Dear Brené Brown,
I have a bone to pick with you (the only Texan phrase I could think of). Your books need to come with warning labels on the cover: DO NOT READ THIS BOOK TOO QUICKLY OR YOU MAY HAVE A MELTDOWN FROM TRUTH OVERLOAD.
I've lost track of how many copies I have bought for friends and family of The Gifts of Imperfection, and each time I give it out, I warn people to pace themselves. I once forgot to warn a family member, who blasted through it in 2 days and then pretty much had a meltdown from the truth of your words hitting so hard. It was a good thing, but pretty intense.
There was a delay in getting my advance copy of Rising Strong from your publisher, and when I finally got a copy, I rushed through it in less than 24 hours so that I could get my review submitted to the Huffington Post. Big mistake. Mini meltdown followed and writing this review feels like wading in concrete as I rumble through something that was triggered from your book.
So I wrote this as a SFD (refer to point #3) open letter and then I kind of liked it--so I hope you will forgive the informality of this review.
In Rising Strong, you taught me that "the process of struggling and navigating hurt" is the key to recovering from the inevitable fall. You even said this would make me a badass if I did this.
"People who wade into discomfort and vulnerability and tell the truth about their stories are the real badasses."
You are right, and I want to say thank you for a few things, in hopes of encouraging others to buy your new book--and read it VERY slowly:
1. Thank you for making me realize that I cannot skip Act 2.
You refer to Act 2 as being the part of the story where we look "for every comfortable way to solve the problem" and then realize what it will take to really solve the problem--including our "lowest of the low."
I'm pretty sure that most of us would like to skip Act 2. It's fine to watch in a movie but it is really awful to live through. I appreciate that you referred to this process as reckoning, and describe how we need to engage with our feelings and get "curious about the story behind the feelings."
This takes away the seeming randomness of the experience and gives us back a little control.
2. Thank you for pointing out how I sometimes off-load pain, instead of embracing it.
You have called us all out on how we will pretty much do anything to avoid hurt. Your list of ways we off-load hurt is hard to dismiss.
- Chandeliering - stuffing our pain down so deep that some random thing causes it to resurface
- Bouncing - using anger and blame instead of feeling the pain
- Numbing - using other things to avoid the hurt (including burying ourselves in busyness)
- Stockpiling - accumulating pain until physical symptoms start appearing
- Fear of high centering - telling ourselves, "If I recognize my hurt or fear or anger, I'll get stuck."
3. Thank you for teaching me how to rumble and why it is necessary to do this.
To quote you, back to you:
"Rumbling with these topics [boundaries, shame, blame, resentment, etc.] and moving from our first responses to a deeper understanding of our thoughts, feelings and behaviors gives birth to key learnings about who we are and how we engage with others. The rumble is where wholeheartedness is cultivated and change begins."
I now understand that we start to rumble by creating a SFD (shitty first draft, as coined by Anne Lamont) or "uncensored story" of what we are telling ourselves so we can move to a deeper understanding of the situation, the people and ourselves.
We then have the opportunity to rumble with boundaries, integrity, generosity, expectations, disappointment, resentment, heartbreak, connection, grief, forgiveness, compassion, empathy, need, judgement, self-worth, privilege, asking for help, fear, shame, perfectionism, blame, accountability, trust, failure, regret, identity, criticism, and nostalgia.
You introduced the term delta as part of this process--the difference between the stories we make up and the truth that we uncover--and it is "where the meaning and wisdom of this experience live."
For those who, like me, get easily overwhelmed by the chaos of emotions, the idea of searching for the delta brings a new purpose to the process of working through these emotions.
A few complaints, just to keep it real.
First, when you wrote about rumbling with our own need and the needs of others, you said:
"How can we be truly comfortable and generous in the face of someone's need when we're repelled by our own?"
This made me a bit queasy. I wish I could unread this line. You are totally right, but...ouch. Can you please delete this line from the next edition?
My second complaint is that when you spoke about the Rising Strong revolution (the transformative part of the process), you described it as a daily practice, where we integrate our learnings into our everyday lives.
I want this to be a quick process, not a daily practice. Because that would be easier and more comfortable. Is this up for negotiation?
Most surprisingly, over the last few days, I've spontaneously quoted Rising Strong to my friends. In three separate conversations, the framework that you presented of processing our hurt and finding the truth in our stories has created an ah-ha moment. Of course I told them to go and buy the book because there's no way I'm lending my copy out.
To anyone other than Brené that is reading this letter: GO AND BUY THE BOOK. Take your time reading it. Talk about it with your inner circle. Be part of the Rising Strong revolution...
...because knowing that we can learn from our low points makes life feel a little less chaotic and a lot more hopeful.
See you in Seattle on September 16th for your Rising Strong book tour and see you in San Francisco for the Emerging Women Live conference in October (I promise that I am not a stalker)!
With much gratitude because of the profound impact your writing has had on my life,
Founder of Secondhand Therapy.