Watching Brené Brown talk on stage, in real time, reminds me of why I have been drinking the vulnerability Kool-Aid these last few years. Her latest book, Rising Strong: The Reckoning, The Rumble, The Revolution may be her most personal telling of her work, her family and her life. (God love her husband Steve.)
We cheered when she strolled on stage in her vintage jeans and booties.
“You know I’m an introvert, don’t you? But this is my kind of theatre.”
Yet, I have no doubt that small or large, Brené Brown can captivate her audience precisely because she is so honest and personable. We might as well be sharing New England crab cakes together. As such, I refer to her as Brené, and not Dr. Brown, even though it’s not an easy name to type.
Brené began with a recent experience (not the Speedo story, told achingly in her book). “You know it’s been a crazy few years for me, right?”
“Of course we do, Brené!” We wanted to shout with a mix of awe and envy.
She began to tell a story about how overwhelmed she became this past summer prior to the launch of her new book and other ventures in courage.
Brené describes one particular evening drowning in paperwork that was strewn across the dining room table. Her husband, a pediatrician, arrived after a long workday and headed straight for the fridge. He was rummaging around for something, a cold cut slice perhaps, and quietly complained over the lack food. It’s a mundane moment that most of us can relate to. Who hasn’t heard the familiar “Isn’t there anything to eat in this house?” But it was her reaction to her poor husband that had the crowd roaring with laughter. She began to describe the wild eruption of crazy thoughts and feelings she was having as her internal siren belted out, “You’re a bad wife. You’re a bad mother!” This culminated in demanding her hubby to fess up on just what exactly he was saying.
I’ve read Rising Strong twice,: once for pleasure and again to study the teachings. As an extension of Daring Greatly, her last bestseller, Rising Strong tackles the tough question of what happens in the arenas of life, in those raw moments and enduring aftermath of failure, disappointment, or heartbreak. She writes:
While vulnerability is the birthplace of many of the fulfilling experiences we long for – love, belonging, joy, creativity and trust – to name a few – the process of regaining our emotional footing in the midst of struggle is where our courage is tested and our values are forged. Rising strong after a fall is how we cultivate wholeheartedness in our lives; it’s the process that teaches us the most about who we are.
The stories, the ones we tell ourselves over an over, tend to be the ones that keep us small, disappointed, angry or sad. It’s these personal narratives that Brené tackles head on. It’s how we can change the ending to those stories that lie at the heart of this book.
I’ve been practicing two of the skills with some unsuspecting guinea pigs: my family.
Stealing a page from Annie Lamott, Brené refers to “the shitty first draft” (SFD) when trying to make sense of a difficult story. It starts with a prompt: “The story I’m making up is…”
I love this strategy because it is about owning one’s crazy drama before blaming or shaming someone else.
For example, with my 17-year-old daughter I have found myself saying statements like:
The story I’m making up is that when I don’t’ hear from you for a few hours and it’s after curfew, that either your phone is on silent, you fell asleep watching a movie, or you are dead on the side of the road somewhere. So while I trust your judgment on most things, when it’s close to midnight my mind freaks out. I don’t like being in that place.
This leaves rooms for her to say, “I’m sorry, Mom. I wasn’t watching the time and I didn’t want to text you while driving.“
To which I can say, “Well, I’d appreciate if you safely pull over and call or text me next time. “ And so on.
I know it’s working because recently she had to tell me about a very upsetting exchange with a mean girl.
“Mom, I have something to tell you and don’t say anything until I’m done speaking.” (She knows me too well.)
She owned her story, what went through her mind, what she imagined I might say about it, and how she thought she could deal with it on her own. Admittedly, I sat on my hands and held my breath, but was impressed with her working things out. I refrained from knocking the door down at the girl’s house to give her mother a piece of my mind.
Another skill that Brené describes in her own stories and what I call the generosity query is: What’s the most generous thought I can have about this person/situation?
For instance, when a school bus driver flipped me the bird as he cut in front of my car (while I too had kids in tow) I paused before returning the gesture in kind: “Wow, that bus driver is having a really bad day, isn’t he? I bet those kids are really getting to him.”
On the deeper struggles – of failure, heartbreak or loss – Rising Strong holds our hand. The process is deep. It means squirming in the mud of the arena for a bit (long enough to feel the feelings and work them through) . It’s about vulnerability and courage, yes, but the process is also about grit. It’s about sticking with a hard process even though it’s really, really hard. It nets out to a brave story.
Yes, that’s where the reckoning, the rumble and the revolution will lead us.
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Disclosure: I am a certified Daring Way™ Method Facilitator, based on the work of Dr. Brené Brown.
Checkout the Rising Strong Manifesto.
©2015 Brene Brown