Welcome to the weekly book discussion. My hope is that it starts a conversation, as if we were sitting in a coffee shop discussing over lattes. As such, it’s not intended to be a review or critique. So, please read, share, and join the discussion! This week is our fourth week reading Brené Brown’s most recent book Rising Strong.
This week, I want to start with a couple quotations from the book in order to set the framework for what I’m thinking, especially for those of you who aren’t reading the book. (My location references are for the Kindle version.) We’re in chapter 4, titled “The Reckoning,” which is full of good things to talk about. I’ll be staying at the “meta” level, however, so here goes:
“You may not have signed up for a hero’s journey, but the second you fell down, got your butt kicked, suffered a disappointment, screwed up, or felt your heart break, it started. It doesn’t matter whether we are ready for an emotional adventure – hurt happens. And it happens to every single one of us. Without exception. The only decision we get to make is what role we’ll play in our own lives: Do we want to write the story or do we want to hand that power over to someone else?” (loc. 843)
“You either walk into your story and own your truth, or you live outside of your story, hustling for your worthiness.” (loc. 853)
“The rising strong reckoning has two deceptively simple parts: (1) engaging with our feelings, and (2) getting curious about the story behind the feelings — what emotions we’re experiencing and how they are connected to our thoughts and behaviors.” (loc. 861)
I know what it is to hustle for worthiness. For those of you that are Enneagram junkies, I’m a classic type-3, which means that I’m an (over)achiever. I dream big and get it done. The dark side of the 3 is that I tend to define myself by my accomplishments. And, the even darker part is that I tend not to see the accomplishments, but instead focus on the failures. So much of the time, I feel a lot of shame. And when I feel bad about myself, I try to accomplish more stuff, so I can feel good again. This is my hustle.
But really, we all hustle for love (or what Brené calls worthiness). You have your own ways of behaving to get the ego strokes you need, but which are ultimately empty because you know you hustled for them. This chapter is all about shutting down the hustle. Once we’ve identified our story (last week’s post), we need to dig a little deeper into it. We need to get curious, and instead of hustling, we need to first own our stories, and then own our emotions.
“In this stage of the rising strong process – the reckoning – we need to get curious. We need to be brave enough to want to know more.” (loc. 958)
I think there’s this narrative in our culture (I probably hear it more from guys, but it’s certainly not gender-specific) that to get curious about one’s feelings, motivations, failures, insecurities, etc., is somehow weak. “No regrets, keep looking forward, move on, there’s no use wallowing in our past failures,” says this particular train of thought. And I agree to a point. Wallowing in failure and disappointment isn’t useful. But running away from it, refusing to get curious about it isn’t healthy either. We can’t learn from what we refuse to face.
What Brené is asking of us, in this chapter, is to own our emotions and then ask “why do I feel this way?” I think I’m a fairly emotional guy, but in my experience the reasons for my emotions aren’t always easily apparent. I know I feel hurt, disappointed, angry, etc. and sometimes I can even point to the precipitating event. But it takes an effort to get curious and sit with my emotions long enough to get to the fine point of why I feel the way I do.
It often takes a long time for me to get to the truth of my emotions. And, because humans (and ogres) are like onions, there are layers and it takes time to get to the core. And so, part of the Sabbatical journey, which I’m still on for the next month, has been sitting with some difficult emotions: loss, disappointment, shame, etc., and getting curious and getting down to the core.
Of course, there are alternatives to this work. Our culture specializes in helping us numb our emotional pain (one avoidance technique among several that Brené explores). We’re proficient at keeping things light and breezy, keeping ourselves slightly inebriated (just enough to not deal with our stuff), overfed and shopping our way out of our pain.
“And just so we don’t miss it in this long list of all the ways we can numb ourselves, there’s always staying busy; living so hard and fast that the truths of our lives can’t catch up with us. We fill every ounce of white space with something so there’s no room or time for emotion to make itself known.” (loc. 1105) – (OUCH)
I know this sounds heavy on a Wednesday morning. But here’s what I also know: when I get curious and give myself some white space to get curious with my emotions, and I refuse to stuff or numb them, and I finally get to the core, there’s freedom, there’s a lightness that comes to the soul, to the psyche because now I know what I’m dealing with, and now I can finally start moving forward.
I’ve heard people say – when they’ve been struggling with an unknown illness, one the doctors can’t seem to figure out – “I just want to know, so we can start dealing with it.” And what’s true of physical ailments is also true of our insides; knowing is the first step toward healing.
And so, today, or at least some time in the next couple of days,I challenge you to set aside some quiet space, turn off your phone, turn off the music/television, refuse yourself the alcohol or food that serves as your method of choice and get curious about your emotions. And then, if you feel courageous, I challenge you to share what you learn with someone you trust. You just might start feeling better. At least I know that’s the beginning of wholeness for me.
Thanks for reading along! I’ll be out of town next week, but I’ve already written two posts for next week, they will publish on Monday and WednesdaIf you liked this post, please share it!