In Costa Rica, one of my missions was to do little else besides read in the sunshine. I'm very proud to say that I accomplished that goal, and the only book of the stack that wasn't fiction or memoir was Brown's Rising Strong, the next of her works. I wasn't sure if I was even going to read it at all, because I knew it would be a lot to digest and I was on vacation, after all. Hardly the place you feel like delving into such topics as fear, vulnerability, shame, and failure.
But in typical Brene Brown fashion, once I picked the book up, I could. not. put. it. down. The combination of her academic research and credentials and her gift for storytelling and Texan wit makes her books the kind that you know you should read slowly but you just can't stop. I feel like highlighting the whole damn thing.
When a book makes you feel that way - and makes you feel like maybe you should start therapy - it can be hard to write about it a simple bloggy book report-y "I liked it!" kind of way. I'll do my best to briefly summarize some of her key points, and leave you with some of my favorite quotes.
The cornerstone of this book is the idea of dealing with our failures or simply those moments that trigger a deep emotional response in us by slowing down and getting curious about what we're feeling and why - instead of whatever our typical reaction might be, such as lashing out or blaming others or wallowing. She breaks this process down into the 3 R's - the Reckoning, the Rumble, and the Revolution.
The Reckoning is that moment when you know something needs to be addressed - maybe it's a very obvious and big failure at work, or maybe it's just a smaller moment where something emotional gets triggered by something seemingly innocuous. The Revolution is applying what you learn in the rumble to live more wholeheartedly.
The book focuses on the middle part - the Rumble. She writes, "The goal of the rumble is to get honest about the stories we're making up about our struggles, to revisit, challenge, and reality-check these narratives as we dig into topics such as boundaries, shame, blame, resentment, heartbreak, generosity, and forgiveness." Part of the work of this is writing our "shitty first drafts" of what we're feeling when we're feeling it, a term borrowed by the inimitable Anne Lamott. Not looking to be right, just looking to be as honest as possible, even if that brings up less-than-lovely qualities in ourselves or total irrationality.
This book much more than her previous two includes a ton of stories - both her own and those of people who have given her permission to share them - about struggles with work, family, relationships, and more - the big face-down failures and the small day-to-day frustrations. She uses all of these different stories to illustrate how we can use the process of the shitty first draft and of delving deeper into learning the delta (or the difference) between what we initially think and feel versus what the reality of the situation is. Are we assuming the worst about other people and ignoring our own share of the blame? Or are we stuck in a shame spiral, when the reality is that we're being too hard on ourselves?
This book covers BIG topics. I just finished reading it again, a little slower (and with a highlighter) after devouring it in Costa Rica, and I still feel like it needs a couple more rereads to get all the way into my heart and my brain. So I'll simply insist that you get your hands on a copy ASAP and read it cover to cover a minimum of two times, and leave you with some of my favorite quotes:
"When we stop caring what people think, we lose our capacity for connection. But when we are defined by what people think, we lose the courage to be vulnerable"
"Choosing to be curious is choosing to be vulnerable because it requires us to surrender to uncertainty."
"They [compassionate folks she interviewed] assume that other people are doing the best they can, but they also ask for what they need and they don't put up with a lot of crap." (most compassionate people I interviewed had most well defined/respected boundaries)...I lived the opposite way: I assumed that people weren't doing their best so I judged them and constantly fought being disappointed, which was easier than setting boundaries. Boundaries are hard when you want to be liked and when you are a pleaser hell-bent on being easy, fun, and flexible."
This last pull quote is actually not from Brown, but from a passage of Desmond Tutu's book that she quoted. This hit me very, very hard - for most people, I think forgiveness is one of the hardest topics to grapple with, and she writes beautifully about it. My favorite excerpt, though, is the Tutu passage:
"To forgive is not just to be altruistic. It is the best form of self interest. It is also a process that does not exclude hatred and hanger. These emotions are all part of being human...However, when I talk of forgiveness, I mean the believe that you can come out of the other side a better person. A better person than the one being consumed by anger and hatred. Remaining in that state locks you in a state of victimhood, making you almost dependent on the perpetrator. If you can find it in yourself to forgive, then you are no longer chained to the perpetrator."
This book came out three years ago, in 2015, and I still have to catch up to Braving the Wilderness, her most recent book which came out last year. I'm so thrilled that someone with so many powerful messages is getting the success that she's getting, and I really think this world would be a better place if we all dove into the hard topics she covers in her books.
**Edited to add - check out her SuperSoul conversation about Rising Strong with Oprah Winfrey!