Brown continues to explain the poor coping strategies which eschew vulnerability: numbing emotion, asserting certainty, seeking perfection, and avoiding responsibility. Rather than face negative emotions, we numb ourselves to them but doing so is not selective. Emotions cannot be numbed selectively so positive feelings such as joy, content, and pride become snuffed. Another strategy is to make certainty out of uncertainty which involves establishing blame onto others as way of “discharging pain and discomfort.” We seek perfection for ourselves and especially of our children to refute the idea that we are all imperfect. Finally, we pretend our actions do not impact others. Brown ends her talk with some advice:
- Let ourselves be deeply, vulnerably seen for who we are
- Love with our whole-hearts without any guarantees
- Practice gratitude and joy in the face of terror
- Believe that we are enough
I found great connection with Brown’s message and professional background. My wife is a social worker in foster care services for the county. It is not easy work because it requires to be in constant contact with your own empathy in the face of the horrors and grief people can unleash onto others and themselves. As Brown said, you must really “lean into the discomfort of the work” which means facing and engaging with whatever it is that makes you uncomfortable. It is the opposite of being avoidant and synonymous with embracing. I do not believe in the coincidence that my wife and I have taken on the path of helping others. Many people think of helping professions (social work, teaching, nursing, therapy, etc.) as difficult jobs and “it’s not something I can do” which is absolutely okay. This work takes a particular kind of disposition that requires us to be seen and vulnerable so that we can connect with others who we help, that requires us to be grateful for the positives in the face of uncertainty, that requires us to believe in the process without any guarantees of success, that requires us to believe that we are enough, doing enough.
Brown, B. (2011, January 3). The Power of Vulnerability | Brene Brown | TED Talks [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iCvmsMzlF7o