Book Review – Rising Strong by Brene Brown

by Mark Votava

51ro+ZeWodL._SX431_BO1,204,203,200_I love this book by Brene Brown!  It is definitely one of my favorites of the year!  One of the things I like about her is the focus on vulnerability in her writing.  This seems to be such a difficult subject to talk about in North American culture.

Vulnerability is often times approached as a bad thing because it does not make us look strong, successful or extremely competent.  But Brene Brown disagrees and says it is the basis of our greatest measure of strength.  In this book, she guides us through a process of rising strong: the reckoning (getting curious about our emotions), the rumble (getting honest about the stories we make up), and the revolution (integrating our experiences).  This is a beautiful path of living into our vulnerability for the good of our world.

Showing up and being seen is a clear focus of the writing.  I highly agree that this is so important in our lives as it is easy to self-protect and become defensive instead of vulnerable.  But it seems that all vulnerability is the very essence of love.  Without vulnerability, we cannot connect to the deepest ground of our being which is love.

Curiosity about our emotions is the starting point.  Sometimes I am disconnected from what is going on with me emotionally.  As a male, becoming emotionally literate is not looked upon highly a lot of the time.  But just as nonviolent communication (NVC) teaches, becoming literate of our emotions is so important to taking responsibility and ownership for them.  Then we can get curious about what they are communicating to us.  This is a frightening process that most of us have a hard time with.

Brene Brown shares how we make up stories that we tell ourselves in order to disown what is really going on and the emotions that go along with it all.  This is not helpful and causes us to be unaware of the truth about our story in life.  When this happen, it makes it almost impossible to embrace vulnerability and shame will set in.

We are called to integrate our experiences with the reckoning and the rumble of our own stories and come out with new learnings of deeper wisdom because of it.  The integration of our experiences with our curiosity and ownership of our stories is the way to get up after we fall into an unhealthy place of despair and shame.  Vulnerability is the path to our own relational healing where reconciliation, love, and compassion become truer for us than ever before.

I highly recommend Brene Brown’s book!  It is one of courage, truth, and leading us to greater honesty.  This is so crucial when there is so much relational dysfunction in our everyday lives.  Vulnerability could bring a lot of reconciliation to our lives together.

“I believe that vulnerability – the willingness to show up and be seen with no guarantee of outcome – is the only path to more love, belonging, and joy…”

“Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage…”

“…vulnerability is the only path out of the shame storm and back to each other…”

“If integration means ‘to make whole,’ then the opposite is to fracture, disown, disjoin, detach, unravel, or separate.  I think many of us move through the world feeling this way.  The irony is that we attempt to disown our difficult stories to appear more whole or more acceptable, but our wholeness – even our wholeheartedness – actually depends on the integration of all of our experiences, including the falls.”

“What gets in the way of reckoning with emotion is exactly what gets in the way of engaging in courageous behaviors: fear.  We don’t like how difficult emotions feel and we’re worried about what people might think.  We don’t know what to do with the discomfort and vulnerability.  Emotion can feel terrible, even physically overwhelming.  We can feel exposed, at risk, and uncertain in the midst of emotion.  Our instinct is to run from pain.  In fact, most of us were never taught how to hold discomfort, sit with it, or communicate it, only how to discharge or dump it, or to pretend that it’s not happening.  If you combine that with the instinctual avoidance of pain, it’s easy to understand why off-loading becomes a habit…”

“The rumble begins with turning up our curiosity level and becoming aware of the story we’re telling ourselves about our hurt, anger, frustration, and pain.  The minute we find ourselves facedown on the arena floor, our minds go to work trying to make sense of what’s happening. This story is driven by emotion and the immediate need is to self-protect, which means it’s most likely not accurate, well thought out, or even civil…” 

“I know we don’t judge people when we feel good about ourselves…”

“…we all experience different kinds of heartbreak over the course of our lives, but the heartbreak associated with addiction and mental, behavioral, and physical health struggles is not something we talk about enough.  We need to have more conversations about the protracted heartbreak that stems from feeling helpless as we watch someone we love suffer, even as the suffering pulls us down.  Last, our silence about grief serves no one.  We can’t heal if we can’t grieve; we can’t forgive if we can’t grieve.  We run from grief because loss scares us, yet our hearts reach toward grief because the broken parts want to mend…”

“…so many of us are good at giving help, but not at receiving it.  Giving help can occasionally feel vulnerable; asking for help always means risking vulnerability.  This is critical to understand…”

“Another one of shame’s sidekicks is comparison…  Believe me, comparison sucks the creativity and joy right out of life.”

“I’m slowly learning how to straddle the tension that comes with understanding that I am tough and tender, brave and afraid, strong and struggling – all of these, all of the time.  I’m working on letting go of having to be one or the other and embracing the wholeness of wholeheartedness.”

“Can we lean in to the vulnerability of emotion and stand in our truth?  Are we willing to lean into 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?…”

Have you read Rising Strong?  Does it seem to resonate with you at all?

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