The ‘work’ Brene is referring to here is the work of being vulnerable and wow, in my experience this is the toughest work of all!
In the hardest moments of my life – losing a relationship, losing my life savings; even in the small everyday struggles of life – the pressure of a deadline, the frustration of a printer malfunction – my reactive tendency is to become defensive.
Quite the opposite of vulnerable – I blame and judge others, I can stamp my feet in childish frustration, and mostly I isolate myself. I turn away from others, I become hyper-independent, and I close down, I resist support, I clam up.
What I’ve discovered is it’s exactly in these moments that I need to reach out most. Reaching out isn’t easy. It means I have to share some or all of what’s going on for me and typically that sharing means I have to get past my shame. My shame about the role I played in the relationship breakdown, my shame for not taking responsibility for my own finances, the shame of feeling I’m not good enough/smart enough to deliver what this project needs.
Opening up also isn’t easy because, just like you, I’m wired for survival. Meaning my biological survival wiring is to avoid threat, avoid pain – when my survival wiring is activated vulnerability feels like weakness.
The only thing I’ve found that helps me ease out of my defensive, isolating reaction is to turn to myself first and acknowledge I’m having a hard time, turn towards myself with kindness and feel the pain, the uncomfortable feelings in my body. Feel the churning in my tummy when I’m frustrated, feel the ache of disappointment in my chest, feel the lump of sadness in my throat.
Simply be with these feelings as they’re showing up in my body in the moment and then soothe myself. Soothe my threat system with a warm touch of my hand on my chest or tummy, offer myself some kind words and reminding myself we all go through hard times like this.
When I’m able to do this, which is more and more the case with practice, then I can seek out the support I need from my partner or friends or therapist. The rewards from this ‘work’ are enormous – courage, compassion, connection and feeling fully human.
Can you relate?
With great warmth