A few years ago I became fascinated with Brene Brown’s work on Shame and how it serves as the number one factor in changing connection to disconnection. Why do I care so much? Because connection is the key to everything that’s beautiful in loving, living, and parenting and is the lifeblood of secure attachment. I had noticed that while secure attachment flows through a beautiful cycle of need to met need and relaxation, shame seemed to stop that natural flow. It gets in the way of every part of that cycle. Shame prevents us from stating our need, from acknowledging our feelings aloud, and from asking for help. Shame prevents us from accepting help when it is offered and relaxing into our loved ones like a soft pillow to land on.
Shame can be brought on by a trigger of “not enoughness” – something we all feel because we are human. For me, shame is paralyzing, and I find myself being my own worst enemy. I want to hide rather than reveal myself and engage wholeheartedly. I struggle to be open and caring, because in a shame state I can only think about me and what that other person must think! I never think of others as negatively as I think of myself at that moment. And worse than all of that – I can’t ask for help if I’m too ashamed of exposing myself, so I remain isolated and alone in my unreasonable fears! When I am afraid to feel vulnerability it robs me of intimacy. That is the opposite of wholeheartedness.
Today, I am amazed at how the concept of wholeheartedness affects myself, my friends and family, and my clients. Brene’s principles for creating wholeheartedness and acceptance of vulnerability are a solid part of our practice as clinicians at the Green House Center, and as human beings. For me, in my own life, it has become my code for living. As Brene puts it, telling the story of who you are with your whole heart day in trusted relationships, has the powerful effect of bringing more joy in to all parts of our lives. Being authentic and vulnerable in all relationships is a great challenge and there is much to know and understand about it, but nothing changes lives faster and more effectively for the better.