Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Keys To Vulnerability

Another video review about vulnerability. This video has made a huge impact on my life.

Brene Brown: The Power of Vulnerability

Bren'e Brown, a social worker/researcher/storyteller started an adventure into the unknown and discovered what human connection is. Over some time, she grappled over vulnerability. Her expanded perception transformed her life. She shared what she found in the years of research and interviews which went into this discovery. She left a huge impression on many through the passion in which she shares.

Connection is why we are here. It is found in the core of human existence. The foundation of why we are here is to be connected to others and to feel a sense of fulfillment. This brings meaning to our lives. We are made to have connection with others. Brown gave an example about being evaluated by a boss and how they might share 37 things that you did good on and one thing that could be an opportunity for growth. The whole time the employee would be fixated on that one thing that needs work and overlook all of the positive. She found out this is the same response she got from her interviewees. When she asked people about love, they tell her about heartbreak. When she asked people about belonging, their response would be bring back memories as to when they were excluded. When she would bring up connection, they only remembered experiences that led to disconnection.

Six weeks into this research she discovered that the study of connection unraveled had fear and shame linked all throughout it. Shame is a fear of disconnection; 'is there something about me that others see that they won't like?' Its universal and we all have it. Those who don't feel shame are incapable of feeling love or empathy for human connection. The foundation of shame is vulnerability. Not feeling good enough, smart enough, rich enough, beautiful enough is the essence of where the problem lies. Vulnerability that is that excruciating sense that I may be rejected. The fear of shame is feeling is like being unworthy. In order to allow connection to happen, one must allow ourselves to be seen who we really are. This was something that Brown struggled with during her research. She initially thought she could out beat it or out smart vulnerability, but it didn't work out this way. Rather, she realized that after 6 years of hard work, she took the people that she interviewed, divided them into people who really had a sense of worthiness and a strong sense of love and belonging and those who struggle with being worthy. The one variable that separated the two was the belief of worthiness.

She gathered all of the people she researched who had a sense of worthiness and discovered that wholehearted people have the essence of vulnerability. They had in common a sense of courage. The definition of courage is to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart; the courage to be imperfect with compassion to be kind to themselves. They had connection along with authenticity. Letting go of who one should be, in order to be who they were, was the key in this character development. This is essential for connection. Ultimately, they fully embraced vulnerability. What made them vulnerable made them feel beautiful. They had the willingness to take the first step towards love and connection. They saw vulnerability as a necessity. Brown saw that they had the willingness to do something where there was no guarantee and the willingness to invest in relationships, no matter the outcome.

She began to realize that her research was the opposite of vulnerability, which was the core of problem that Brown discovered. Research is the process in which we control and predict the outcome of our data, vulnerability on the other hand is capable of being wounded and is difficult to defend. This information she found led her to have a breakdown. She went to a therapist to try and work this out. Over time, she came to be okay with vulnerability, which changed her life in the most positive way she ever experienced, and led to reaching farther in her discoveries as ever before.

The reason why we struggle with vulnerability is because we numb vulnerability. Here are some examples that she gives when defining vulnerability: having to ask her husband for help because she is sick, initiating sex with one’s husband or wife, being turn down, asking someone out, getting laid off, laying someone off, waiting for the doctor to call back. These examples clearly state how vulnerable we all are. It is evident according to Brown, that we are a culture that numbs vulnerability. The problems that this country faces are debt, obesity, addiction and the over use of prescription drugs. We can't selectively numb fear, shame, grief, and vulnerability without numbing good emotions like, joy, gratitude, or love.

When we choose to live without vulnerability, we are trying to make the uncertain, certain while we are striving to be perfect and pretend to fix the problems. Religion has gone from a belief of faith in mystery to certainty. Politics is much like this. The more afraid we are, the more vulnerable we are and what happens is there is no more discourse or conversation, but blame which is a way to discharge pain and discomfort. We perfect our outward appearance to look like someone else, like using botox or liposuction. Our children are who we perfect because we are striving for perfection in ourselves and it reflects on those who we raise. However, it's easy to overlook our job as parents when we don't let our children know that they imperfect but they are deserving of love and belonging. We pretend that what we do doesn't have an effect on other people, like in the corporate scene such as bailouts, recalls and oil spills. We just want authentic truth.

As I watched this video for the first time, I realized how much of what she was saying really underlined much of the personal problems that I have had with past friendships. I've gone through heartache after heartache of losing friends. Partly because I was the stubborn one who wouldn't back down or allow vulnerability to take its course. I've sought after counseling and the whole nine yards, only to feel empty handed when in the end I was yet again, left alone. I guess my problem is when I become friends with someone I don't think about the possibility of not being this person's friend until its over and too late. Just recently, without me actually doing anything, one of my friends dropped off the grid of communication with me all of a sudden. I wanted to see if I did something to bother her, so I emailed her to see if I did something. Her response was short and to the point saying I didn't upset her but she has other priorities. It was hard for me to feel vulnerable, but I have to realize going into relationships being vulnerable and being myself isn't a bad thing and that I am learning to accept me for me even if others don't.

In conclusion, in order to have a connection with others we must cling to vulnerability, embrace uncertainty, and practice gratitude and joy; even when it’s scary. Vulnerability is the birthplace of joy, creativity, belonging, and love. When we are ready to accept vulnerability and believe that we are enough we will then be ready to love with our whole hearts.

The Dilemma of Choice

A video review I did for one of my classes that represent a distinct picture of how too many choices hinders us on so many levels than actually free us.

Berry Schartz on the paradox of choice / Video on

Barry Schwartz introduces himself as the author of a book called The Paradox of Choice. He starts out by examining us as Western Industrial Societies, who have what he calls an Official Dogma. An Official Dogma is summarized by explaining that to maximize the common good and welfare of our society is maximizing our freedom. Official Dogma also says to maximize freedom is to maximize choice. The more choice one has the more freedom one has, thus the more welfare and good one will then have by being allowed to make choices on one's own. This way of thinking is, in his opinion, so deeply ingrained in all of us, that we have never thought to question. Maybe the more choices we have, does not cause us to be more free, but choices do quite the opposite of liberation.

He gives precise examples of how choices don't necessarily benefit us, but hinder us on so many levels like; choices in a common grocery store, a consumer electronic store, communication, healthcare, identity, marriage and family, and work.

He configured that there are over a hundred and seventy five salad dressings in a local grocery store if you don't count the almost endless supply of extra olive oils and balsamic vinegars to make your own salad dressing if you cannot find the one that you want with the selection that is given.

He found that in a consumer electronic store there are 6.5 million stereo systems of components that are available for purchase in just one store.

He compares the availability of cellphone options when he was a boy to what is available today. Where there was only one place to get a phone, Bell, where you could not purchase but rent a phone. Where as today, there is almost an endless supply of cellphones, and their functions are overwhelming.

Healthcare no longer gives us the answers, but keeps us fishing for the right choice. To often the choice is left up to the individual instead of the doctor. This is called patient autonomy which means shifting of responsibilities. When the doctor is not willing to make the choice for the patient who is inherently impaired to do so, or doesn't know as much as the doctor does, the choice for patients can be difficult. Another side to healthcare that he examines is the choices of prescription drugs that are advertised to us. We can't even go to the store to pick them up, but we have to call our doctor first in order to have them change our prescriptions.

He's addressed that the question of our own identity has become something of an extreme choice. We feel we have to make a choice to reinvent ourselves no matter what that looks like.

The choice used to simply be, who are we going to marry. Having children was expected, and
now its all up to choice. When, where, who, or what.

The choices where to work and when to work have expanded dramatically. Communication technology allows us to work everywhere we go.

His diagnosis to what choices do to us is this; Choices have two negative effects on people, one effect produces paralysis other than liberation. Paralysis means, a state of helplessness, or an inability to act. It breaks down our ability to make the right choice and even makes it harder to choose at all based on how many choices there are. Paralysis is the consequence that we get in having to make so many choices. The second negative effect is if we somehow overcome paralysis and end up making a choice, we become dissatisfied with the choice and with our own capacity to make 'good' choices that we make. The more options there are its easier to second guess the choice or to be indecisive.

Opportunity costs subtract from the satisfaction that we get out of our choice, even if what we choose is a good choice. We miss out on what we are choosing now when we are focused on what we could have chosen. Having so many choices, lead us to believe that we can find the best of the best out of all the choices that are available to us. It makes us expect to find exactly what we are looking for with all that is available. When in fact, the expectation that we have only leaves us empty handed and disappointed in the end. When we have high expectations and we fail to meet those expectations. We turn around and blame ourselves for not doing better, not exceeding to what we had expected. This has led to many clinical depression issues thus leaving people with more problems than necessary. Schwartz exclaims that the secret to happiness is to have low expectations and less choices.

This discussion that Schwartz gave ties in really well with the discussion John McKnight has had in his book, The Careless Society, regarding the supply of professional public services. Not only do these services make it hard to choose what is right for us, but hinders us from actually making a decision at all. It seems like the plentiful options only bombard and overwhelm people. It makes ordinary life choices way more complicated than what they could be if there was only a select few services available. The choice to problem solve on our own or with each other as empowered members of a community without the need or option to out-source for help and calling on any public service would save a lot of trouble, time and money, plus add value to our ability to fend for ourselves. (pg 17-25)

I've gotten a taste of what it is like to have less choices, and it has proven to me to be a lot less confusing as it adds to a more simple way of life. My husband and I lived in Costa Rica for a year as it being my first time to live outside of the country. It has made a great impression on how simple life can be with less decisions to make, even if they are small choices. For example, grocery shopping is a lot easier. Instead of having 175 choices of salad dressing in the local stores, they probably only have 3 to 5 choices. We learned to live with a lot less too, and there wasn't an option to find everything you wanted as if you went to a Walmart here in the states. While traveling, there are a lot less accommodations, restaurants and entertainment opportunities in the areas of which we were living. Clothes shopping was rarely an issue because the choices were all the same. Same kind of clothes for the same kind of people and very expensive. As far as transportation, if you did not have your own, there was the local bus or one taxi service. In ways, I find some of these decisions more challenging, but at the same time, much less overwhelming. Healthcare was simple too. They only had one hospital in the area and a doctors office. When we first moved down there, it was hard to get used to a lot less choices. It taught me to appreciate what we did have and in return I learned that life is a lot more quieter and easy with less to decide on.

After I viewed this video, it has really opened my eyes to see how choices truly affect our ways of living. Indecision has really hindered my ability to even make a choice no matter what the subject matter is. I often see this to be true in my every day life choices that I have to make. Like, what pair of shoes I am going to wear, or color of shirt would go better with a pair of jeans. I wonder sometimes how these small daily choices add up in hours of decision making and result in lost time.

Another observation I made was watching others make decisions. I was in the store the other day and just quietly doing some grocery shopping. I ended going down the salad dressing isle. The part in this video where he was talking about the choices of salad dressing immediately came to mind as I was passing this man standing in front of the large selection of dressings. I stopped and glanced at him, and said, 'wouldn't it be easier if there were only two or three choices of dressing rather than a billion?' He looked at me kind of in a daze and hesitantly agreed with me. My final comment was, 'it sure seems like this huge selection of choice can get overwhelming'. As I continued on my way, I would occasionally pass this isle to get to where I needed to go next, and I think it was 5 minutes later, this man was still standing there staring at the dressings.