“The Power of Vulnerability”

I was trawling for TED talks on the pluses and minuses of modern medicine (and I may yet come back to this), when I was hooked by one by Brene Brown. Because I have recently got interested in qualitative research, and have long been interested in the power of story-telling, her description of herself as a “researcher-storyteller” would have reeled me in anyway. But there is more.

http://www.ted.com/playlists/77/new_to_ted.html (scroll to Talk 7).

It is about 20 minutes long – so if you are going to watch it, get yourself a cup of coffee first. I found myself thinking “Yes, I agree, I agree” so many times.

Her main point is that in order to feel connected (“Connection is why we’re here”), we have to have a sense of worthiness; and that sense is founded on courage (= whole-heartedness – the “willingness to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart”) and compassion towards oneself first, and then others. And that those who have a sense of their own worth have understood that vulnerability is necessary, because we have to make ourselves vulnerable in order to connect. Only that’s difficult, because we also have a drive to control, order, predict. If this doesn’t make much sense, she puts it much better than me, so watch the talk —

Brene doesn’t mention the God word once. But I feel she makes so many connections with the spiritual truths taught by so many traditions, though I myself can only really refer with any great experience to Christianity. Think of those exhortations about denying yourself and taking up your cross; about losing your life in order to save it. I have in the past thought of these texts as potentially quite dangerous – particularly for some women who may be culturally and historically conditioned to put themselves second, or even last. But maybe they are trying to say something about this paradox (here we go again) – that in order to live richly, you have to risk the loss that might come with laying yourself bare.

I’d like to think that that’s what the Blogging is about. I have been aware for a long time of my desire to be “real”. I hate to suspect myself of hypocrisy, and squirm when others point out my inconsistencies. But isn’t it hard really to be authentic? And as for the Blog, I know that by doing it I am both presenting quite a carefully crafted persona to the world, and am trying to say it how it really is – possibly at the risk of losing some friends who may disagree strongly with me, or whom I may offend. Perhaps the breast cancer experience has, so far at least, given me a bit of courage to try to tell my story wholeheartedly. But then again, maybe it’s just given me an excuse to indulge myself a bit.

Back to self-denial: B sometimes reminds me not to be a “Burnt Toast” mother. This phrase entered our household vocabulary several years ago following a TV interview we saw with the actor who plays the ditzy accident-prone Desperate Housewife (yes, we do watch some rubbish). Wiser than her on-screen character, the actor used it to denote the kind of woman with an overdeveloped sense of martyrdom who always has the smallest slice of cake, or forgoes it so that there is enough for everyone else, or eats up the wrinkly apple languishing at the bottom of the fridge.

Not a whiff of Burnt Toast for me at the moment. Maybe I’ll keep it that way.

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