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I’d like to direct your attention again to the work of Dr. Brene Brown. In an earlier blog I referenced her TED talk on vulnerability which I found to be a very powerful reflection on the original meaning of the word ‘courage’ – which is to say – to speak your heart. Since then I have read her book I Thought It Was Just Me and wanted to write a little bit about her Shame Resilience protocol. She writes eloquently about the many double binds that women find themselves in no matter what the arena – appearance, motherhood, health, sex, financial status – you name it, there are cultural shame traps in every direction that can create an incredible challenge to living an authentic life. She also acknowledges that shame and a healthy, available response to it works differently for men than it does for women. In both cases, rigid cultural gender roles keep us trapped in a debilitating cycle of self-blame and immobility. According to research that Brown cites, cultural norms demand these traits for girls and women: nice, thin, modest, and use all available resources for appearance. For boys/men the expected persona is to always show emotional control, work comes first, pursue status and violence. Women feel that they must do it all without breaking a sweat and men understand that they are never allowed to be perceived as weak. These are straitjackets that we all live in that eventually do us great harm.
It’s important to note, as Brown does in a second TED talk, that shame is highly correlated to addiction, depression, aggression, bullying and eating disorders. She believes that shame is at an epidemic level in our society. The antidote to shame – those internal messages of ‘you’re not good enough’ or ‘who do you think you are’ – is empathy, vulnerability and connection in a safe place. Therapy at its best functions as an incubator that disempowers shame – creating the space for innovation, creativity and change that allows us to, in Dr. Brown’s words, dare greatly.
If you find yourself struggling with depression and anxiety and would like to feel better contact me and we will schedule a time to talk.
Image Credit: Jef Safi