Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Power of Vulnerability- TED Talks

Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston, gave a wonderful TED talk in June 2010 at TEDxHouston called "The Power of Vulnerability." She gives several interesting insights on why we as humans feel vulnerability and when that vulnerability ceases to be a gut check or a valuable piece of intuition and begins to be a crippling side effect of shame (I can almost hear the collective groans: "Geez, he's talking about shame again...).

Watch it. She's entertaining and accessible. If you can't be bothered, the most interesting point I found was that there are two types of people: those who feel capable of loving and being loved and those who really have to work hard to feel loved because it doesn't come easily to them.

Those in the first category, whom she calls whole-hearted people, have three important distinctions over those in the second category, namely, a capacity for courage, for compassion, and for connection.

The capacity for courage is manifested by an ability to present themselves as imperfect beings. The capacity for compassion is an ability to treat themselves kindly first and then extend compassion to others, the logic being that we have no ability to show compassion for others if we can't treat ourselves kindly. Finally, the capacity for connection means that those who are whole-hearted can forsake the image that they seek to convey in favor of being authentically themselves, which authenticity is required for genuine connection.

The final and major distinction whole-hearted people have is a willingness to be vulnerable. According to her research, Brown concluded that they feel neither excessive delight nor excruciating discomfort in being in vulnerable situations, but instead see them as necessary parts of life. Saying "I love you" first, entering into risky relationships with high potential, taking calculated risks professionally, and even having regular doctor's examinations place these people in vulnerable situations, situations which they view as important facets of a balanced life. Those who live half-heartedly instead bury their vulnerability and keep it closely guarded, turning it into shame.

She then outlines the problem we face today for those of us who are not whole-hearted. We seek to numb vulnerability, shame, and disappointment in self and others, but the problem with emotion is that numbing agents do not work selectively. A beer or five will not help us feel less pain and more love. We will feel less of everything, which emptiness leaves us feeling alone, miserable, and depressed and yields the use of more numbing.

You'll have to watch the video to hear her proposed remedies ;)


As always, my mailbox is a sanctuary for bitching, grieving, being joyful, being lonely, etc. Don't let shame, vulnerability, or fear cripple you.  gay mormon pioneer at gmail dot com

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