Brené Brown on Embracing Vulnerability

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November 19, 2013

“You cannot access empathy if you’re not willing to be vulnerable.” What a rich and evocative statement from our friend and Sounds True author Brené Brown. There is such a deeply-rooted pull to move toward those emotional-states that we identify as “positive” or “light” or “spiritual” – along with a counter move away from those “darker” or challenging and exposing emotions such as vulnerability, sadness, and grief. But, as Brené reminds us, vulnerability is the ground of all of the so-called positive emotional states, including those of love, joy, and belonging.

When we can allow ourselves to be naked, exposed, to be profoundly touched by whatever appears, we can meet this life – and the sweet, beautiful heart of another – in the most precious way. It is in this turning into the immediacy of our experience, in a truly embodied way, that we come to discover the many fruits of this sacred world. There are times, of course, when doing so is not easy, when it takes everything we have (and more), and feels completely counter-instinctual. But somehow, by some mysterious grace, we learn to stay with what is there, knowing that it has something very precious to show us about ourselves, and about the true nature of love. 

If you are interested in learning more about Brené’s teachings and research in the areas of vulnerability, shame, and worthiness, you may enjoy her original audio programs with Sounds True:

The Gifts of Imperfect Parenting: Raising Children with Courage, Compassion, and Connection

Men, Women, and Worthiness: The Experience of Shame and the Power of Being Enough

The Power of Vulnerability: Teachings on Authenticity, Connection, and Courage

Enjoy the following video from Brené on the gifts of embracing vulnerability.

Brené Brown

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Brené Brown, PhD, LMSW is a research professor at the University of Houston's Graduate College of Social Work who has spent the past 10 years studying vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame. She is a nationally renowned speaker and has won numerous teaching awards, including the college's Outstanding Faculty Award. Her groundbreaking work has been featured on PBS, NPR, and CNN. Her 2010 TEDxHouston talk on the power of vulnerability is one of most watched talks on TED.com. Her most recent TED talk, "Listening to Shame," was released in March 2012.

Brené is the author of The Gifts of Imperfection and I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn't). She is also the author of Connections, a psychoeducational shame resilience curriculum that is being facilitated across the nation by mental health and addiction professionals.

Brené's current research focuses on wholeheartedness in families, schools, and organizations. She lives in Houston with her husband and their two young children.

Author photo © Danny Clarc

Listen to Tami Simon's in-depth audio podcast interview with Brené:
The Courage to be Vulnerable »

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The Courage to be Vulnerable

Dr. Brené Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston’s graduate college of social work who has spent the past decade studying vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame. Brené is the author of the number-one New York Times bestseller Daring Greatly, and with Sounds True she has created the audio learning course The Power of Vulnerability: Teachings on Authenticity, Connection, and Courage. In this episode, Tami Simon speaks with Brené about the cultural myth that equates vulnerability with weakness instead of recognizing it as the greatest measure of our courage. They also examine Brené’s research into the qualities that allow someone to live in a wholehearted way. (66 minutes)

The Gifts of Imperfect Parenting – with Brené B...

We all know that perfect parenting does not exist, yet we still struggle with the social expectations that teach us that being imperfect is synonymous with being inadequate. These messages are powerful and we end up spending precious time and energy managing perception and the carefully edited versions of the families we show to the world.

On The Gifts of Imperfect Parenting: Raising Children with Courage, Compassion, and Connection, Dr. Brené Brown invites us on a journey to transform the lives of parents and children alike. Drawing on her 12 years of research on vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame, she presents 10 guideposts to creating what she describes as “wholehearted” families where each of us can continually learn and grow as we reach our full potential. 

Brené Brown on Embracing Vulnerability

“You cannot access empathy if you’re not willing to be vulnerable.” What a rich and evocative statement from our friend and Sounds True author Brené Brown. There is such a deeply-rooted pull to move toward those emotional-states that we identify as “positive” or “light” or “spiritual” – along with a counter move away from those “darker” or challenging and exposing emotions such as vulnerability, sadness, and grief. But, as Brené reminds us, vulnerability is the ground of all of the so-called positive emotional states, including those of love, joy, and belonging.

When we can allow ourselves to be naked, exposed, to be profoundly touched by whatever appears, we can meet this life – and the sweet, beautiful heart of another – in the most precious way. It is in this turning into the immediacy of our experience, in a truly embodied way, that we come to discover the many fruits of this sacred world. There are times, of course, when doing so is not easy, when it takes everything we have (and more), and feels completely counter-instinctual. But somehow, by some mysterious grace, we learn to stay with what is there, knowing that it has something very precious to show us about ourselves, and about the true nature of love. 

If you are interested in learning more about Brené’s teachings and research in the areas of vulnerability, shame, and worthiness, you may enjoy her original audio programs with Sounds True:

The Gifts of Imperfect Parenting: Raising Children with Courage, Compassion, and Connection

Men, Women, and Worthiness: The Experience of Shame and the Power of Being Enough

The Power of Vulnerability: Teachings on Authenticity, Connection, and Courage

Enjoy the following video from Brené on the gifts of embracing vulnerability.

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5 Tools to Create More Space in Your Mind

Busyness, distraction, and stress have all led to the shrinking of the modern mind.

I realize that’s a strange thing to say. Most of us don’t think of our mind as something with space in it, as a thing that can either be big or small, expensive or claustrophobic.

But just think about the last time you felt overwhelmed, stressed, or out of control. Chances are, you might not even have to think that hard. You might be experiencing that state right now as you read these words.

What happens in these moments? 

First, our mind wanders. It spins through all sorts of random thoughts about the past and the future. As a result, we lose touch with the direct experience of present time.

Second, we lose perspective. We can’t see the big picture anymore. Instead, it’s like we’re viewing life through a long and narrow tunnel. We become blind to possibility, fixated on problems.

Put these two together and you’ve got the perfect recipe for eradicating space in the mind. The landscape of the mind begins to feel like a calendar jammed with so many meetings, events, and obligations that these neon colored boxes cover-up even the smallest slivers of white space. 

So it could be nice for our partner, for our kids, and, mostly, for our ourselves to consider: how can we create more space in the mind?

Here are five tools for creating mental space. If you want to go deeper, check out my new book with Sounds True on the topic called OPEN: Living With an Expansive Mind in a Distracted World.

1. Meditation.

You’ve no doubt heard about all of the scientifically validated benefits of this practice. It reduces stress. It boosts productivity. It enhances focus.

That is all true. But here is the real benefit of meditation: it creates more space in the mind. To get started, try it out for just a few minutes a day. Use an app or guided practice to help you.

2. Movement.

So, maybe you’re not the meditating type. That’s fine. You can still create space in the mind by setting aside time for undistracted movement.

The key word here is “undistracted.” For many of us, exercise and movement have become yet another time where our headspace gets covered over by texts, podcasts, or our favorite Netflix series. 

There’s nothing wrong with this. But it can be powerful to leave the earbuds behind every once in a while and allow the mind to rest while you walk, stretch, run, bike, swim, or practice yoga.

3. Relax.

When it comes to creating headspace, we moderns, with our smartphone-flooded, overly-stimulated, minds seem to inevitably encounter a problem: we’re often too stressed, amped, and agitated to open.

Relaxation – calming the nervous system – is perhaps the best way to counter this effect and create more fertile ground for opening. When we relax – the real kind, not the Netflix or TikTok kind –  the grip of difficult emotions loosens, the speed of our whirling thoughts slows, and, most important, the sense of space in our mind begins to expand.

How can you relax? Try yoga. Try extended exhale breathing, where you inhale four counts, exhale eight counts. Try yoga nidra. Or, just treat yourself to a nap.

4. See bigger.

When life gets crazy, the mind isn’t the only thing that shrinks. The size of our visual field also gets smaller. Our eyes strain. Our peripheral vision falls out of awareness.

What’s the antidote to this tunnel vision view? See bigger.

Try it right now. With a soft gaze, allow the edges of your visual field to slowly expand. Imagine you’re seeing whatever happens to be in front of you from the top of a vast mountain peak. Now bring this more expansive, panoramic, way of seeing with you for the rest of the day.

5. Do nothing.

Now for the most advanced practice. It’s advanced because it cuts against everything our culture believes in. In a world where everyone is trying desperately to get more done, one of the most radical acts is to not do — to do nothing.

Even just a few minutes of this paradoxical practice can help you experience an expansion of space in the mind.

Lie on the floor or outside on the grass. Close your eyes. Put on your favorite music if you want. Set an alarm for a few minutes so you don’t freak out too much. 

Then, stop. Drop the technique. Drop the effort. Just allow yourself to savor this rare experience of doing absolutely nothing.

Nate Klemp, PhD, is a philosopher, writer, and mindfulness entrepreneur. He is the coauthor of the New York Times bestseller Start Here and the New York Times critics’ pick The 80/80 Marriage. His work has been featured in the LA Times, Psychology Today, the Times of London, and more, and his appearances include Good Morning America and Talks at Google. He’s a cofounder of LifeXT and founding partner at Mindful. For more, visit nateklemp.com or @Nate_Klemp on Instagram.

Chip Conley: Midlife: From Crisis to Chrysalis

Midlife has a bad reputation, often paired with the word “crisis” or seen as the “over the hill” phase of our journey. As the founder of the Modern Elder Academy (the worlds’ first midlife wisdom school), Chip Conley is changing this negative narrative to one that reclaims our middle years as a time of incredible regenerative possibilities. In this podcast, Tami Simon sits down with Chip to talk about his new book, Learning to Love Midlife, and how those of us amidst this phase can activate our capacities for renewal and “let our souls lead the dance.” 

Tune in for a very honest and hope-giving podcast on: The phoenix phenomenon; the anatomy of transition; the metaphor of the chrysalis; cultivating a growth mindset; the components of high “TQ” (or transitional IQ); creating space for something new; the great midlife edit; the dark night of the ego; radically shifting how you want to live your life; vulnerability and accepting help; “dancing backwards in high heels”; developing a friendship with your body; letting go—but also welcoming in; the alchemy of curiosity and wisdom; goosebumps as a sign you’re on the right path; and more.

Note: This episode originally aired on Sounds True One, where these special episodes of Insights at the Edge are available to watch live on video and with exclusive access to Q&As with our guests. Learn more at join.soundstrue.com.

Mark Matousek: Living Like a Stoic

When things are at their worst, says celebrated author and writing mentor Mark Matousek, Stoicism is at its best. Considered the most practical of all philosophies, Stoicism is on the rise in today’s world—for reasons you’ll hear discussed in this podcast. 

Give a listen to this educational, pragmatic, and perspective-shifting conversation with Mark and Sounds True’s Tami Simon exploring control versus acceptance; using the mind in a more skillful way; humility, proportion, and appropriate action; taking responsibility for what we’re capable of; amor fati, to love life; working with your emotions; Emerson and “the exterior life”; writing prompts for letting go of the disempowering stories we tell ourselves; choosing how we hold our memories; why Stoicism is not a form of bypassing; adversity as a path to freedom; the practice of turning the obstacle upside down; shifting your angle of vision and telling the whole truth; “cosmic optimism,” Emerson’s reality-based form of hope; asking questions and finding your own way; doubt, confusion, and struggle on the spiritual path; Emerson’s view of enlightenment; and more.

Note: This episode originally aired on Sounds True One, where these special episodes of Insights at the Edge are available to watch live on video and with exclusive access to Q&As with our guests. Learn more at join.soundstrue.com.

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