Tag Archives: Brene Brown

Year of Activism #10

This quote from Theodore Roosevelt rings very true for me this past week (forgive the lack of gender pronoun inclusivity as a sign of the times it was spoken):

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

I went back to this quote after listening to the researcher Dr Brene Brown talks about shame and vulnerability and her own experience of stepping into the arena and coping with the consequences. I have been accused of a lot of things this week, being nice, not meeting expectations, failing to demonstrate rage, playing favourites. Keyboard warriors one and all as far as I can tell. In the mean time I have showed up and met with elected officials, debated long and hard with facts and evidence on how some changes can be made with high impact and low action, what levers can be used that will unify and get a result, held myself to account by using non-violent communication techniques, practicing adaptive leadership and trying to have some fidelity to Kahane‘s approach to collaborating with the enemy. I have had mixed results from my practice. It is very hard with the enemy is within, and speaks their own truth from their own arena. One of the reminders for the week is the need for times to withdraw, retreat and indeed cut off supply so that you can recover and stay in the arena you are being called to be in. Daring greatly is the quest to keep showing up in the arena, because as Roosevelt says its not the critic who counts.

While we need the critics to sharpen our senses, help steer a course even sometimes, they aren’t the ones who show up in the doing. The role of the critic maybe akin to the modern day medieval jester, substituting the rattle for a keyboard, ringing to draw attention to arrival and departure. How effective their power is deployed is determined by the amount of attention we pay to their bells and buzzing. Unlike the role of the fool in Shakespeare however not all modern day jesters speak the truth, they often amplify fake news and use their voices not as speaking truth to power or offering up a riddle to decode, they make noise to draw attention to themselves at the expense of the issue. Some of our most famous ones are in the media – think radio shock jocks and columnists, social media junkies.

As we are on the verge the largest shared responsibility action in human history, people choosing to stay home to help ‘flatten the curve’ of the COVID-19 are helping their neighbours, showing care and support acting to support one another and may lead to more community, more safety for all and have the surprising side effect of supporting the aged, infirmed and vulnerable. It maybe a time too for those jesters with microphones and keyboards to have deeper impact, so beware that in times of fear seeds of anxiety can rapidly be watered and grow into out of control weeds. Stay in the arena by connecting and having conversations, give yourself a break if you need to have one, cut of supply if it becomes toxic for you and use that time to regroup before you go back. I have been thinking about what I can do to support connectivity at this time for myself and others. I have decided to do three things: not going to the shops without asking at least one person if they need me to bring something to them, offering up a nightly zoom to anyone who might want to jump on and say hello to others and working from home. I also got a call about a project this morning that I think could be a game changer so stay tuned for that in a future post. This is a time for community strengthening because of social distancing, not in spite of it. The virus might spread community spirit and community responsibility and that may well be its gift to our times – it is bound to be helping out Gaia to take a breath! Such a paradox with so much potential.

The dynamics of a virtual arena are going to take us to new edges and unleash innovation, lets not count the critics contributions, instead notice and celebrate our leadership marred by dust and sweat and blood, and meet the cold and timid souls with warmth and courage. That seems to be the quest: to hold these tensions together without quite falling apart yourself.

covid-19

Covid-19

Year of activism #7

The sunsets are spectacular at the moment and it is the particles in the air, probably from the bushfires, that is making them so. The sun and our blue dot spinning around in the galaxy, with the light waves bouncing off the horizon inviting us in each evening to reflect on what has been, what the darkness is calling us to and as a constant reminder of the rhythm of nature. What meaning do we put on the beauty in the skies? Do we know what we are seeing? Is gazing into the beginning of darkness and being captured by the wonder of it all, desensitizing us for what might be ahead? The glow of summer in the heavens, might well be a version of the afterglow of an affair with a narcissist. We have been seduced by lovers of fossil fuels, so seduced we didn’t listen to our mother, we didn’t notice all the acts of infidelity along the way. And then when it was almost too late we woke up and yet still wanted to go back to the way it was, surely it could be fixed? What did I do wrong? Can’t I make it better? Could we try again? But it is not about us the ones who are waking up. We have do to the breaking up, the aching and grieving. We have to get stronger everyday and keep turning our backs on our old lover. We have to know we were seduced and it is over, give up our addiction and find friends who can keep us on the straight and narrow who can keep us ‘sober’.

We will fall and we will have moments of failure and self-loathing. These sun sets are a version of gaslighting undermining us and giving us fake news about what is really going on. Like a hit of dopamine to keep us in the game and bring on amnesia. We have to be strong and resist – that’s what friends are for – people who can hold us steady, not blame when we falter and who will show us and support us to find our way back.

I have real trouble with people metaphorically shouting at me in their writings and actions about what has to be done. I am sometimes paralysed. The kind of help I need is compassion, understanding and gentle encouragement. I find I need to be coaxed not yelled at. To be noticed and encouraged when I make a little adjustment and take a little more responsibility, really helps me.

Perhaps we need a 12 step program as a world so we can recover from our addiction to fossil fuels? I am sure I am not the first person who has thought of this. My adaptation of the 12 steps for a activist in these times:

  1. Admit you were powerless over fossil fuels — that your life had become unmanageable.
  2. Come to believe that a power greater than yourself (Mother Earth/ Creation) could restore you to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn your will and your life over to the care of Mother Earth
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of yourself.
  5. Admit to Mother Earth, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of your relationship with fossil fuels and where it has led you
  6. Be ready to have Mother Earth remove your defective ways
  7. Humbly asked Mother Earth to remove your shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all species, beings and places you harmed, and become willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends wherever possible and find ways to bring your contributions to join with others on the same path
  10. Continue to take personal inventory, and when you falter, admit and move on.
  11. Foster a spiritual relationship with Mother Earth and all of creation.
  12. Be informed by your spiritual practice on how to invite others to join you

Despite this approach it is structural and even my best efforts and the ones of those around me aren’t enough to turn this ship around. We are tug boats in the harbour, but maybe with enough of us it will be enough. Thinking my little bit isn’t much use is seductive. As Brene Brown’s research has taught us how shame takes hold with two messages: “you are never good enough” and “who do you think you are?” I wonder if this is what is turning up as activists too? Brown says shame is a focus on self and guilt is a focus on behaviour. So picking up that thread I can take some tiny steps, maybe not all the big 12 steps, towards kicking the habit and not being seduced by shame because my efforts do matter,
I am making a difference and when my difference is added to another’s there is the potential for structural change and for today that is enough. Keep a focus on the practice, the behaviour and not on the self, surely another instruction from Mother Earth who spins and toils with the rhythm of night after day. And give up the shame of being seduced by sunsets.

Sparks will fly #10 #cooler

Summer is starting to unfold into autumn and while we are still having warm days, the hint of what is ahead is on the evening breeze. Instead of heating up we are being cooled down. How interesting that the temperature rising in the thermometer is reflected in our language of heating and cooling. Paradoxically, energy levels seem to rise with the cooler weather for me I have felt slow, sluggish and at times almost paralysed by the heat and a heavy heart. Then there are moments of lightness on the breeze, promising a season of more joy and peace. Some of these moments this week: 2,500 women and men gathered to celebrate International Women’s Day, the kindness of a friend to say “I can take that”, the music in the park at Womadelaide, the shelter in a place not my own and the hilarity of exhaustion mixed with a few mils of alcohol to aid brainstorming with peers. There are all encouraging signs of cooling down, a soft wind forecasting a future and change in season.

In the breezes are wafts of hope to replace the aches and weight of what holds sadness in place. The burden of holding onto something that weighs you down is easily lifted if you let something go – it sounds so simple. There is nothing elegant in the putting down though, it is a bluddering, tottering, slipping and sliding movement that eventually finds its way to steadiness and then finally after all the stopping and starting, all the discernment, in a complete movement it is put down.  Not all decisions are invested with this ditheriness, some can be made with swift and certain clarity, deeply secure in the values that hold you in place. But then there are these grey areas, where self-care comes into view and where timing is still not right or perhaps when the burden takes on a weight that is so heavy you can no longer lift it. In that scenario you don’t put the burden down, the burden puts you down and writes you out of the equation.

Brene Brown writes: You can move on, shame. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness. Those who have a strong sense of love and belonging have the courage to be imperfect. When you know you are loved and belong, you do have the capacity, to invoke David Whyte, to be half a shade braver.  I have a suscipion this bravery walks with truth, and the freedom walking hand-in-hand with truth. I am not sure there is ever a place for truth causing more harm than good. I was listening this week to Prof. Megan Davis talking about a makarrata (a Yolngu word meaing restoration of peace after a dispute) for Australia. First step in this process is coming to an agreement about the dispute and the costs of that dispute and finding a way for peace to arrive between the disputants. This kind of truth takes up responsiblity, accountability, rights, reform; and spears have been known to be involved. Respect is central, reparation inevitable.  In this season where the breeze is blowing in truth and settling into cooler times, something is brewing in our land where we can move on shame.

What truths are ours to tell and what are the ones we have to graciously sit out and listen to has been in the airwaves this week. In the wake of the Pell prosecution, those continuing to be traumatised both from their own experience and vicariously are the ones to speak and to be heard. The eloquence of Clare Linane against the likes of commentors like Andrew Bolt to bring her ongoing truth as a supporter to survivors of abuse. Clare is a relentless mental health advocate for her community of Ballarat which has a suicide rate for men 65% higher than the national average. She speaks on behalf of the families including her own who live everyday on the front line witnessing and aiding those who are surviving trauma of sexual abuse. Victims must always be believed, the shame of coming forward to state your truth, takes courage and we must be strong alongside of them, to bring our love and solidarity, to walk with them, knowing our imperfections signal our own bravery.

There are so many stains, and in the tradition of Lent which finds itself in autumn in the southern hemisphere, we have an invitation to turn back, to repent. At the macro level, there is a national election in the breeze, with the potential to promise a makarrata; we have more discourse to be had around the mental health of those impacted by abuse. And in our individual experience, as each day gets cooler, we have the reckoning and turning around invitations to come closer to the centre of truths we don’t want to face.

I doubt I am alone in being disturbed by the Angel of Justice and am trusting the Angel of Encouragement is flapping her wings around us all.

May the Angel of Encouragement confirm you
In worth and self-respect,
That you may live with the dignity
That presides in your soul. – John O’Donohue excerpt from A Blessing of Angels

Sparks will fly, and while flames grow wider and eat up all that is combustible, what is not consumed, is left charred and still with the scars of having writhed in pain. Once cooled, relisient and death defying remains … remain.

Dignity and hope at least then have a chance then to arrive in the aftermath as the work of healing begins.

 

Year of Self Compassion #26 #witness

Hannah Gadsby’s raw and powerful performance in Nanette is indelible. For anyone who is not the norm – what ever that is – who has been beaten to a pulp for not fitting in by someone else lower down the foodchain and yet somehow closer to being the norm, will resonate and celebrate her bravery and anger. This is not a review of her performance or of the content. I was effected at the cellular level and the experience of being witness to her story.

Holding onto her words about reputation and her desperate plea, her begging for straight, white, men to “pull their socks up” has me aching. I am aching for the men I know who are doing just that, pulling up their socks, being quiet, getting out of the way, relinquishing the space and celebrating the women in their lives. I am aching for the women who are pushing and pulling, and making the spaces for themselves and others and who recognise their own privilege and are getting out of the way for other women who are not the norm to fill it up. I am aching for myself, as I grow older and my own privileges change, and I am not welcome in places I was before. I am more invisible than before and I have so much privilege by virtue of my white, educated, housed, healthy, first world existence. I genuinely grieve for what I have lost but I had it to loose in the first place and I have to keep reminding myself of that. Inside of me, there is arrogance and there is shame.

Stripping back. Unplugged. Bare. The hollow space, no, hollow spaces, laying empty inside of me and more hollow and louder because they were once full.

Watching Gadsby’s performance was watching her fill up. With each breath and phrase, she added a layer of energy of power and in doing so didn’t take anything away from another else. She wasn’t emptying herself with self-deprecation, she was filling herself with the audacity of vulnerability. Persecution is not funny. Alienation is not hilarious. The stage is her safe place, no one is going to interrupt her, she knows how to hold tension. As audience, we are all witnesses, but there is no witness protection program for the white, straight men or for those who stand with them. I have colluded with many of them, made them look good by being the feisty and friendly feminist, toning down my anger to make it all a little more comfortable. It isn’t comfortable for the Gadsby’s of the world who are aching and hurt, raped and excluded. I am setting myself the challenge to be at least one or two more shades braver and will think of Gadsby’s brave choices to tell us her story (not the least using art history as the medium to explain perspective and women’s exploitation on the canvas).

It has been a week of being haunted, and watching Gadsby’s performance made sense of some of the haunting in ways I won’t share today. But I do want to say protection, privilege, reputation are taking me to humility, guilt and shame too. Brene Brown says she is ‘pro-guilt’ because it helps us stay on track and make choices to move away from behaviours and helps us align with our personal values. Gadsby showed up. All of her showed up. And as I witnessed her performance I witnessed a powerful act of self-compassion. The room was full of light and she managed to banish some of her own darkness with her anger, her begging and her relentless seeking to come home to herself. This is a quest for humanity, not power or privilege. It is a quest for us all to be each others witness, to make space for one another to be heard, to be seen, to be whole, to be healed.

We got to show up for ourselves and for our people. We got to show up for each other. There is enough room for all of us and diversity is the first step, inclusion the second. Start with the first step as David Whyte reminds us: “Start close in, don’t take the second step or the third, start with the first thing close in, the step you don’t want to take.” Close in for this white women is with the white men I am around, its easy to go to the margins, much harder to start close to home.

Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy – the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light. Brene Brown

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Photo by Jan Haerer on Unsplash