There was a wonderful show on Oprah’s network on her ‘Super Soul Sunday’ show recently. It featured Dr. Brene Brown discussing her newest book, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the way we Live, Love, Parent, and Lead.
Dr. Brené Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. She has spent the past twelve years studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame. Her groundbreaking research has been featured on PBS, NPR, CNN, The Washington Post, and The New York Times.
Brené’s 2010 TEDxHouston talk, ‘The Power of Vulnerability’, is one of the top ten most viewed TED talks on TED.com, with approximately 6 million viewers. Additionally, Brené gave the closing talk at the 2012 TED conference where she talked about shame, courage, and innovation.
The Encarta Dictionary defines vulnerable as ‘without adequate protection, extremely susceptible, or open to attack.” If you’re using Encarta’s definition, it’s obviously not smart to put yourself in physically vulnerable situations.
But fortunately, being emotionally vulnerable is different. Emotional vulnerability means sharing your deepest thoughts, feelings and memories with someone you trust. When you are emotionally vulnerable, you let someone into your heart to know you at a deeper level.
In Daring Greatly, Dr. Brene Brown challenges everything we think we know about vulnerability. Based on twelve years of research at the University of Houston, she argues that vulnerability is not weakness, but rather it is our clearest path to courage, engagement, and meaningful connection.
The willingness to be vulnerable was actually the strongest value shared by men and women in Brene’s research who are able to live ‘wholeheartedly.’ She says, “they attribute everything–from their professional success, to their marriages, to their proudest parenting moments– to their ability to be vulnerable.”
I was fascinated with Brene’s talk about the power of vulnerability, but I was even more taken by her research with shame. Our shame is the reason we don’t allow ourselves to be vulnerable.
The Encarta Dictionary defines shame as “a negative emotion that combines feelings of dishonor, unworthiness, and embarrassment.” It is also “a cause for regret or disappointment or a state of disgrace or dishonor.”
Brene says that shame is different from guilt, because guilt says, “I DID something bad,” while shame says, “I AM bad.”
Shame begins in childhood. Brene says that shame is still the single most used discipline technique among parents and teachers, across all the economic classes of our culture. She reports that whether you attended the highest socio-economic school or whether you grew up in the lowest poverty stricken area, shame was still the most common discipline used to control children.
Overcoming shame brings us back to vulnerability. We have to be willing to be vulnerable in order to overcome our shame. Too often, people stay stuck in their feelings of shame for a lifetime, because of their fear of being emotionally vulnerable.
Dr. Brene Brown’s exciting research provides new hope for overcoming your shame. She says that shame cannot survive in the presence of empathy. She also says that when you expose shame to an empathetic person, it dissolves and releases.
The problem, of course, is finding that empathetic person whom you can trust to expose the deepest secrets of your heart. It can be scary to risk that you will be shamed again for exposing who you really are.
Dr. Brene Brown said on the Oprah Special that you shouldn’t trust someone until they have earned your trust. Oprah agreed with Brene and quoted a Biblical verse that says, “Don’t cast your pearls to swine.”
Finding a Safe Place to Heal
If you have tried being vulnerable in the past and you’ve been hurt by unkind people, please don’t assume that everyone you trust will be untrustworthy. As the awareness for emotional healing grows in our culture, more and more people are beginning to value emotional openness. People who are emotionally vulnerable themselves will honor their friends who are also open and vulnerable.
If it’s scary for you to trust anyone, you can always begin by going to a counselor or psychotherapist. Remember that counselors are bound by the laws that protect your confidentiality. Legally, they cannot hurt you by telling others about what you have said or done.
When you practice sharing your emotional vulnerability in a safe place, then it becomes easier to venture out and find other people you can trust. Make it your goal to find one friend who is trustworthy and committed to their own emotional healing. When you find that one supportive friend, your entire life can begin to change!
Share it with Your Friends and Family
Please do feel free to share this with your family and friends. I’d love to see as many people as possible transform their lives, so that we can all work together to create a better world for everyone!
Leave a Comment or a Question
I’d love to hear your comments and questions. What would you like to hear more about?
Are you afraid to be vulnerable? Have you felt trapped by the shame in your life? What have you done to overcome it?
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