When I first saw the above “quote,” I immediately thought of my husband. He was the one denying his real story and acting out and rationalizing and compartmentalizing. Denial was his best friend.
I do believe he can embrace his own story, every last little sordid detail of it, the good, the bad, the ugly. I believe he can, and will, not only write a brave new ending, he will live it.
That being said, I had no idea who Brené Brown was or whether this quote was legitimate or if this person ever even said something remotely similar to it. You know what they say about quotes on the internet. I thought before I put one of her “quotes” up on my blog, I should research her at least a little. The last time I posted something about a well know someone I really didn’t know much about (although I was just posting the video on it’s own merits with a bunch of disclaimers), I felt strange afterwards. Like somehow commenters had me feeling like I was negligent for posting something by someone I had not thoroughly researched and then decided whether I felt like every concept she had ever talked or written about was valid or worthwhile to me, much less to every other person on the planet. My overwhelming feeling after this was confusion. Honestly, I am not a researcher, and I am not that sophisticated, and I do not care that much about other people’s “opinions.” Just because someone says something, does not necessarily make it true or even good advice. We all get to make choices for ourselves. I am pretty simple, if a quote speaks to me, that’s it. That is enough for me regardless of who wrote it, or when. It’s like music. I listen to it and I feel something regardless of what the person who wrote the lyrics was thinking or feeling. I do appreciate the fact that others are much more educated than I and they feel the need to do a lot of research. I did this in school and learned a lot about writing research papers, I did not necessarily learn a lot about life. I learned about life from living it. My husband loves research. Me, personally, I use my gut and I try not to take what others say too seriously. It would be tough to get me into a cult without heavy drugs. I’m generally just not buying. Sometimes I listen to the words of others and they fit into my life, other words have no place with me.
I googled Brené Brown and chose one of her TED Talks, “The Power of Vulnerability.” I got through about 6 minutes of the 20 minute talk and shut it off. She had some lovely things to say, many of them seemed totally valid, especially when thinking about my husband, or someone who has lived with the kind of shame he has, but once she defined shame, I was done. Here is what she said (somewhat paraphrased),
Shame is the fear of disconnection. Is there something about me that if other people know it or see it that I won’t be worthy of connection?
Okay, that seems right for those feeling shame… But then, she went on to say,
Shame is universal. We all have it. The only people that don’t experience shame have no capacity for human empathy or compassion.
WTF? Excuse me. Where did we go off the rails here? I replayed that part of the talk a couple times. All of the sudden I was confused. I have actually written quite a bit about shame on this blog. This is my blog. I have my own definition of shame and it is this,
Shame is a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.
Basically, Shame = I AM BAD. I have said how much I think the emotion of shame is a horrible waste of time. Shame just makes you feel bad about yourself. It is not helpful, useful or healing.
To me, I have had feelings of guilt, Guilt = I HAVE DONE SOMETHING BAD. I have done something I wished I hadn’t, but that does not make me a bad person, just a person who has done something I regret. I will learn from my mistake and do better next time.
I see a big huge difference between these two emotions. One is a useless degrading emotion, and one helps you acknowledge your wrongdoing. Ms. Brown would have me believe that because I do not want to feel that I am a bad person that I lack human empathy and compassion. I AM LITERALLY BLOWN AWAY and not in a good way. I guess she and I will just have to agree to disagree.
I pulled this from Wikipedia,
Psychoanalyst Helen B. Lewis argued that, “The experience of shame is directly about the self, which is the focus of evaluation. In guilt, the self is not the central object of negative evaluation, but rather the thing done is the focus.” Similarly, Fossum and Mason say in their book Facing Shame that “While guilt is a painful feeling of regret and responsibility for one’s actions, shame is a painful feeling about oneself as a person.”
So, that’s it for me. Even though I like the above quote and I’m leaving it there, I feel like I know enough about Ms. Brown that I do not need to spend any more time listening to her. I am sure there are lots and lots of people (especially considering the number of views on her TED Talks) that are helped by her words. I cannot get past our obviously different feelings towards the word shame. I guess I don’t really care whether hers and my definitions match up. Too many other things going on to think about. I can tell you absolutely what I am not feeling, shame for not feeling shame.