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a six CD set


Brene Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate School of Social Work. Her books include Daring Greatly and The Gifts of Imperfection.  Dr. Brown is a naturally renowned speaker whose work has been featured on PBS, NPR, CNN, and on Visit her on You Tube or

Who doesn't love Brene Brown? She is more and more popular as a great researcher and spokeswoman for everyone, including therapists. Everything I've wanted to say she does, with great intelligence, humor, warmth, with a no buzz-words and no-nonsense narrative.
She started out her research of many years looking at shame and vulnerability Her research has offered up many clues to living in vulnerability as wholeheartedness. Over the past twenty year she has interviewed several hundreds of people and compiles what they say that is the same or similar to others which happens enough to allow her to draw many helpful conclusions.

She has drawn these conclusions into a unified, integrated theory and practice.

This led her to her theories of how to fix shame by interviewing people who have overcome it and live, in her term, a “wholehearted and authentic” life. I will bring you to how to live this way quickly.

Is vulnerability the same as weakness?

“In our culture, Dr. Brown says, “ we associate vulnerability with emotions we want to avoid such as fear, shame, and uncertainty. We often lose sight of the fa ct that vulnerability is also the birthplace of joy, belonging, love, creativity, authenticity, and love. Vulnerability is our most accurate measure of courage.

Being wholehearted is a practice—one that we can choose to cultivate through empathy, gratitude and awareness of what we use to armor us from vulnerability. Taking the risk to be authentic and set boundaries in life based on that can bring us to a powerful place.

Disc #5 of this set guides us through 10 Guideposts for Wholehearted Living. I will take us through #1 which carries the main gist of things.

#1. Cultivating Authenticity and Letting Go (of what others think)
The shame trigger in each of us has to do with a deviation from the norm, especially what we consider is a judged deviant or behavior. I am not talking about aberrant behaviors. I am talking about making your own decision about something no matter anyone else says.
It's a practice because we must be mindfull as this does not come naturally to most of us. Most of us weren't raised this way.(Just like keeping my shoulders back and down so I can stall and with good posture as Pilates has taught me to do. I have to think about it every second!)

Brene offers up may funny stories from her own life and one illustrates this very well:
Her 13-year-old daughter came home from school saying that her friends had teased her about her hair do.

“But how do you feel about it?” she asked her daughter.
“I like it! Her daughter replied.
“Well, that's what matters.
“But that's hard Mom, to be the only one.”
“Yes,” Brene agreed, “it is.”
Soon after Brene's husband came in from half-mowing the lawn.
“It's hot and muggy (they live in Houston) and I'm done for the day,” he announced.
“But, it looks messy,” Brene observed.
“I guess it does, but I'll get the rest tomorrow.”
“What about the Christmas lights?” she asked, getting more anxious.
“What about them?” he said.
“Well, they're still up and it's almost time to put the Valentine's Day heart on the door!”
“I'll get to it, Brene, but not today.”
“Our neighbors are going to think we don't care!”
Her daughter had been listening to this exchange.
“It's hard, isn't it Mom?”

Authenticity is a choice. If you practice some part of it every day, multiple times a day, in every setting, you will learn to let go of what others might think.

When Brene can't find a good, workable definition of something, she makes one up:
The daily practice of letting go who we think we should be is embracing who we actually are. We must choose to cultivate the courage to be imperfect, to set boundaries, to allow ourselves to be vulnerable, expressing the compassion that comes from knowing we're all made from strength and struggle and connect at that point where we believe we're enough, even when it's hard, when we're wrestling with shame of not being good enough or especially when the feelings are so intense that we normally would not let ourselves feel it.

Struggles are how we invite grace into our lives.

She once had 20k bookmarks made up with her definition of vulnerability to hand out at talks, except the definition left out the word, “boundary.” She scrapped all of them.

What is it you can say in to your self to be mindfull of authenticity? Breathing, reminding yourself of what carries joy and  gratitude for you, and how you have struggled and made it through in the past is helpful. Instead of anger, resentment, and name calling an other, being aware of what level of insecurity, pain, and self-doubt you yourself are cultivating.
Saying no. Using the mantra “It is better to be uncomfortable now than resentful later.”

Finally, she says that when we try to sit with uncertainty and grace we are cultivating the real superpower, more helpful to us that flying or spinning webs. Knowing who we are and who we are not tackles are need to control or subvert the boundaries between us and what others need to do for themselves. It also clarifies that we are not their Higher Power
This requires of faith in something, even in the perfection of nature. (Try telling that to my sister who is trappd in her house in Boulder)

My sister, a devout Buddhist, is caught in her home this week in Boulder. She has to keep all the doors open to dry and out her first floor, which is flooded. She told me that once her house was infested with mice and she had to call the exterminator, which for a Buddhist is a big deal.

Now the mice are back because their homes are flooded and her doors are wide open. Also, misquotes are breeding in the house. Misquotes in that part of the world carry West Nile Virus. She said, and I quote, “I know they are doing what they need to do. But if I get West Nile Virus on top of all this...”

“Kill the effers!” I told her in my fiercest of boundaried language.

Good boundaries takes authenticity out of a co-opted buzz word and puts it right into action.


Wendy Allen, Ph.D, MFT is an expert in couples and marriage therapy. She has been practicing in Santa Barbara for almost 30 years. She is the only Marriage therapist in the tri-counties using the Real Relational Living model, from which all of these ideas are based upon.