This morning I felt it necessary for some weird reason to re-visit Brene` Brown’s now infamous talk, The Power of Vulnerability. I first watched it during a week long Counsellor Development Workshop in 2015 and remember being moved by it then, but I also remember thinking….wow, it took 6 years of research to work out that out? It took Brene Brown 6 years to figure out that you cannot receive the love and connection you want without first allowing yourself to be at risk of losing that love? But as the talk progresses and Brene shows her own vulnerability, (which let me tell you is often synonymous with allowing others to see your own faults) you can see why this was the case. Brene` was herself absolutely petrified of being vulnerable. A self confessed control freak that wanted to measure everything, break it down, crack it open and basically, control everything found out, through her own scientific research that basically, you can’t control anything. Not really. Life is not perfect. To love is to embrace our limitations and imperfections – in ourselves and others. That is what it means to be whole hearted, to live with courage and authenticity. To really connect with others and to be loved as you are in return, imperfect, broken and scared as that may be.
So that being said, I still found myself taking notes because regardless of Brene’s personal reaction to the data as she called it, this did not detract from the truth of what she has to say in any way. In-fact the evidence that her own research uncovered was the cause of her personal breakdown. Revolutions are seldom peaceful.
So, here are my notes from Brene’s “Vunerability Ted” talk – for my own benefit more than anything else, in point form none the less.
- It starts with connection (or attachment if you like). The ability to connect it’s who we are, and why we are here.
- Shame thwarts this ability to connect. Shame thwarts intimacy, closeness, love.
- Shame is the fear of disconnection. “There is something about me that is so terrible that if anyone found this out, it would render me unworthy of love in their eyes.” Or to put it more simply, “I am not worthy of love and affection”.
- Vulnerability – allowing yourself to be seen, to be who you are, faults, imperfections, but still and completely lovable.
- Vulnerability – loving something or someone else with all your heart even when you know there are no guarantees. (How terrifying is that! Pretty terrifying.)
- The rub – People that have a lot of shame detest the feeling of being vulnerable. Vulnerable to what? Exposure, rejection, exclusion, disconnection. However, in order for connection to happen we must allow ourselves to be vulnerable. (Sucks, doesn’t it.)
- Brene’ really freaked out when she worked out, from all her painstaking hours of gathering qualitative data, that the one thing that separated ‘those’ people, the people who were able to love wholeheartedly and experience true joy, connection and love versus people who wore their shame like armour and therefor where unable to connect boiled down to this: a sense of worthiness.
- People who have a sense of love, connection and belonging in their lives simply believe they are worthy of love, connection and belonging.
- People who are able to love this way do so from a place of vulnerability. That is, they love even when they know that their love may not be returned, that love is not perfect, that life can throw you the most horrible curve-balls.
- Vulnerability involves – Courage, Compassion, Connection.
- Courage – the courage to be imperfect, to be as you are, to be authentic
- Compassion – for yourself and then you are able to show kindness and compassion for others.
- Connection – we arrive at true connection through authenticity. Letting go of who you should be, and embracing who you are.
- Vulnerability involves risk. It’s saying, “I love you” first, it means possible heartbreak, rejection, loss. It is a form of surrender, allowing your feelings to just exist, to make no apologies for who you are, and for the fact that you feel shit. It involves exposure, being emotionally naked and present with all your glorious faults, mistakes, imperfections and darkness.
- This next point deserves a block quote:
Our vulnerability lies at the core of our shame, fear and struggle for worthiness, but it is also the birthplace of joy, creativity, love and connection.
- Why do we struggle so much with being vulnerable? Well the world is full of uncertainty. So we deal with this fear of uncertainty, (existentialism’s void) by numbing ourselves.
- Rub number 2: You can’t selectively numb emotions. You can’t say, “See this bad stuff, fear, pain, shame, grief, disappointment… well I don’t want to feel that shit so I’m going to damp it down with this (insert numbing device of choice: needle, drink, food, porn, etc) because, when you numb the bad stuff, you also numb other emotions as well: you numb joy, happiness, gratitude, connection etc.
- Brene’s final words: We can’t make everything that is uncertain, certain. There are no guarantees, nothing is perfect, we can’t pretend that our feelings don’t exist and that what we do doesn’t affect other people. To love wholeheartedly is the only way to get the love we need. Here are her three suggestions:
Love with all your heart, even though there are no guarantees
Practice gratitude, joy and connection
Believe that you are worthy of love, just the way you are