:

  • Lovability: “…If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past thirteen years, it’s this: Just because someone isn’t willing or able to love us, it doesn’t mean that we are unlovable.
  • Divinity: “…Over half of the participants who talked about experiencing shame in their faith histories also found resilience and healing through spirituality…They believed that the sources of shame arose from the earthly, man-made, human-interpreted rules or regulations and the social/community expectations of religion rather than their personal relationships with God or the divine…Our faith narratives must be protected, and we must remember that no person is ordained to judge our divinity or to write the story of our spiritual worthiness.
  • Creativity and Ability: Regarding shaming incidents from one’s past, Brown states: Just because we didn’t measure up to some standard of achievement doesn’t mean that we don’t possess gifts and talents that only we can bring to the world. Just because someone failed to see the value in what we can create or achieve doesn’t change its worth or ours.

 A video intro to Rising Strong:

Feb 26

Shame Story: Something We All Have, According to Brene Brown

If we share our shame story with the wrong person, they can easily become one more piece of flying debris in an already dangerous storm. Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

In 2008 noted shame researcher Brené Brown wrote, “There are three things I know about shame:

1. Everyone has it.
2. Everyone is scared to talk about it.
3. The less we talk about it; the more we have it.

(For more about Brown’s take on shame and vulnerability click the link.)

But who should be on the listening end of our shame story? Brown cautions that there are six types of folks who don’t deserve to be. Watch her tell Oprah in this classic interview (of about five minutes) or skip to below:

In an article corresponding to this interview, Brown lists the six types to avoid:

1. The friend who hears the story and actually feels shame for you. She gasps and confirms how horrified you should be. Then there is awkward silence. Then you have to make her feel better.

2. The friend who responds with sympathy (‘I feel so sorry for you’) rather than empathy (‘I get it, I feel with you, and I’ve been there’). If you want to see a shame cyclone turn deadly, throw one of these at it: ‘Oh, you poor thing.’ Or, the incredibly passive-aggressive Southern version of sympathy, ‘Bless your heart.’

3. The friend who needs you to be the pillar of worthiness and authenticity. She can’t help because she’s too disappointed in your imperfections. You’ve let her down.

4. The friend who is so uncomfortable with vulnerability that she scolds you: ‘How did you let this happen? What were you thinking?’ Or she looks for someone to blame: ‘Who was that guy? We’ll kick his ass.’

5. The friend who is all about making it better and, out of her own discomfort, refuses to acknowledge that you can actually be crazy and make terrible choices: ‘You’re exaggerating. It wasn’t that bad. You rock. You’re perfect. Everyone loves you.’

6. The friend who confuses connection with the opportunity to one-up you: ‘That’s nothing. Listen to what happened to me one time!’

Unfortunately, all of us, says Brown, can also fall into this at times—the undesirable position of not being able to receive someone else’s shame story in a helpful way. This is most likely to happen when the shame-teller’s issues are too closely connected to our own.

So, all the more reason that choosing one’s listener needs to be context-specific. “When we’re looking for compassion, it’s about connecting with the right person at the right time about the right issue.”

Furthermore, ideally we’d all have at least one of what a friend of Brown’s has called a “move-a-body friend.” Its history and coinage:

[Brown’s friend] said that one of her sister’s close friends had called her sister and asked her to help her move her mom. The friend’s mother, who was apparently only invited to visit once a year, struggled with alcoholism. When my friend’s sister’s friend came home from work, her mother was passed out drunk on the sofa. It was 3 o’clock in the afternoon, and the kids would be busting through the front door any minute. She called because she physically needed help moving her mother.

Brown felt highly complimented when she heard exactly why this same person perceives her as such a friend:

I’d call you because you would come right away, give me a hug, never look judgmental or disapproving or disgusted. And then you’d say, ‘Let’s do this.’

The next day, when you saw my mom at the park or the soccer game, you’d be kind and respectful.

And most of all, it would never cross my mind to say something to you like ‘Please don’t tell anyone.’ You don’t do that.

Afraid you don’t have enough of these friends? Just having one makes you a lucky person, says Brown. Just one MABF is indeed a precious thing.

Nov 26

Gratitude: Quotes for Thanksgiving; Brene Brown Links to Joy

Gratitude is the inward feeling of kindness received. Thankfulness is the natural impulse to express that feeling. Thanksgiving is the following of that impulse. Henry Van Dyke

“The more expectations you have, the less gratitude you will have. If you get what you expect, you will not be grateful for getting it.” Dennis Prager

“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” Marcel Proust

“I am thankful for all difficult people in my life, they have shown me exactly who I do not want to be. Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” Melody Beattie

“Gratitude begins in our hearts and then dovetails into behavior. It almost always makes you willing to be of service, which is where the joy resides. It means that you are willing to stop being such a jerk. When you are aware of all that has been given to you, in your lifetime and the past few days, it is hard not to be humbled, and pleased to give back.” Anne Lamott

“Showing gratitude is one of the simplest yet most powerful things humans can do for each other.” Randy Pausch 

“Some people are always grumbling because roses have thorns; I am thankful that thorns have roses.”
Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr

“If you can’t be content with what you have received, be thankful for what you have escaped.” Author unknown

“Happiness is not what makes us grateful. It is gratefulness that makes us happy.” Brother David Steindl-Rast

Twelve years of research led to Brené Browns own conclusion, echoing the above, that people who describe their lives as joyous are those who practice gratitude actively:

Feb 07

“Daring Greatly” By Brene Brown: Aim For What You Want

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly;…who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly. Theodore Roosevelt

One of Brené Brown‘s most recent books is Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead (2012)Her theme is inspired by the above quote from Roosevelt.

States the publisher: “In Daring Greatly, Dr. Brown challenges everything we think we know about vulnerability. Based on twelve years of research, she argues that vulnerability is not weakness, but rather our clearest path to courage, engagement, and meaningful connection.”

What’s Worse Than Being VulnerableBrown answered this in “Oprah’s Lifeclass” by describing her perception of what daring greatly is: “I think being vulnerable feels dangerous, and I think it feels scary, and I think it is terrifying. But I don’t think it’s as dangerous, scary, or terrifying as getting to the end of our lives and wondering, what if I would have shown up?”

Some Other Key Quotes

As I look back on what I’ve learned about shame, gender, and worthiness, the greatest lesson is this: If we’re going to find our way out of shame and back to each other, vulnerability is the path and courage is the light. To set down those lists of what we’re supposed to be is brave. To love ourselves and support each other in the process of becoming real is perhaps the greatest single act of daring greatly.

I define vulnerability as uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure. With that definition in mind, let’s think about love. Waking up every day and loving someone who may or may not love us back, whose safety we can’t ensure, who may stay in our lives or may leave without a moment’s notice, who may be loyal to the day they die or betray us tomorrow—that’s vulnerability.

Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.

Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.

Connection is why we’re here; it is what gives purpose and meaning to our lives. The power that connection holds in our lives was confirmed when the main concern about connection emerged as the fear of disconnection; the fear that something we have done or failed to do, something about who we are or where we come from, has made us unlovable and unworthy of connection.

Worrying about scarcity is our culture’s version of post-traumatic stress. It happens when we’ve been through too much, and rather than coming together to heal (which requires vulnerability) we’re angry and scared and at each other’s throats.

Shame derives its power from being unspeakable.

Oct 05

Vulnerability and Shame: Brene Brown Enlightens Us

More than one person has told me about Brené Brown and her lessons on vulnerability and shame. Finally I’ve watched her two TED talks, “The Power of Vulnerability” and “Listening to Shame,” which have resonated with so many.

Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, has been deep into studying vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame for 12 years. She bravely admits to the world via TED that internal conflicts triggered in the midst of her research led her to seek therapy.

In a TED blog post, Brown states that 2010 was her “year of the vulnerability talk” and 2011 her “year of walking the talk,” acknowledging that it’s harder to enact what she believes about this topic than to talk about it.

Mary Elizabeth Williams writes in a recent Salon article about Dr. Brown’s popularity, how she copes with it, and her message:

To date, Brown’s rousing pleas for humanity to move from a culture of shame, scarcity and numbness toward a more authentic, compassionate and ‘wholehearted’ approach have been viewed over 5 million times on YouTube. But not by Brown herself, who confesses, ‘It still makes me feel really uncomfortable.’

In other words, she gets it. She knows how hard it is for us to put down our emotional armor, how great the fear of failure and criticism — from both within and without – can be. Yet she plunges on, persuasively making the case that a bolder, braver way of living isn’t just happier and more fulfilling. She thinks it’s a key component of rising above the tide of debt, addiction and what Brown repeatedly refers to as the painful curse of ‘disengagement.’

Brown’s newest book just came out. It’s called Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead,  and it “argues that vulnerability is not weakness, but rather our clearest path to courage, engagement, and meaningful connection.”

Some quotes from the book on vulnerability and shame, courtesy of a recent TED blog post:

“I define vulnerability as uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure. With that definition in mind, let’s think about love. Waking up every day and loving someone who may or may not love us back, whose safety we can’t ensure, who may stay in our lives or may leave without a moment’s notice, who may be loyal to the day they die or betray us tomorrow — that’s vulnerability.”

“We judge people in areas where we’re vulnerable to shame, especially picking folks who are doing worse than we’re doing. If I feel good about my parenting, I have no interest in judging other people’s choices. If I feel good about my body, I don’t go around making fun of other people’s weight or appearance. We’re hard on each other because we’re using each other as a launching pad out of our own perceived deficiency.”

“Worrying about scarcity is our culture’s version of post-traumatic stress. It happens when you’ve been through too much, and rather than coming together to heal (which requires vulnerability), we’re angry and scared and at each other’s throats.”

Publishers Weekly says of Daring Greatly: “…(T)he core of her message is understanding the difference between guilt and shame, and developing ‘shame resistance.’ Brown’s theories—complete with personal and not always flattering examples from her own life—will draw readers in and have them considering what steps they would dare to take if shame and fear were not present.”

Brown was asked in a TED interviewWhat’s the greatest lesson you have learned in your own life? “When you get to a place where you understand that love and belonging, your worthiness, is a birthright and not something you have to earn, anything is possible.”