I belong to the most amazing group of women who get together once a month and simply share where we are at for that month. We hold the "talking stone" (supposed to be a stick, but, hey...) when its our turn to talk; and just listen when its someone else's turn; and we witness an array of emotions from joy and gratitude to shame, pain and blame. No judgments. No fixing. No interrupting. Well, that's the idea anyway. Pascale Schroen started these groups down in my neck of the woods after belonging to a similar group based in Johannesburg, run by Angela Deutschmann (www.angeladeutschmann.com) who is very talented in the arena of shame- and pain-exposing workshops, all in the name of pursuing your joy. I can highly recommend them.
At our last meeting, a theme of shame came up. Brene Brown says that shame is the fear of disconnection and connection, she says, is the reason for living. In order for shame to grow, it needs one of three things: secrecy, silence and judgment. Shame leads to fear, blame and disconnection. Empathy on the other hand leads to courage, compassion and connection - and this is exactly what happens in our group of women. I am blown away every month how amazingly similar our struggles and joys are. And each time someone stands in their vulnerability and voices their shame and pain and secret secrets, shame is diluted and connection happens as we bond and shout, "Me too!" silently in our heads, of course.
Dr Brown goes on to say, "In order for connection to happen, we have to let ourselves be seen, REALLY seen." I think this is the essence of what we have done in our group of women over the past 2 and a half years. Apparently, our sense of worthiness lies in our sense of love and belonging. She reckons that in a huge study conducted over 6 years, she focused on a group that had a high sense of worthiness, love and belonging and discovered that what set them apart was a BELIEF that they had a strong sense of love and belonging, that's all. She calls them Whole-Hearted People. What did they have in common? One : Courage - to be imperfect. Two: Compassion - to be kind to themselves first and then others. Three: Connection - as a result of authenticity, they were able to let go of who they thought they SHOULD be in order to be who they REALLY are. And finally, Vulnerability - they fully embraced it. They believed that what made them vulnerable, made them beautiful; that vulnerability was necessary and they displayed a willingness to say "I love you" first or "I made a mistake" or "I am sorry" first. Vulnerability is at the core of shame, fear and struggle for worthiness, she says, but it is also the birthplace of joy, creativity and belonging and love.
So instead of numbing our vulnerability with addictions, materialism, medication and eating, we sit with our discomfort and experience the whole array of human emotion, because when we numb the pain, we numb the joy too. We cannot isolate the emotion we wish to numb. Instead of making the uncertain CERTAIN as we do with religion and politics, we just remain open. Instead of blaming, we take responsibility for our choices. Instead of pretending we don't have an impact on those around us, we get real. Instead of trying to be perfect, we admit our imperfections to ourselves and others. Brene Brown says our job as parents is to say to our children: " You are imperfect and wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging."
She suggests another way of being: We let ourselves be seen, deeply seen, vulnerably be seen. We love with our whole hearts even though there is no guarantee. We practice gratitude and joy. And we believe that we are enough so that we become kinder and gentler to ourselves and those around us.
I am inspired... thank you Brene.