In Day Ten, I talked about denial and how we often minimize our losses by spiritualizing the events. But a woman wrote to Day Nine talking about the opposite problem. She had too much emotion. She needed to find ways to channel her emotion in positive ways. Good point. She said journaling was one positive approach she took.
I recently came across some research in Brene Brown’s latest book, Daring Greatly, that relates to journaling:
In a pioneering study, psychologist and University of Texas professor James Pennebaker and his colleagues studied what happened when trauma survivors— specifically rape and incest survivors— kept their experiences secret. The research team found that the act of not discussing a traumatic event or confiding it to another person could be more damaging than the actual event.
Conversely, when people shared their stories and experiences, their physical health improved, their doctor’s visits decreased, and they showed significant decreases in their stress hormones. Since his early work on the effects of secret keeping, Pennebaker has focused much of his research on the healing power of expressive writing.
In his book Writing to Heal, Pennebaker writes, “Since the mid-1980s an increasing number of studies have focused on the value of expressive writing as a way to bring about healing. The evidence is mounting that the act of writing about traumatic experience for as little as fifteen or twenty minutes a day for three or four days can produce measurable changes in physical and mental health. Emotional writing can also affect people’s sleep habits, work efficiency, and how they connect with others.” (p. 82) Penguin Group
Brown notes the AA saying: you are only as sick as your secrets.
I will often offer my ears to people who have gone through pain. I tell them that I don’t have to
be their counselor. I just think everyone needs someone to vent to without apologizing for it.
The evidence is mounting that the act of writing about traumatic experience for as little as fifteen or twenty minutes a day for three or four days can produce measurable changes in physical and mental health.
Some people don’t want to talk or journal for fear that they aren’t trusting God. They
shouldn’t need those outlets. All they need is God. Well, hello. Maybe God wants to give you
some tangible outlets. It’s not a sign of weak faith to want/need to share the pain of your
Are you a journaler? How has it helped you to process loss? What other ways have you found
helpful to share your pain in constructive ways?
Leave your comment at the bottom of the page. Please click the Facebook share button.
If you think of it, a lot of our discontent in life comes from broken relationships. What if we all committed to become forgiveness experts this year? How much better would our lives be as a result of that commitment?
The posts appear in order of popularity:
Forgiving Yourself – Consider the Lie
Forgiving Abusers – Eight steps to freedom
The Spiritual Implications of Brene Brown’s TED Talk on Vulnerability
What Does the Bible Say About Shame?
Ten Ways Denial Numbs the Pain of Shame
Regret Proof Your Life With Better Decisions
Forgiving Yourself: Five Reasons You Should
How to Be Forgiven
Why Can’t I Forgive?
Defining Forgiveness: Five Things Forgiveness is Not (part three)
I hope some of these posts helped you this past year or will help you in the months to come. Consider sharing them with a friend.
I haven’t done a Top Five list for a while. I thought you might like to see what tops the reading list.
Here are the top five posts on readingremy.com from the past three months.
Forgiving Yourself: Consider the Lie
What Does the Bible Say About Shame?
Regret-Proof Your Life with Better Decisions
The Spiritual Implications of Brene Brown’s TED Talk on Vulnerability
Ten Ways Denial Numbs the Pain of Shame
Would you share this post on Facebook to expose others to these posts? Thanks!
If you are a subscriber to this blog, have you requested the free STUCK sampler? It’s a preview of my new book “STUCK…how to mend and move on from broken relationships“. Just leave a comment below and I’ll send it right off.
Here’s what a recent reviewer of STUCK said about the book…
STUCK is a very well written and helpful resource that will help many people. God has gifted Remy with the ability to synthesize his life experiences, what he’s read and seen and put them all into an easy to read and understandable work on a very difficult and challenging topic.
If you aren’t a subscriber, subscribe and you’ll get the STUCK sampler too!
This session turned the corner on our discussion as we started to look at how to overcome the pain of shame. My book offers a different solution than a purely secular approach to shame. Secular approaches typically do a good job of identifying what shame is and offering ways to start processing it.
Brene Brown on Shame
Brene Brown’s book on shame
For example: Brene Brown’s book called I Thought it was Just Me. This is an excellent book that I highly recommend. Brene does a great job of using both her research and personal stories to explain what shame is and how to unmask it. She doesn’t take a biblical approach (I wouldn’t expect her too since she is an academic reporting her research) but her research and teaching strongly back up biblical teaching. I’d love to talk to her about this some day. Her insights into relationships, connection, compassion and courage will help anyone seeking to crawl out of the pain of shame.
The Gold Standard of Self-Esteem
But…having said that… I still think there is a piece missing from the shame puzzle. What I talked about on the radio program was “the gold standard” that backs up our statements, such as “you are valuable”. The problem I have with most self-esteem teaching is that it isn’t rooted in anything. We tell people, “Don’t listen to what people say…YOU ARE VALUABLE! YOU ARE A WINNER! YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL!” My question to that is…Who says? YOU say that. Who are you? You might be wrong.
It’s like our currency. I have two pieces of paper in front of me. One is an actual twenty-dollar bill. The other is a green slip of paper. I say they are both worth $20. That’s nice. But who am I to make that declaration? Stores dont’ care what I say. They care what the government says.
The government backs up the worth of the twenty-dollar bill (it was originally backed up by gold, hence the term, “gold standard”). The government can point to their paper and say, “We declare that paper valuable. We created it and we back it up.” But they can’t say the same for my alternative piece of paper. My word means nothing. The point is; value comes from people who can back it up. Not just wishful thinking. Watch a two-minute tv interview using this analogy.
God Defines Our Worth
In the same way, the “gold standard” for self-esteem is the word of God (if you believe in God and the Bible as his word to us). The Bible tells us that God created us in his image. You can’t get any more valuable than that. The Bible also tells us that God came to earth in the person of Jesus and laid down his life out of love for us. Again, we MUST be valuable for God to do that. That’s our gold standard. That’s what we stand on. Don’t take my word for it! Who am I? Take God’s word that you are valuable! It doesn’t matter what others say about you.
If you worked your way through my book and Brene Brown’s book you will have a great package to help you overcome the pain of shame. My book will help you identify the lies you are believing about your worth (and where they came from) and help you hear from God the truth of your value. Brene’s book will help you identify your shame as well but she offers steps for people to start to tell their story and create connection with other people (connection being the opposite of the isolation that shame produces).
This is just a taste of what the radio show was about. I hope you’ll take the time to download the MP3 and listen to it. Please forward this on to others on Facebook and Twitter. I’m sure there are people hungry to hear how valuable they are.
The Spiritual Implications of Brene Brown’s TED Talk on Vulnerability (readingremy.com)
How to find Self-Worth Apart From Your Performance: TV interview (readingremy.com)
No one wants to talk about shame. Isn’t that something that addicts talk about? Or counselors? That’s good for them but most of us deal with more functional people who don’t have shame…right?
Brene Brown, research professor of shame and vulnerability at the University of Houston, would disagree. She says everyone has shame. It’s universal; and it has reached epidemic proportions. Brown is often tapped by Fortune 500 companies to enhance work performance and spur innovation.
As both pastor and addiction consultant, I see shame on a regular basis; but not just in addicts. I see it in everyone… even leaders.
When most people think of leadership they think about vision casting, or speaking skills, or team building. I agree. But I add to that list an understanding of shame. It is one of the most misunderstood, underrated, and ignored topics in the field of leadership.
I want to change that. Here are seven reasons why.
…is universal. Shame is the feeling that comes over you when you feel like you don’t measure up to expectations. It causes you to take a flying leap of logic. Instead of telling yourself, “I fell short. I’ll try harder next time,” shame lies to you, saying, “Because you fell short you are worthless. You don’t belong. You should give up.” Everyone hears this voice to some degree. Understanding this about people will put you way ahead of the leadership game. If you ignore shame you will miss the cues people give off. But if you a see it, you can speak to it and connect with people at a deeper level, releasing them to fulfill their potential.
…drives our behavior. If you don’t understand shame you won’t understand why people do what they do. People invest an incredible amount of emotional energy compensating for their shame. Some people spend energy distracting themselves from it. Others become overachievers trying to prove their worth, while others spend time finding ways to sabotage themselves and self-destruct. If you understand shame you will better understand the people you lead and hopefully direct them away from this kind of negative and wasteful behavior.
…blocks constructive feedback. Shame-based people may not always show it but they find it hard to receive any kind of criticism since they already feel worthless. Criticism is like salt in their wound. If you don’t understand this you might use the wrong approach to correct people. Some leaders default to an in-your-face management style. They don’t hesitate to call people out in front of peers intending to “motivate” them. But more often than not this approach backfires. Simply adjusting your words, tone, and approach can turn a hostile situation into a positive one that promotes transformative results.
… blocks innovation and creativity. In her 2012 TED Talk, Brene Brown noted that she is increasingly being asked to speak on innovation in the workplace. What’s that got to do with her expertise on shame? Everything. She mentions how shame prevents us from risking new ideas. Old, tried and true ideas are safe. No one will criticize what works. Shame-based people cling to ideas they know will find approval. But creative, innovative ideas take heat…take scrutiny. If companies, churches, and organizations want innovation they have to create an environment where people feel safe offering their out-of-the-box ideas.
… blocks humility. Jim Collins talks about a Level Five leader as someone who praises her team when things go well and takes responsibility for when things goes wrong. Collins says this is a picture of humility. People with shame can’t do this. They need to take the credit when things go right because they live for affirmation. And they can’t take responsibility for mistakes because the weight of that is crushing to them. It only proves to them their worthlessness. Shame often masks as humility but it’s not. The humble person believes in their worth but is able to set their status aside in order to help others. The shame-based person believes they are worthless and grasps at any bit of status they can. At the other extreme, their lack of self-worth causes them to work with no recognition but quietly resent people for it. Both extremes are unhealthy.
… blocks forgiveness. If you want to foster a culture of forgiveness and teamwork you need to understand shame. Forgiveness is a generous act. Shame can’t afford to be generous. When shame is hurt it strikes back, seeks sympathy, or suffers in silence… none of which your team can afford to embrace. It doesn’t let go. It lives with the thought, “You owe me” and can rarely be satisfied.
… drives many leaders. I’ve observed that many people choose leadership or helping professions as a way to prove their worth. They may be talented in these areas but the true driving force is their need to be needed. But the trouble with this kind of leader is they can’t give what they don’t have. Leaders can only take people as far as they have gone themselves. If they are driven to be a leader to prove their worth then no matter how much success they achieve (and many are successful) it’s a hollow victory. They are never satisfied. Their value is always at the top of the next hill, the next market launch, the next campaign, or sermon. Every good leader needs to have one eye on themselves to ask what is motivating them. To be truly effective they need to eradicate their own shame first so their focus will be on helping others and not seeking approval for themselves.
Understanding shame doesn’t require a Ph.D. in psychology, just some basic insights into the inadequacy that often overwhelms people and how they compensate for it.
As a leader you owe it to yourself and the people you lead to understand shame. It’s not as sexy of a topic as vision casting or strategy development but your return on time invested in learning about shame will more than pay for itself.
Question:How have you seen shame impact your family or organization in a negative way? Leave your comment below and “share the knowledge” by clicking a link. Thanks.
Defining the Pain of Shame (readingremy.com)
Overachievers and “Winners” Feel Shame Too (readingremy.com)
Telling your story. That’s the goal. I’m hanging out with my staff (from Cedarbrook Church) for 30 hours at a retreat center right now. The sole purpose of our retreat is telling your story to each other.
It dawned on me a while back that we know very little about each other beyond our daily office interaction. But how can we fully appreciate where each person is coming from without more knowledge of one another? If we gain a bigger context for each person we’ll understand where we are coming from in day-to-day interactions. And that just has to help us value each other, communicate better and create a greater sense of team.
Brene Brown and Telling Your Story
We started our day by watching Brene Brown’s TED talk about the power of vulnerability. Then we piled in our van and headed north to about the remotest part of Wisconsin we could find. They tell me we are nine miles from Minong, WI. Minong. Doesn’t that look like a word with a few typos? Anyway…it’s remote. We are staying at the Heartwood Conference and Retreat Center. It’s a great setting to unplug and hang out with each other.
With a staff of nine we have already heard five stories today with four to go tomorrow. It’s a powerful time. Each person takes 30-60 minutes to tell how they got from birth to present day. We can ask anything we want but they don’t have to share more than they are comfortable sharing. It’s amazing what we heard today already. I never would have guessed what I heard. It’s opened a whole new world of understanding for each person. I can’t believe we haven’t done this before.
Telling Your Story Creates Connection
I’ve been on a Brene Brown kick lately after seeing her videos last week. I downloaded her book called The Gifts of Imperfection and got half way through it last night. Brown notes that telling your story takes courage but when you take the risk it opens you up for people to move toward you with compassion and empathy. When that happens you connect. Connection is what you were made for. Connection is the source of joy and love.
I can see connection happening here already just after a few stories. I’m excited for the impact this time of story telling will have on our staff. I think it will overflow to our entire church. But it also makes me think of all the stories that go untold. When our stories aren’t told then people don’t move toward us and connections aren’t made. That’s a sad thing.
God didn’t make us to live in isolation but to connect. Story makes that happen.
Question:Have you experienced connection from story telling? Or maybe you tried and it blew up on you. I’d love to hear about it. Leave your comment below.
This past week I enjoyed watching two videos by author/researcher Brene Brown on the role of vulnerability and shame. People downloaded her first TED talk nearly four million times and her new video is going viral as well. She has the rare ability to combine both personal story with interesting facts from her research.
It’s amazing to me how there is always something new to learn about a subject. I’ve taught on shame now for several years but Brene Brown broadened my understanding and made some great connections for me on the importance of vulnerability in relationships.
Brene Brown on Vulnerability & Shame
Brown set up vulnerability as the antithesis to shame…shame being a desire to cover up and hide out of an overwhelming sense of unworthiness. Shame lives in the fear of not making connection with others. Shame says, “I’m afraid that if people know who I really am they will reject me.” But vulnerability is the willingness to risk uncovering yourself in the hope of making connection.
Brene Brown on Vulnerability & Joy
Her “aha” research moment was learning that vulnerability is the birthplace of all joy and love. To find love and joy requires the risk of vulnerability. That’s what makes connection to others possible. Without vulnerability you remain isolated and alone and aloneness is a painful place. Connection, however, is what we long for.
Brene Brown sees a continuum between shame and connection with vulnerability being the “dial” that you turn to move toward one or the other extreme. If you want more connection in your life you need to turn up your vulnerability.
Vulnerability & Spirituality
There are three spiritual implications that jump out at me:
1.I have the freedom to risk vulnerability when I am convinced of God’s unconditional love for me. When I know that I am loved and valuable I am free to love others and fully connect with them. Just knowing the value of vulnerability doesn’t help me unless I know what will give me the courage to risk being vulnerable.
2.When God wanted to connect with humanity he “turned up the vulnerability dial”. He didn’t create an outlandish, over-the-top God moment to wow us. He entered the world as another human and submitted himself to our inhumanity. The Bible says this about Jesus…
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross! Philippians 2:6-8
Brene Brown is right; the path to connection is by being vulnerable. Jesus showed us that. But you can only take that risk when you are fully convinced that if you are rejected you won’t lose any value.
3. I connect with God through my weakness (vulnerability) not my strength. So many people think that they have to get their act together to connect with God. They’ve got it wrong. It’s coming to him in our weakness that allows him to reveal his unconditional love and acceptance to us. Our vulnerability with God creates a connection.