Less thinking. More feeling.
These are the words that jumped off the page at me. I just re-cracked the spine on Brené Brown’s book, Daring Greatly, and in the introduction (the introduction, mind you, page 6, not even the ‘real’ part of the book yet) I was caught off guard with these four words. Her powerfully penned punch landed right on my nose. Ouch!
This was not the first time I read these pages. But it was the first time these words caused a reaction in me.
“I know what my problem is…” I said to the woman sitting across from me. She was perched in a well-worn chair and in an opposing universe I was barely touching mine. It wasn’t comfortable for me to be there. I was used to handling these types of things on my own.
“You do?” she challenged.
“Yes… I do,” I said as confidently as I could. “And wondering if you can help me. Are you familiar with shame? That’s my problem.” I said. There… I said it. I named it. Brené says that shame doesn’t hold its power when we call it out.
“Shame? Yes… I can help you with that.”
Then why do I feel the heat of shame wash over me? Maybe it’s the way she’s looking at me. Does that chair give her super powers that allow her to peer inside the hidden part of people’s souls? I feel like she’s judging me, sizing me up. “Sure… she looks all put together but she’s really not. Another one of those 40-something women trying to keep control of her life.”
“Let’s try something. I want you to close your eyes and just concentrate on your breathing. Breathe in. Breathe out. Count… four in… four out…” Jeez, I can’t breathe when I have to concentrate on it.
“Whatever thought is coming into your mind, just let it come in and go out. Notice it but don’t attach anything to it. It’s just a thought. Not good. Not bad. Just a thought.” I forgot to call my husband about picking up the kids. I have to run to the grocery store when I’m done here. I wonder if she actually does this stuff herself! Should I cross my legs, touch my fingers together and start humming?
“Scan your body. Identify any pain that you have in your head… in your shoulders… in your arms… your fingers… going down into your legs… your feet… your toes… and just push it away.” My pain right now is in my posterior because I’ve sat here long enough.
“Be aware of everything around you… note how you’re feeling… hold it there and notice it… accept that emotion…” Ummmmmm…
She asked me to open my eyes. “What did you feel?”
What did I feel?
Stepping into vulnerability because this was supposed to be a safe place, I said, “Nothing. I didn’t feel anything…”
“Nothing.” Zip. Zero. Zilch.
“Uh-oh…” she said under her breath. Take cover! It’s a shame storm!
It’s been one year since I sat in that therapist’s office, and let’s just say I didn’t keep the seat warm. She was trying to help me move through shame with mindfulness. Don’t get me wrong… mindfulness is a powerful practice but it’s like using a water gun to put out a five-alarm fire when it comes to extinguishing shame.
You see… I finally connected the dots after attempting mindfulness and re-reading the introduction to Brené’s book. Less thinking, more feeling is what her therapist prescribed to help Brené move into understanding vulnerability as an ‘exquisite emotion’.
I don’t need mindfulness as a daily 20-minute meditation practice to work through shame. My day-to-day practice is to be mindful when I feel shame so to identify the triggers, change my inner voice, and choose the appropriate (and likely uncomfortable) response.
I didn’t figure this all out on my own. It took me passively reading Daring Greatly once, joining a Daring Way group of women (find a local Daring Way leader here), feeling like I failed them and myself, re-reading Brené’s work, and now committing to Brené’s Living Bravely online class.
For the next semester, I’m going to do less thinking and more feeling.
Where Brené is the official ‘road captain’ for this trip, I’ve got my own destination in mind. I’ll be drawing my own map and hitting the road with vulnerability and intentionality. Being the mapmaker and traveler will make for an interesting journey.
I’ll be sharing my journey here in hopes of challenging and inspiring you to find your own path. Hey… why don’t you come with? I’ll be hanging out in the introduction and chapter one of Daring Greatly for a couple days. Grab Brené’s book and I’ll wait for you to catch up.
If you’d like to come along, read the introduction and share any powerful punch-in-the-nose insights you learned. I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments. I’ll go first with the vulnerability stuff and we’ll learn together.