I wrote the other day about the pitfalls of labelling some emotions as “negative” and trying to avoid them. It’s interesting to see how Brené Brown explores similar territory and the challenge of being vulnerable.
She suggests that to be wholehearted is to be willing to be vulnerable, and lists some of the main ways we try to avoid vulnerability.
The first is to numb uncomfortable feelings:
we are the most indebt, obese addicted and medicated adult cohort in US history.
But you can’t numb emotion selectively. Numb fear and disappointment and you numb joy, gratitude and happiness. She argues that if you numb those, life loses purpose and meaning. (That links across to Kantor’s notion of the three languages of power, meaning and feeling and the way they are intertwined).
Some other ways to avoid vulnerability:
We fake certainty. I was particularly struck by her definition of blame as a way to discharge pain and discomfort
We perfect. We take fat from our butts and put in our cheeks.
We pretend that what we do doesn’t have an effect on people.
The effect of all of these is to disconnect us from others, setting up a vicious cycle of discomfort and avoidance.
The alternative is to embrace the mess and allow connection. Her line about children perhaps encapsulates her philosophy: instead of seeing them as perfect and trying to keep them that way, we could see them as imperfect and hardwired for struggle – and treat them as worth of our love and belonging in their imperfection and struggle.
Makes sense to me.