This evening I am sat in the warmth of the conservatory, listening to and watching the boys play outside.. heart in my mouth at points as they are playing throw and catch on the walls around the garden.. the occasional thud on the window as one of them misses or mis-aims…
And I have been re-watching for the ‘n’th time the Ted Talks by Brené Brown on vulnerability and shame, having been reminded of them by a friend earlier this week. I enjoyed them the first time round a year ago, but this time I have made the effort to really hear and understand. So I am surrounded by scraps of paper as I write down key words and phrases in an attempt to apply them to my feelings, my heart and soul and situation…
When I watched the first one, I nodded a lot and raised my eyebrows in thought … my weekend ‘hiatus’ was the same as her ‘vulnerability breakdown’…
But it is the second one where everything seems to be dropping in to place, her summary of findings on her 6 year research of ‘shame’.
Words I have ringed on sheets of paper… ‘vulnerability’, ‘courage’ and ‘shame’ and ‘failure’ and drawn arrows between them to understand the flow. And ‘numb’ and ‘heart’ on a tangent.
She said she started with ‘shame’… which lead her to ‘vulnerability’.
For me, I have started with ‘vulnerability’ and ended up with ‘shame’…
Vulnerability comes from exposure… exposing ourselves to judgement of another or others in quiet privacy or open public arenas.
To exposure oneself, one’s thoughts, inner most secrets or pain takes ‘courage’. Courage as she rightly points out is from the Latin word ‘cor’, meaning heart. To be vulnerable means you have to have courage to live your life wholeheartedly and embrace joy, love, peace and connection but to live from your heart and opening your heart can also inflict pain, feel shame or even fear.
My cycle from vulnerability, to courage then leads on to failure. If it takes courage to be vulnerable and open up, it also takes courage to fail. And keep failing. You have to ‘get in the ring’ and give everything a go, even if you get it wrong. The courage comes from firstly trying and then secondly, getting up and giving it another shot… and another and another… or even just having the guts to say ‘this isn’t working for me, I made a mistake’.
And therefore, as vulnerability, courage and failure are intrinsically linked, the forth word in the wheel is ‘shame’. The shame we hold on to for that ‘failure’. The saboteur in your head who puts you down, laughs at you and tells you that it’s you that is the mistake, not that you made one (BB says this is the difference between guilt and shame…I made a mistake vs I am the mistake).
‘Vulnerability Ted’ as she calls herself says that shame is born of secrecy, silence and judgement and points out that the only antidote to shame is empathy, the words ‘me too’. And therefore, this is how I connect the wheel to complete the cycle. The only way to receive empathy, compassion and the words ‘I get it, me too’ and to feel less alone, less exposed… is to be ‘vulnerable’, tell your story, share your truth, your pain.
And so the cycle is complete: Vulnerability to courage to failure to shame… and back round to the ‘Big V’.
Outside of the ‘vulnerability wheel’, I have noted the word ‘numb’. I have interpreted this to be the one danger to the free flow of the ‘V’ cycle… You have to ‘let go’, let your heart be free. There is a danger that on exposing yourself, you can anticipate pain and therefore you ‘numb’ the heart, freeze it so it no longer feels the harsh words, the devastation of loss, the heartache of betrayal. If you numb the heart, you feel nothing, learn nothing, enjoy nothing.
To unfreeze, the only way I can see is actually to step back in to the vulnerability wheel. Thaw out. Re-expose. Be brave and share what hurts, what shames you. And then allow the empathy and compassion to mend you.
So in applying this theory to me… My whole heart was broken a while ago. I was exposed and vulnerable and breathless with pain and consumed with enough shame for the world. Despite my vulnerability, my heart continued to be under attack… again…. And yet again… Multiple parties getting their kicks from my pain. I stepped off the V Wheel and numbed myself, retreated and shied away, locked my heart in a frozen cage. And this has worked for a while.
With Mumbo dying, I can feel my heart trying to get out to be healed. I am scared to let it out frozen. One hit, one knock and it could shatter for ever.
However, the messages are loud and clear from what I have listened to in these talks. Bare your soul, be vulnerable, have courage to release the shame of failure and show up wholeheartedly for what you believe in.
I also believe that the key to the big thaw, is time. Not time to wait but time to take baby steps in vulnerability.
As the Vulnerability Guru says, you don’t wait until you are bulletproof to get in to the ring, get in the ring with everyone else, their weaknesses, their failures, their shame, their guilt and open up, empathise, connect and belong.
Each broken heart can be fixed and each time get stronger.