Vulnerability, Shame, and the Need to Connect

This morning, I listened to this talk by researcher Brene Brown on the power of vulnerability:

In this talk, Dr. Brown lays out the human dilemma, which is that we long to connect, in fact, we’re wired for it. (Psychologist John Briere calls this “The Barbra Streisand Effect” – people need people.) But in order to connect with each other, we have to allow ourselves to be vulnerable, which means being truly seen. And being seen can be terrifying because it requires us to reveal aspects of ourselves that we’ve come to believe are bad, and therefore must be hidden, not only from others, but also from ourselves.

Psychotherapy can help resolve this dilemma.  It provides a safe, accepting place in which we can gradually begin to take the risk of being vulnerable and being seen.  Together with a therapist, we re-acquaint ourselves with all the aspects of ourselves we’ve judged as bad and shoved into deep storage in our unconscious, and as we uncover and accept these parts of ourselves, we discover that actually, we’re just fine the way we are. There’s no need to stay so hidden and disconnected from ourselves and from each other. There isn’t anything, really, to be ashamed of after all.

Therapy is an organic process that unfolds gradually and gently over time.  It’s so much more than a set of techniques for managing symptoms, although learning to tolerate our discomfort and manage our symptoms is often an integral part of the work.  It’s so much more than “just talking”; while the conversation is the context and the vehicle for this gradual unfolding, it’s a conversation that happens on many levels, not just in words.

I hope you enjoy listening to Dr. Brown’s talk as much as I did.  And if it resonates with you, if you feel a little scared as you hear her talk about the differences between “whole-hearted” people and people who are filled with shame, know that you don’t have to keep suffering and struggling.  Find a therapist who you feel comfortable with, as Dr. Brown did, and enter into that journey that can help you let your shame go.

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