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Power of Vulnerability
Some of you may know Brene Brown from her Ted talk “Power of Vulnerability” which is on our website. I have recently listened to her seminar on authenticity, connection and courage and felt deeply touched and inspired.
For her research Dr Brown collected and analysed hundreds of stories about shame, vulnerability, love and belonging. Now, as a gifted and funny story-teller herself, she shares with us the findings with a colourful language rich with metaphors, personal experiences and humour.
I would regard her greatest contribution as taking ‘shame’ out of its closet. We don’t like to mention this ‘negative’ word. It represents the shadow side in us that we don’t wish to achknowledge. To my mind, there is nothing more positive than bringing light to that shadow and this is what Brown has done in her work.
What is shame?
Shame is that intensely painful feeling resulting from the deep belief we are not lovable as we are… that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.
How does it affect us?
It blocks the authentic expression of our vulnerabilities. It makes us pretend and cover-up in order to fit in. It corrodes the parts of us that can do better…. it sticks us in a deep, dark hole that leads to addiction, depression, destructive behaviour, etc. We disengage. We feel alone.
How do we handle shame?
We numb it with alcohol, drugs, TV, even exercises etc, we try to be perfectionist and we refrain from experiencing joy.
How does our culture contribute to our shame?
We live in a culture of scarcity. We wake up with the thought “I didn’t sleep enough” and go to sleep with the thought “I didn’t get enough done”. We are not enough. We suffer from shame-based fear of being ordinary, average. we are hyper-aware of lack.We contribute to scarcity by shaming each other, comparing ourselves with others and disengaging.
What is the antidote to shame?
Empathy! Empathy makes one feel understood, validated, accepted rather than judged, normalised and not alone. To rectify the scarcity mindset we need to actively practice gratitude.
How to handle shame
“Shame resilience” – my favourite idea in her talk. To recover from shame we need to: 1. recognise it as shame and know the triggers, 2. become aware of those debilitating beliefs, 3. reach out and share our story, 4. name it and speak openly about it.
What does the healing feel like?
Brown calls those people the “wholehearted people”. They cultivate the belief that they are lovable as they are. They engage with the world from a place of worthiness: “I am imperfect, I make mistakes, but I am worthy of love and belonging.” They show courage in embracing and sharing their vulnerabilities, they are kind to themselves first, and then to others, they connect to others and express naturally who they are rather than what they should be.
How to get there?
Cultivate love and belonging by allowing your most vulnerable and powerful self to be seen and known.True belonging only happens when we present our authentic and imperfect selves to the world. Seeking approval is virtually a barrier to belonging.
For belonging, we need to profoundly know and accept ourselves and embrace our flaws, weaknesses etc. The challenge is to see them as neither negative nor positive, just as they are. Our sense of belonging can only match our level of self-acceptance.
In the last chapter of her talk she describes the qualities of the wholehearted people and suggests we could all learn from them how to live life of authenticity, gratitude, intuition and more.
Listening to her words of wisdom will nourish your soul.
To download and listen to the whole seminar you will need to pay about $40 to SoundsTrue website – a highly recommended website to anyone who likes to listen to great ideas.
About the author:
Guy (Hagai) Avisar is a psychologist with more than 30 years of experience helping people with relationship issues