I’m a Brene Brown fan. Of epic proportions.
Ever since I read her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, she is my guru- like Drona was to Eklavya. I know she will never ask me for my thumb, but if she does, I’ll give it without a second’s hesitation. There’s no point doing things half way, is there?
(Aside: If you haven’t read the book, you must. M.U.S.T. There’s no negotiation on that. And if you aren’t the reading kinds… well!)
A very powerful section in the book deals with sharing. Whom, she asks, are you sharing your vulnerable moments with? Whom do you go to and confess to something you did that shames you? To whom are you opening up? Into whose ears are you pouring your anguish? When you are in the midst of a shame storm, whom do you trust to be your anchor?
She offers a few guidelines to help you select (or become) the right person to share with. She discusses these guidelines with Oprah on a Super Soul Sunday episode. You can watch the video here.
If we share our shame story with the wrong person, they can easily become one more piece of flying debris in an already dangerous storm.
~ Brené Brown
When choosing the person you will share with ( or to become the person others can share safely with), make sure that:
They have earned the right to hear your story. Someone who hasn’t been impacted (and mauled) by life’s idiosyncrasies would be hard put to empathize with you. They just don’t know how it feels. Here, I must also add that there are people who have gone through terrible times- and have suffered much. But when it comes to the suffering of others, they are not able to relate- despite their own suffering. I have met people like that. To pour your tale of shame before such people will only hurt you.
You have a strong enough relationship with them to be able to bear the weight of their sharing. It isn’t easy to make room for another person in space already cluttered. You may want to rest in that space after pouring out your story… for days or a few hours. The story you share will fill up all the space within them. Their own shame storms might come trotting out and join in to create a rowdy shame fest. This might turn things difficult for both of you. You will only be able to deal with it if you have a strong bond with each other.
They are willing to wade into the deep end with you and not give you responses that isolate you while they stand aside on safe, dry land, shouting instructions on what you should do to help yourself. This could take the form of statements like:
Oh My God that’s such a terrible storm! You are going to DIE!
Oh you poor thing, you’re stuck in a storm!
How COULD you let yourself caught in a storm? Now I have to get you out!
Don’t over-react! The storm is not as bad as you are making it out to be!
This storm is nothing. Let me tell you of the one I got caught in last month!
God helps those who help themselves. Buck up!
And so on….
(Aside: Have you ever given someone such responses yourself? Be honest now!)
From my own experience, I would add that the person you honor by sharing your shame storm with, must be non- judgmental. They must have the capacity to accept you completely with all your imperfections and confusing contradictions. They must give you the space in which you can stand naked without wondering what they might be thinking. They must be someone to whom you can confess your darkest, most secret thoughts.
We come into human form so open, so trusting, so vulnerable. And then we shut down to stay alive. And then we confuse our adaptations with our authenticity, our armor sticking to us like crazy glue. As complex as the process of de-armoring is, in a way it’s quite simple. We are just trying to open again. We are just trying to surrender to who we really are. This is the work of all truth-speakers and wing-lifters- to remind us of our misplaced magnificence, to raise our authenticity to the rafters of consciousness, to get real again. May we continue to support this intention in each other until we are all swimming in a sea of delight. Joy to the inner world!
As Brene says, if you have ONE such person in your life, you have enough. If you have two or three, you have a lottery.
Some people have a gift for empathy. Maybe they were born with it; maybe they learned it in the school of hard knocks. Whichever it is, such people are the glue that put us together again when we come apart. To some, these people have drawn the thin line between sanity and insanity; even life and death.
There is nothing in the world that gives you hope, courage and a feeling of unconditional love, as the wholehearted acceptance of another person. Nothing is as empowering as to have someone bear witness to your vulnerability without flinching with pity, outrage or fear.
To BE such a person is not easy. To HAVE such a person is pure bliss.
To whom do you Open Up?