We’re all sick! Worst, the afflicted are numb to the symptoms.
After 10 years of research, Brené Brown has found that hiding our shame is a widespread malady in our society. Its symptoms may include obesity, high credit card debt, addiction, and even… violence.
The constant bombardment of messages has set us up to some hard to reach standards, close to perfection. The longing for the six pack abs, good job, great house, memorable vacations, perfect family, is taking its toll. The shame we feel of appearing ordinary is isolating us. It seems that many of us have bought into the idea that nothing else but extraordinary will bring us joy.
‘Trouble is, that people have a basic need to connect with each other in order to be happy, and shame disconnects, distancing people from their relationships. Paradoxically, we isolate ourselves out of fear of losing these same connections. And, as La Fontaine recognized long ago: “Everyone has his faults which he continually repeats: neither fear nor shame can cure them.”
So, after realizing that this is really hitting a huge soft button, the one million dollar question is: how do we cure ourselves?
Brené has found in her research that happy people accept their vulnerability. People are vulnerable when they are authentic, when they gather the courage to be their true selves, including their flaws, risking the rejection of others. As a matter of fact, they realize that many people will reject them, but, they accept that in order to live their life, as opposed to the life others would want them to live. The key term here is: they accept.
If we feel that shame is seriously overriding our capacity to enjoy life, we need to open ourselves and confide our situation to a close friend.
In Brené’s model, empathy or our innate tendency to connect is at one end of the spectrum, while at the opposite end sits blame, which isolates us. The dial that moves us from one end to the other is vulnerability. Authenticity brings people together, while a fake behavior sets us apart. Compassion to listen to a good friend in need to discharge his shame also brings people closer.
Vulnerability is the birthplace of joy, creativity, belonging, and love.
In sum, our mind is there to protect us. We filter information on the way in and on the way out, numbing the unpleasant. Every now and then, though, some event triggers a resurfacing of these hidden thoughts, creating anxiety. It would seem from Brené’s research, that venting these thoughts not only helps to heal these wounds, but, avoids loneliness.
I have several skeletons to work on…
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