When I can, I love to get out for a nice, long walk.  I have recently started listening to podcasts when I go out.  One of my favorite podcasts is On Being with Krista Tippett.  It is described as:

… a spacious conversation — and an evolving media space — about the big questions at the center of human life, from the boldest new science of the human brain to the most ancient traditions of the human spirit.

Krista is a gifted interviewer and her conversations always, always make me think of things in ways I hadn’t before.

I was particularly excited to listen to her conversation with Dr. Brené Brown.  Dr. Brown is a social work researcher at the University of Houston and specializes in issues of vulnerability and shame.  The episode was described thusly:

Courage is borne out of vulnerability, not strength. This finding of Brené Brown’s research on shame and “wholeheartedness” shook the perfectionist ground beneath her own feet. And now it’s inspiring millions to reconsider the way they live, parent, and navigate relations with members of the opposite gender.

I have since listened to the edited podcast and the unedited interview (both available at the top left, here) and my husband and I have watched Brown’s two TED talks.  (One is on vulnerability and the other is on shame.)

As I listened to what Brown had to say, I was struck over and over about all of the implications of her work for caregiving.

Dr. Brown’s research over more than a decade has led her to the following conclusion:

Vulnerability is our most accurate measurement of courage.

Brown defines vulnerability as: “… uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.”  Caregivers – whether they are taking care of small children, the elderly, someone with a disability, or someone facing the end of life – must necessarily stare vulnerability in the face.

Moreover, Brown says:

 Vulnerability is the core, the heart, the center, of meaningful human experience.

I think if you go back and read Sally’s and Patti’s contributions to The Caregiver Series, you will see rich illustrations of what Brown is describing.  They are leading what she calls “wholehearted” lives.  As Brown says in her interview with Krista Tippett,  people like Patti and Sally aren’t people who “have been dealt a better hand of cards” than the rest of us.  Rather, they are people who “show up in their lives without a lot of guarantees.”  They have been confronted with vulnerability and, instead of numbing themselves to it, instead of running from it, they have met it and lived through it.

I recently found a blog dedicated to helping people with brain injuries and their caregivers tell their stories through journaling.  In a post from last February, the blogger, Barbara, quotes Dr. Brown’s book [amazon_link id=”159285849X” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]The Gifts of Imperfection[/amazon_link] and then says:

We can indeed spend our lives running from our story because it’s hard to bear, or we’re ashamed of it, or it makes us feel worthless. But all this running wastes a whole lot of energy. It wears us down and leaves us even less able to cope with the situation.

I guess that’s why I kept thinking about Patti’s and Sally’s courage in telling their stories while listening to Dr. Brown.  For me, their willingness to tell their stories … to be vulnerable to all of us … is truly courageous.

Take a few moments and read through Dr. Brown’s work.  Her website is a treasure trove, with links to articles, talks, her blog, and more.  Then, share with me your thoughts in the comments section, on Facebook, or via Twitter.

(While you are on her site, be sure to read Dr. Brown’s Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto.  It’s about being open with your children, letting them see you as you truly are, loving them for who they truly are, and being present through grief as well as joy.  It’s a beautiful piece.)

One Response to “The Caregiver Series : On Vulnerability”

  1. […] links you to Brene Brown’s site.  I talked about Dr. Brown in one of my caregiver posts On Vulnerability.  I choose […]

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