If you haven’t heard of Dr. Brene Brown that likely means that you are not a psycho therapist. She has become a ROCK STAR in profession therapy circles and I have become an ABSOLUTE Brene Brown JUNKIE!! I have read and re-read every book she has written; listened and re-listened to those same books; high-lighted, outlined and committed to memory her main premises because her research findings are revolutionary and understanding and then applying them holds the key to what she would term a “whole hearted” life.
What exactly does Dr. Brown study, you might ask. Promise yourself that you won’t lose interest and stop reading when I tell you because as unappealing as the main emphasis of her research might seem on the surface, it is essential to understanding how to develop, among other things, a sense of worthiness, the ability to feel loved and the experience of feeling that we have a place where we belong in this big bad world.
Dr. Brown studies SHAME, which is, as she puts it is “the thing that gets in the way of our sense of worthiness.” Shame is defined as, “The belief that we are not enough,” that we are somehow flawed, imperfect, less than, don’t measure up, inherently bad, that we are a mistake. We use all kinds of ineffective and downright damaging tactics to try to avoid feeling shame such as trying to be perfect so that we can avoid the judgement of others; numbing our feelings through any of a number of methods including, but not limited to, drugs, alcohol, food, television, social media, work (anything that will allow us, for a time, to escape from uncomfortable emotions); and, of all things, attempting to protect ourselves from feelings of loss by what Dr. Brown calls “foreboding joy” which is an ineffective tactic designed to diminish the experience of loss by not fully embracing the joyful moments that life has to offer – the thinking being that if we don’t fully embrace some aspect of our lives, when it’s gone, we haven’t lost anything because we had nothing to lose.
Through her 12 years of research, Dr. Brown discovered that three factors provide the perfect environment for shame to grow into every corner and crevice of your life, namely remain silent about what causes you shame, keep the shameful aspects of your life a secret and be highly judgmental of yourself. And if you want to diminish this sense that you are somehow inherently “not good enough” or “bad” or “flawed” you need to engage in a practice that is completely counter intuitive for so many of us – share the aspects of your life that cause you shame with someone who has “earned the right to your story” and who will receive your shaming experiences with empathy.
Another vital, and quite honestly unpleasant, part of her research is that no one can escape the experience of shame. It is a universal experience that we cannot resist or avoid, we can, however, develop what she calls “shame resilience” which is composed of a critical set of skills that we all need in order to be adequately equipped to find joy, purpose and meaning and to be able to live the “whole hearted life” that we were all intended to enjoy!!!
If you are in a place in your life where you are struggling with shame or don’t know how to engage in life with your whole heart, contact Wasatch Family Therapy and schedule an appointment with one of our many highly qualified therapists who are specially trained to help you find greater fulfillment.