ISBN code: 978-0812995824
AUTHOR: Brenè Brown. Find out more about her, here.
Vulnerability is a concept I mostly struggled to get around. It is not about telling everyone about my darkest sides. It is not about letting others harm me. It is about being curious toward my feelings and opening up with the right people.
Rising Strong inspired me to look closer at my grief, to learn something new about myself and the stories I’m making up. This book encouraged me not to give up journaling, as one of the most powerful tools for inner transformation. This book reminded me that life is better if I assume that people are generally doing the best they can.
Rising Strong taught me that boundaries define who I am, and that recognizing my needs would let me better help others too.
Very useful to anyone who needs to learn how to get back up, because falling defined him as courageous and daring to be seen.
To pretend that we can get to helping, generous and brave without navigating through emotions like desperation, shame and panic is a profoundly dangerous and misguided assumption. p.xxvii
There are too many people today who instead of feeling hurt are acting out their hurt; instead of acknowledging pain, they’re inflicting pain on others. Rather than risking feeling disappointed, they’re choosing to live disappointed. Emotional stoicism is not badassery. […] Perfection is the furthest thing in the world from badassery. p.xxvii
The physics of vulnerability
These are the rules of engagement for rising strong:
- If we are brave enough often enough, we will fall; this is the physics of vulnerability.
- Once we fall in the service of being brave, we can never go back.
- This journey belongs to no one but you; however, no one successfully goes it alone.
- We’re wired for story.
- Creativity embeds knowledge so that it can become practice. We move what we’re learning from our heads to our hearts through our hands.
- Rising strong is the same process whether you’re navigating personal or professional struggles.
- Comparative suffering is a function of fear and scarcity.
- You can’t engineer an emotional, vulnerable, and courageous process into an easy, one-size-fits-all formula.
- Courage is contagious.
- Rising strong is a spiritual practice.
Civilisation stops at the waterline – you can’t skip day two
The Rising Strong Process:
The goal of the process is to rise from our falls, overcome our mistakes, and face hurt in a way that brings more wisdom and wholeheartedness into our lives.
- THE RECKONING: WALKING INTO OUR STORY. Recognise emotion, and get curious about our feelings and how they connect with the way we think and behave.
- THE RUMBLE: OWNING OUR STORY. Get honest about the stories we’re making up about our struggle, then challenge these confabulations and assumptions to determine what’s truth, what’s self-protection, and what needs to change if we want to lead more wholehearted lives.
- THE REVOLUTION. Write a new ending to our story based on the key learnings from our rumble and use this new, braver story to change how we engage with the world and to ultimate transform the way we live, love, parent, and lead.
Recognising emotion means developing awareness about how our thinking, feeling (including our physiology), and behaviour are connected. While some researchers and clinicians argue that you can change your life by just changing your thoughts, actions, or feelings, I have seen no evidence in my research that real transformations happens until we address all three as equally important parts of a whole, parts that are inextricably connected to one another, like a three-legged stool. p48
Most of us have been on the receiving end of one of these outbursts. Even if we have the insight to know that our boss, friend, colleague, or partner blew up at us because something tender was triggered and it’s not actually about us, it still shatters trust and respect. Living, growing up, working, or worshipping on eggshells creates huge cracks in our sense of safety and self-worth. Over time, it can be experienced as trauma. p.62
The ego has a shame-based fear of being ordinary (which is how I define narcissism) p.62
We can take the edge off emotional pain with a whole bunch of stuff, including alcohol, drugs, food, sex, relationships, money, work, care taking, gambling, affairs, religion, chaos, shopping, planning, perfectionism, constant change, and the internet. p.63
When we numb the dark, we also numb the light. p.63
It’s seductive to think that not talking about our pain is the safest way to keep it from defining us, but ultimately the avoidance takes over our lives. p.67
Being all light is as dangerous as being all dark, simply because denial of emotion is what feeds the dark. p.68
Mindfulness and flow are never in competition with each other. They aren’t the same thing, but they share the same foundation: making the choice to pay attention. p.73
Maybe we lost our job or screwed up a project, but what makes that story so painful is what we tell ourselves about our own self-worth and value. p.75
In the absence of data, we will always make up stories.
The need to make up a story, especially when we are hurt, is part of our most primitive survival wiring.
[…] Our brains reward us with dopamine when we recognise and complete patterns. Stories are patterns. p.79
When it comes to our SFDs (shitty first drafts), it’s important that we don’t filter the experience, polish our words, or worry about how our story makes us look (which is why writing is often safer than having a conversation). p.88
“The story I’m making up”
You’ll know you’re bing honest if you’re worried that someone might see your SFD and think you’re a total jerk or a nut job. Concerns like this are a good sign that you’re on the right track. p.92
- What more do I need to learn and understand about the situation?
- What more do I need to learn and understand about the other people in the story?
- What more do I need to learn and understand about myself?
The delta between what we make up about our experiences and the truth we discover through the process of rumbling is where the meaning and wisdom of this experience live. p.94
Shame is a liar and a story-stealer. I have to trust myself and the people I care about more than the gremlins, even if that means risking being hurt. p.96
Sewer rats and scofflaws
Do you think, in general, that people are doing the best they can?
- Those who said they believe that people are doing the best the can consistently qualified their answers. […] They were also careful to explain the it didn’t mean that people can’t grow or change. Still, at any given time, they figured, people are normally doing the best they can with the tools they have. p.110
- Unlike their “yes” counterparts, about 80% of these respondents [those who believe that people are not doing the best they can] used themselves as example: “I know I’m not doing my best, so why should I assume others are?” or “I slack off all of the time,” or “I don’t give it 110% when I should.” They judged their efforts in the same exacting manner that they judged the effort of others. It was clearly important for the people answering “no” to acknowledge this parity. p.111
All I know is that my life is better when I assume that people are doing their best. It keeps me out of judgement and lets me focus on what is, and not what should or could be. p.113
Boundaries are hard when you want to be liked and when you are a pleaser hell-bent on being easy, fun, and flexible.
Compassionate people ask for what they need. They say no when they need to, and when they say yes, they mean it. p.115
How can we expect people to put value on our work when we don’t value ourselves enough to set and hold uncomfortable boundaries? p.115
We don’t judge people when we feel good about ourselves. p.117
The trick to staying out of resentment is maintaining better boundaries – blaming others less and holding myself more accountable for asking for what I need and want. p.119
I am trying not to numb my discomfort for myself, because I think I’m worth the effort. It’s not something that’s happening to me – it’s something I’m choosing for myself. p.119
This doesn’t mean that we stop helping people set goals or that we stop expecting people to grow and change. It means that we stop respecting and evaluating people based on what we think they should accomplish, and start respecting them for who they are and holding them accountable for what they’re actually doing. It means that we stop loving people for what they could be and start loving them for who they are. p.121
Living BIG: Boundaries, Integrity, and Generosity
- What boundaries do I need to put in place so that I can work from a place of integrity and extend the most generous interpretations of the intentions, words, and actions of others?
- Integrity is choosing courage over comfort; choosing what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy; and choosing to practice our values rather than simply professing them.
- Being honest about the stories we’re making up versus just acting out of our anger or self-protective impulses is a generous move. p.123
Boundaries are simply our lists of what’s okay and what’s not okay. p.126
Shame is much more likely to be the cause of destructive behaviour than the cure. Guilt and empathy are the emotions that lead us to question how our actions affect other people, and both of these are severely diminished by the presence of shame. p.128
People learn how to treat us based on how they see us treating ourselves. p.129
The brave and brokenhearted
Heartbreak associated with addiction and mental, behavioural and physical health struggles is not something we talk about enough. p.138
Our silence about grief serves no one.
[…] We run from grief because loss scares us, yet our hearts reach toward grief because the broken parts want to mend. C. S. Lewis wrote, “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.” We can’t rise strong when we’re on the run. p.139
Disappointment is unmet expectations, and the more significant the expectations, the more significant the disappointment. p.139
If your story is full of question marks – places where you have scribbled “Huh?” or “What just happened?” or “Was that too much to ask?” – it is likely a story of stealth expectations and the disappointment they have produced. p.139
“Expectations are resentments waiting to happen.” (Anne Lamott) p.140
Nelson Mandela wrote, “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies”. Wholeheartedness requires being conscious of the litany of expectations that hum along below the surface so we can reality-check our thinking. The process can lead to stronger and deeper relationships and connections. p.142
“To love is to know the loss of love. Heartbreak is unavoidable unless we choose not to love at all. A lot of people do just that.”
“Heartbreak is what happens when love is lost.” (Joe Reynolds) p.144
The loss of love doesn’t have to be permanent or even tangible – it can be love that’s been lost to suffering, to addiction, or to any struggle that takes away our capacity to practice love and to receive it. p.144
Grief is perhaps the emotion we fear the most. p.145
Loss – While death and separation are tangible losses associated with grief, some fo the participants described losses that are more difficult to identify or describe. These included the loss of normality, the loss of what could be, the loss of what we thought we knew or understood about something or someone. p.146
Longing – related to loss is longing. Longing is not conscious wanting; it’s an involuntary yearning for wholeness, for understanding, for meaning, for the opportunity to regain or even simply touch what we’ve lost. Longing is a vital and important part of grief, yet many of us feel we need to keep our longings to ourselves for fear we will be misunderstood, perceived as engaging in magical or unrealistic thinking, or lacking in fortitude and resilience. p147
Feeling lost – Grief requires us to reorient ourselves to every part of our physical, emotional, and social worlds. p.148
The more difficult it is for us to articulate our experiences of loss, longing, and feeling lost to the people around us, the more disconnected and alone we feel. Of the coping strategies my research participants have shared with me, writing down experiences of heartbreak and grief have emerged as the most helpful in making clear to themselves what they were feeling so they could articulate it to others. p.148
“You should never hate yourself for hating others who do terrible things: The depth of your love is shown by the extent of your anger. However, when I talk of forgiveness, I mean the belief that you can come out of the other side a better person. A better person than the one being consumed by anger and hatred.” (Archbishop Tutu)
Forgiveness is not forgetting or walking away from accountability or condoning a hurtful act; it’s the process of taking back and healing our lives so we can truly live. p.152
The death of the idealised versions of our parents, teachers, and mentors, – a stage in the hero’s journey – is always scary because it means tat we’re now responsible for our own learning and growth. death is also beautiful because it makes room for new relationships – more honest connections between authentic adults who are doing the best they can. Of course, these new connections require emotional and physical safety. We can’t be vulnerable and open with people who are hurting us. p.154
If you’re struggling, your partner and children are also in the struggle. And that’s okay as long as we acknowledge the hurt, provide everyone with safe space in which to talk about it, and don’t pretend that we can compartmentalise pain. Struggle happens. We give our children a gift when we teach them that falls are inevitable and allow them to participate in a loving, supported rising strong process. p.154
“Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognise our shared humanity.” (Pema Chödrön) p.155
Sympathy is more likely to be a shame trigger the something that heals shame. p.156
Steve [Brene’s husband] and I didn’t leave religion because we stopped believing in God. Religion left us when it started putting politics and certainty before love and mystery. p.160
“She wasn’t afraid of people in need because she wasn’t afraid of needing others. She didn’t mind extending kindness to others, because she herself relied on the kindness of others.” [Brene talks about her grandmother] p.175
I knew exactly why I looked away. I was so afraid of my own need that I couldn’t look need in the eye. p.177
The choice not to see someone fundamentally diminishes our shared humanity. p.178
The real reason I look away is not my fear of helping others, but my fear of needing help. p.179
Often we all try to solve problems by doing more of what’s not working – just doing it harder, grinding it out longer. We’ll do anything to avoid the lowest of the low – self-examination. And, as it turns out, I’m not so sure I was great at giving. How can we be truly comfortable and generous in the face of someone’s need when we’re repelled by our own? Wholeheartedness is as much about receiving as it is about giving. p.179
The axiom of that dangerous system was simple: Helping is courageous and compassionate, and a sign that you have it together. asking for help is a sign of weakness. What grew out of this way of living was even more faulty thinking: If I’m not feeling brave or generous enough, I’m not helping enough.
The key learnings from this rumble totally changed this system:
- When you judge yourself for needing help, you judge those you’re helping. When you attach value to giving help, you attach value to needing help.
- The danger of tying your self-worth to being a helper is feeling shame when you ask for help.
- Offering help is courageous and compassionate, but so is asking for help. p.180
Dependance starts when we’re born and lasts until we die. p.182
We accept our dependance as babies, and ultimately, with varying levels of resistance, we accept help as we get to the end of our lives. But in the middle of our lives, we mistakenly fall prey to the myth that successful people are those who help rather than need, and broken people need rather that help. Given enough resources, we can even pay for help and create the mirage that we are completely self-sufficient. But the truth is that no amount of money, influence, resources, or determination will change our physical, emotional, and spiritual dependence on others. Not at the beginning of our lives, not in the messy middle, and not at the end. p.183
When perfectionism is driving, shame is riding shotgun. Perfectionism is not healthy striving. It is not asking, How can I be my best self? Instead, it’s asking, What will people think? p.194
“Stay in your own lane. Comparison kills creativity and joy.” p.195
Shame can’t survive being spoken. p.195
In research terms, we think about blame as a form of anger used to discharge discomfort or pain. […] When we’re in shame, we’re not fit for human consumption. And we’re especially dangerous around people over whom we have some power. p.196
For most of us who rely on blaming and ending fault, the need for control is so strong that we’d rather have something be our fault than succumb to the bumper-sticker wisdom of “shit happens”. If stuff just happens, how do i control that? Fault-finding fools us into believing that someone is always to blame, hence, controlling the outcome is possible. But blame is as corrosive as it is unproductive. p.197
The difference between accountability and blame is very similar to the difference between guilt and shame. Guilt gets a bad rap, but the emotional discomfort of guilt can be a powerful and healthy motivator for change. Of course, feeling guilty about something over which we have no control or something that isn’t our responsibility is not helpful, and more times than not, what we think is guilt is really shame and the fear of not being enough.
Like guilt, accountability is often motivated by wanting to live in alignment with our values. Accountability is holding ourselves or someone else responsible for specific actions and their specific consequences. Blame, on the other hand, is simply a quick, broad-brush way to off-load anger, fear, shame, or discomfort. p.197
If I’ve learned anything in my research, it’s that trust can’t be hot-wired, whether it’s between two friends or within a work team; it’s grown in a process that takes place over the course of a relationship. […] Charles Feltman described trust as “choosing to risk making something you value vulnerable to another person’s actions.” p.198
In my research, seven elements of trust emerged as useful in both trusting others and trusting ourselves. I came up with an acronym – BRAVING – for the elements. […] breaking down the attributes of trust into specific behaviours allows us to more clearly identify and address breaches of trust.
- Boundaries. You respect my boundaries, and when you’re not clear about whats okay and not okay, you ask. You’re willing to say no.
- Reliability. You do what you say you’ll do. At work, this means staying aware of your competencies and limitations so you don’t overpraise and are able to deliver on commitments and balance competing priorities.
- Accountability. You own your mistakes, apologise, and make amends.
- Valut. You don’t share information or experiences that are not yours to share. I need to know that my confidences are kept, and that you’re not sharing with me any information about other people that should be confidential.
- Integrity. You choose courage over comfort. You choose what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy. And you choose to practice your values rather than simply professing them.
- Nonjudgement. I can ask for what I need, and you can ask for what you need. We can talk about how we feel without judgement.
- Generosity. You extend the most generous interpretation possible to the intentions, words, and actions of others. p. 200
Assessing your own level of self-trust:
B – Did I respect my own boundaries? Was I clear about what’s okay and what’s not okay?
R – Was I reliable? Did I do what I said I was going to do?
A – Did I hold myself accountable?
V – Did I respect the vault and share appropriately?
I – Did I act from my integrity?
N – Did I ask for what I needed? Was I nonjudgemental about needing help?
G – Was I generous toward myself?
Failure brings with it the sense that we’ve lost some of our personal power.
[…] The type of power I’m talking about is more in line with Martin Luther King, Jr’s definition of it: the ability to achieve our purpose and to effect change. Experiencing failure often leads to feeling powerless simply because we didn’t achieve our purpose and/or effect the change we wanted to see. […] Powerlessness leads to fear and desperation. p.201
Despair is a spiritual condition. It’s the belief that tomorrow will be just like today. p.202
Moving out of powerlessness, and even despair, requires hope. Hope is not an emotion: It’s a cognitive process – a thought process made up of what researcher C. R. Snyder called the trilogy of “gold, pathways, and agency.”
[…] Snyder also found that hope is learned. p.202
Hope is a function of struggle.
If we’re never allowed to fall or face adversity as children, we are denied the opportunity o develop the tenacity and sense of agency we need to be hopeful. p.202
The hardest part of coming out of hiding is facing the painful work of rumbling with the real story. p.208
I’ve rumbles with failure and shame enough over the past decade to know this: You can do everything right. You can cheer yourself on, have all the support you can find in place, and be 100% ready to go, and still fail. It happens to writers, artists, entrepreneurs, health professionals, teachers – you name it. But if you can look back during your rumble and see that you didn’t hold back – that you were all in – you will feel very different than someone who didn’t fully show up. You may have to deal with the failure, but you won’t have to wrestle with the same level of sham that we experience when our efforts were halfhearted. p.208
“No regrets” doesn’t mean living with courage, it means living without reflection. To live without regret is to believe you have nothing to learn, no amends to make, and no opportunity to be braver with your life. p.211
I believe that what we regret most are our failures of courage, whether it’s the courage to be kinder, to show up, to say how we feel, to set boundaries, to be good to ourselves. For that reason, regret can be the birthplace of empathy. p.212
You got to dance with them that brung you
It’s nice to know there’s some constructive use for all those conversations and revenge schemes I rehearse in my head when I’m laying in bed at night. p.219
We can’t be brave in the big world without at least one small safe place to work through our fears and falls. p.220
When shame arises:
This is the moment. Don0t do anything. Don’t say anything. Just breathe and feel your way through it. Don’t hide out. Don’t suck up. Don’t fight back. Don’t talk, type, or make contact with anyone until you get back on your emotional feet. You’ll be okay. p.225
However crazy we may be, we’re all the same, and the only danger of normal-crazy is not knowing what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. p.230
A decade of studying shame had taught me the value of doing the one thing that felt the scariest and most counterintuitive – I had to speak shame. p.231
I wanted Diana [her therapist] to say something – to make it better. I wanted her to chase down Hannibal Lecter and all of my gremlins and make them go away. But she would never jump in and interfere with the critically important process of my actually feeling something. My work with her was about letting all of the hard-fought knowledge that I kept stored in my head seep down into my very protected heart. I needed space to let that happen, and if there’s one thing Diana could do, it was hold space. She could hold the space I needed to feel. She could hold whatever space I needed to cuss and thrash around and hate people. She could hold the space I needed to be exhausted and imperfect and angry. She’s an extraordinary space holder. p.232
Choosing curiosity when I’m in shame is something that I’ll need to stay mindful of for the rest of my life. p.233
Men and women with high levels of shame resilience:
- Understand shame and recognise what messages and expectations trigger shame for them.
- Practice critical awareness by reality-checking the messages and expectations that tell us that being imperfect means being inadequate.
- Reach out and share their stories with people they trust.
- Speak shame – they use the word shame, they talk about how they’re feeling, and they ask for what they need. p.234
From Long Island to Silicon Valley, a fear of being perceived as weak forces men into rep tending they are never afraid, lonely, confused, vulnerable, or wrong; and an extreme fear of being perceived as cold-hearted, imperfect, high maintenance, or hostile forces women to pretend they’re never exhausted, ambitious, pissed off, or even hungry. p.239
Nostalgia sound relatively harmless, until we examine the two Greek root words that form nostalgia: nostos, meaning “returning home,” and algos, meaning “pain.” Romanticising our history to relieve pain is seductive. p.239
Of all the things trauma takes away from us, the worst is our willingness, or even our ability, to be vulnerable. There’s a reclaiming that has to happen. p.241
Stephanie Coontz [The way we never were] puts her finger on some real dangers of nostalgia. She writes, “There’s nothing wrong with celebrating the good things in our past. But memories, like witnesses, do not always tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. We need to cross-examine them, recognizing and accepting the inconsistencies and gaps in those that make us proud and happy as well as those that cause us pain.”
Coontz suggests that the best way to reality-check our nostalgic ideas is to uncover and examine the tradeoffs and contradictions that are often deeply buried in all of our memories. p.242
Coontz is careful to point out that the people who rumbled with their nostalgia didn’t feel guilt or shame about their good memories – instead, their digging made them more adaptable to change. She concludes, “Both as individuals and as a society, we must learn to view the past in three dimensions before we can move into the fourth dimension of the future.”
[…] Nostalgia can be a dangerous distraction, and it can underpin a feeling of resignation or hopelessness after a fall. In the rising strong process, looking back is done in the service of moving forward with an integrated and whole heart. p.243
Personal emotional attacks made by people not engaged in problem-solving have zero value in building or creating anything – they’re only an attempt to tear down and invalidate what others are attempting to build, with no meaningful contribution to replace what has been destroyed. p.244
After a few hits, we start playing smaller and smaller, making ourselves harder targets. We’re more difficult to hit when we’re small, but we’re also less likely to make a contribution. p.245
When cheap-seat criticism becomes the loudest most prevalent type of criticism we encounter, it pushes out the idea that thoughtful criticism and feedback can be and often are useful. We stop teaching people how to offer constructive, helpful feedback and critiques, and, in order to save ourselves, we shut down all incoming data. We start to exist in echo chambers where nothing we do or say s challenged. This is also dangerous. p.245
When we stop caring what people think, we lose our capacity for connection. […] The solution is getting totally clear on the people whose opinions actually matter. p.245
I must redefine what I believe is valuable and make sure I0m included within that definition. p.247
Being curious aligns with my values. Being mean is outside of my integrity. p.247
Our identities are always changing and growing, they’re not meant to be pinned down. Our histories are never all good or all bad, and running from the past is the surest way to be defined my it. That’s when it owns us. The key is bringing light to the darkness – developing awareness and understanding. p.249
We can’t be “all in” if only parts of us show up. If we’re not living, loving, parenting, or leading with our whole, integrated hearts, we’re doing it halfheartedly. p.250
There is no grater threat to the critics and cynics and fearmongers
Than those of us who are willing to fall
Because we have learned how to rise. p.253
“My story matters because I matter” p.254
When emotion washes over us and the first thing we think is, Why am I so pissed? What’s going on with me? or My gut says something’s up and I need to get out my journal and figure this out, that’s when the uprising has officially started. p.255
We know that rumbling is going to be tough, but we head straight into it because we know running is harder. p.255
Respecting the passion and commitment of people means respecting their items on the agenda. p.259
Just like people, when organisations own their stories and take responsibility for their actions, they get to write the new endings. When they deny their stories, people on the outside, like the media, take over the story’s authorship to write new narratives that could come to define the organization. p.259
We must have uncomfortable conversations if we’re going to work to empower people and change systems. p.264
Every part of the rising strong practice points to these questions: Can we lean in to the vulnerability of emotion and stand in our truth? Are we willing to lean in to the initial discomfort of curiosity and creativity so we can be braver with our lives? Do we have the courage to rumble with our story? p.266