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I've read it for you!


by Brene Brown

Gotham Books: NY, NY 2012

Brene Brown is a professor of psychology who has studied vulnerability and shame throughout her career. She is wise, warm, and witty and I highly recommend her TED talks on YouTube.

“Daring Greatly” guides us through how to do just that, i.e., take risks, leap, reach for something bigger than what we have in our lives right now. Daring Greatly in all areas brings up our vulnerabilities in strong measure. This books guides us how to tolerate and embrace our vulnerabilities no matter what the outcome of our daring. Otherwise, shame and shame-talk will keep us from trying and trying again and again.

She takes the title from this quote by Theodore Roosevelt's speech “Citizen in a Republic” delivered on April 23, 1910: “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 strive valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming, but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly...”

“Vulnerability is not knowing victory or defeat,” she writes, “it's understanding the necessity of both; it's engaging. It's being all in.”

If we spend our lives waiting until we are perfect or invulnerable, we are waiting for things that don't exist in human experience. “We must dare to show up and let ourselves be seen.”

Brown poses four questions right from the get-go that we must ask ourselves:

  • What drives our fear of being vulnerable?
  • How are we protecting ourselves from vulnerability?
  • What price are we paying when we shut down and disengage
  • How do we own and engage with vulnerability so we can start transforming the way we live, love, parent, and lead?

Her answer is to grow into a human strength she calls, Wholeheartedness. This is the quality that shame-resilient people share.

People who have not strengthened their wholehearted side manifest their shame by letting their self-worth be tied to what other people say or tied solely to their achievements, productivity, or compliance. Shame-filled people keep score and engage in comparisons with a thin skin and take the outcomes as a personal indictment. People who are afraid to risk and try new things are disengaged from the present moment in every area

This brings about a life lived in scarcity and is the opposite of wholeheartedness.

A shame-resilient scenario shows us that wholehearted people know they are more than the goal and that there is more to win than when our self-worth isn't on the line.

I have filled my life by taking on challenging sports, activities, and in my most recent challenge, doing my Real Relational Solutions couples therapy I have had to attend rigorous and long trainings to learn how to do it. I make and have made many mistakes but for some reason, it doesn't stop me. I have my moments of “I can't do this and I'll quit” but the compelling nature of challenge draws me in again and again.

Attempting challenging things with a bemused acceptance of our humanness;, our vulnerabilities=transformation into wholeheartedness

My Story:
When I once got a diagnosis (after I had a fail in a big challenge) of, “we're not sure how you'll walk again,” it felt like a state of grace to me, because it made my future challenges perfectly clear. I knew there would absolutely be fails ahead for me. My journey to recovery insisted that I learn and practice wholeheartedness, optimism, self-kindness, and learn patience in the face of an unknown future I was frightened and in physical pain. I talked about it. I reached out. I got humbled. My husband had to wash me.. I surrendered to Something Bigger Than Me (in this case, my Pilates instructor Kristen of S.B. Pilates). I could not allow myself to go into a shame spiral for very long at at time, otherwise I would end up collapsed and debilitated.

People said I was as tough as nails. I wasn't. I had no choice but to have faith in Wholeheartedness in order to get where I wanted to go.

All of us would respond this way when it's something elemental and survival is on the line. What if you took this same wholeheartedness to every aspect of your life?

How to become wholehearted? In the movie Almost Famous that says, “The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you're uncool.”

The relational human depends on her/his vulnerabilities to be an active ingredient in becoming a great partner. It is the wholeheartedness of a relationship— that determines if it succeeds.

In relationships, in marriage, a partner who is going for broke and will try anything to change and bring about relational change will start to make comments like this:

  • I don't know
  • I need help
  • I'd like to give it a shot
  • It's important to me
  • I want a do-over
  • I disagree—can we talk about it?
  • That didn't work and I learned something about myself (us, human nature, etc)
  • Yes, I did do that
  • Here's what I need and want
  • Here's how I feel
  • I'd like to make this request about a change in behavior.
  • I'd like some feedback
  • Can I get your take on this
  • I accept responsibility for that
  • Here's why this is hard for me
  • Here's why I act like defiant, terrified kid when that happens
  • I'm sorry
  • I want to help you get what you want.
  • This means a lot to me.
  • I will change in this way
  • Thank you.

Practice these. Be aware of the emotions and sensations that take place when you confidently offer up your vulnerability. When you start to see and receive the rewards of this, you will be transformed into wholeheartedness.

Wendy Allen, Ph.D, MFT has been in private practice for 30 years. She specializes in Couples and Marriage and the personal challenges that each partner has to accept in order to make their relationship happier, healthier, and full of joy.

SBCC Adult Ed Class:
Marriage in the 21st Century: Learn the New Rules of Marriage
Learn new skills you can use right away.
February 9, 2013—9-1PM. Schott Center
Open to the public and professionals. 4 CEU's available

Copyright 2013 Wendy Allen, PhD, MFT, All rights reserved.