Tag Archives: brené brown

mt rainier fron kendall catwalk hike

numb the dark and you numb the light

numb the dark and you numb the light
this line is from brené brown a renowned author who writes on vulnerability. the complete paragraph goes like this:
“and numbing vulnerability is especially debilitating because it doesn’t just deaden the pain of our difficult experiences; numbing vulnerability also dulls our experiences of love, joy, belonging, creativity, and empathy. We can’t selectively numb emotion. numb the dark and you numb the light.”
maybe depression is tied up in trying to run away from the dark feelings and emotions that seem to go hand in hand with the big d. additionally it makes sense that depressed people struggle with feelings like love, belonging, joy, creativity and empathy. when stuffing or hiding from the dark feelings, the uplifting feelings get stuffed or lost, too.
it almost seems counter intuitive, face the dark to see the light. using another analogy, if one faces the east at sunset, the dark, and keeps facing that way, sooner or later, the sun will rise, the light.
perhaps victory over depression lies in facing the dark instead of turning from it. I got to say, that sounds both like something to strive for and something that sounds really scary. The dark is the monster I have been running from far to often. And in running from the dark, depression wins.

the power of an empathy

Brene Brown, in Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead,  writes, “If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.”

i’ll go even further. when one of our life adventures, no matter how awful, is received with empathy, we feel accepted for who we are and where we are. that acceptance is powerful and a form of love.

i went to my psychiatrist yesterday. recognizing how my depression can be a drag on Mary, i not so eloquently asked him, “any suggestions along the line, obviously when i’m in a bad space, it’s also a bad time for Mary. any suggestions along that line?”

dr. rogge replied, “…have some empathy for one another…just acknowledge it; that’s all you have to do.”

simple. yet, at times so difficult.

i recognize when i’m in a bad space, i am so wrapped up in myself. it is hard to see anything. i can imagine the difference it would make if i could say something like, “i recognize that when i am in depression, that it’s a hard time for you. i wish i didn’t have to drag you through it. when i do, it brings me sorrow as i’m sure it does for you, too. i wish that didn’t have to happen.”

or perhaps from the other side. “i recognize the depression puts you in a horrible place. that place is not of your choosing. when you get taken to that place, it makes me sad. i wouldn’t wish this on anyone.”

both of these statements ooze empathy. they acknowledge the wretched state and do it with out judgement. being on the receiving end of either of these statements, would make the situation feel a little less heavy and i would feel a little more accepted, a little more loved.

one thing that has become clear to me is  the power of our group, that being the people who suffer with mental disorders. we tend to seek solace with one another. we unknowingly and unwittingly become a support structure, a shoulder to lean on. its that willing ear, an understanding being, someone who has walked a similar walk. that makes it easier to leap to the feeling of, “been there, done that, i understand.” that generates strong feelings of belonging and empathy. those feeling give us a feeling of connectedness, that connectedness we as humans all desire.

so in closing, i offer up a challenge; act out of empathy today. in doing so, you will be taking a small step towards making the world a better place.

return from lake 22

that one little label, that one little stereotype

I have been reading Brene Brown’s book, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. i am currently working my way through a chapter on shame.

as i parsed my way through the list on why people feel shame, i read the line, “because we are stereotyped or labeled.” with that, i had a new found understanding about my journey with my mental disorder, why i felt “”unclean”. i came to recognize with that one little line, through that one little label, that one little stereotype,  i had been thrown into a shame induced stupor. Continue reading

fall on the way to kendall catwalk

the choice is yours: guilt or shame

this is a rework of an earlier post I wrote, written in a better time, but holds true more than ever.

i watched brené brown’s ted talk, listening to shame, a while ago.

it dealt with many aspects of shame. one thing she talked about is the difference between guilt and shame. to paraphrase: guilt is I did bad. shame is I am bad.

is it any wonder that children raised to value themselves as the gift to the world that they are, can stay away from shame. they learn just because they did bad doesn’t make them bad.

on the other hand, children raised to not value themselves, the jump from doing bad to being bad is so much easier to bridge. for them, it has been ingrained in their mind that they are bad, that doing something bad almost automatically triggers being bad. it’s what they know.

for those of us who fall in the second group, we are faced with an ongoing challenge; guilt or shame. falling into the I am awful, horrible, bad, whatever negative, is so easy to do. It is what i learned growing up. when I do I am snared in the trap of shame.

just like any trap, the longer the time spend in the trap, the more damage that is done. the trick is to find a fast escape from the trap. how can that be done?

just as i have learned to have a hair trigger reaction from doing to being bad, I can also teach myself to go the other way. when i fall in the trap of being bad, i challenge the thought. i ask myself why that is true? what happened to make me bad? i know i am a creature of god and worthy of being good. this feeling bad must be a ruse. i ask myself why I am feeling that way?

most often it can be traced back to recent events. it is not hard to find where i haven’t lived up to my or some one else’s expectations. when I have done wrong, bad or maybe something worse. it is usually as plain as the nose on my face. that pathway has got turned around. it has gone from me doing wrong  to me being wrong, worthless, good for nothing, a loser.

i am left with the choice, guilt or shame. do I stew in this horrible feeling or do I challenge it? if I stew in it, i choose shame. if i challenge it, challenge those feelings that have been a part of me since my youth, those beliefs that just because I made a mistake  makes me a mistake, i choose guilt and i am better off for that choice. i am closer to being that creature worthy of love that god wants me to be.

believe me, that choice is not easy, forty some years of learning is difficult to challenge. but, challenge it i must if i am to be one of god’s creatures, one worthy of love, not a creature absent of love that has been too much a part of my life for to long.

i add the following:

somehow living in depression makes that jump from shame to guilt seem like a deep and wide chasm, one that is impossible to make across. it is as if the switch of guilt or shame is solidly and completely frozen in the shame position. there isn’t even a pang of guilt. a strong arc jumps the gap and seemingly permanently welds the switch to shame. every thing that goes wrong ends up with an, “i am bad feeling”.

perhaps that is why depressive people like me sometimes struggle with suicide; they feel no guilt, only shame. any and everything that goes wrong, they equate it with how bad of a person they are. after awhile that becomes both wearing and something one can start to believe.

that being wrong, worthless, good for nothing, a loser, awful, horrible, bad, pounds in our heads like a big bass drum; pound pound pound pound pound pound pound pound pound. one wants to be free of it. in that broken state of mind, taking ones life seems like the only way to be free of that endless beat.

as i reflect back on what i wrote about a year ago, i notice so much of my depressive struggles is tied to expectations, unfortunately unmet expectations. i am not the man i hope to be not in the place i wanted to be. because of the ingrained shame of most of my life the fact that i am not where i want to be, that i am not measuring up, turns into shame. this shame is powerful and seems to have a shame mind meld on me.

i also have a pang of  hope. i once had control over the guilt/shame switch, that same switch that seems broken now. perhaps, i can once again somehow break that bond that keeps me attached to shame and feel the ‘freedom’ of guilt again.

ps. as a finish this, a realize that catholic guilt, and any religious guilt for that matter, isn’t really  guilt, but shame. it is most often a manipulation to make use feel bad. so, don’t get the two confused.