Tuesday, May 10, 2011

TED Talk Tuesday: Brene Brown: The power of vulnerability

This is possibly my favorite TED Talk of all time. Both funny and wise, Brene Brown tells of how she was a researcher whose motto was, "If you can't measure it, it doesn't exist." While the purpose of her research was "to predict and control," this created a problem when her research pointed toward the necessity of vulnerability--admitting a lack of control--for living a full life.

Vulnerability is an uncomfortable place, and she discusses the various ways we try to avoid it, at our own peril. One way is trying make what is uncertain certain. "Religion has gone from a belief in faith and mystery to certainty," she says.

The one thing that separates those who feel a strong sense of belonging and connection from those who don't is the ability to embrace vulnerability, to be authentic and risk rejection.

I'll just let you listen to her now, because she expresses these things better than I do. I hope you'll feel as inspired as I did.


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  1. That was, like, wow. Shukran! Thank you for giving this to me.

    She is brilliant. And funny, and touching, and I suppose she is so bloody right.

    It was, like, listening to her, my heart told me all through - she's right, you know she's right, don't even pretend this is news to you, that you are in any way surprised, you know this - and there was this fear, that grew colder and colder, and felt caught and cornered, and was saying:

    "No, find some logical refutation, or better, some way to agree superficially and then not heed it, find ways to say your case is special, is different, you got a free pass, but don't go there... do not show yourself, do not trust, do not allow yourself to be seen as you truly are, it's not going to work for you. Maybe her, she's brilliant and beautiful and clever and everything, don't believe her."

    But I knew, hell, I know that she's so right.

    So I have to find the courage, I suppose, not just for myself, but for my boy. Because as she said, we can only be kind to others if we are to ourselves. And he deserves it, doesn't he?

    But, man, am I scared...

  2. That was beautiful! It was like a psychoanalysis of fundamentalism. Like the "If you can't measure it, it doesn't exist" thing; that's fundamentalist atheism trying to reject vulnerability and make the world certain. The existence of anyone who believes differently is a threat to fundamentalism, because fundamentalists feel vulnerable when they see others who are happy not believing that way.

    Oh, and worthiness. Don't get me started on worthiness. The whole notion implies that some people will be left out. Mormon theology hinges on the idea that the only people who will are the ones who deserve it, while fundamentalist Christian theology says that everyone deserves to be left out but god's grace will save those who submit to him. Neither idea can survive contact with reality, which is why they have to have all kinds of defense mechanisms in place, like shame. Rule #1 of shame in the Mormon church is you do not talk about shame (except with your bishop, who shames you more).

    Of course, if I try to tell my Mormon family members about this they'll be all "But what do you want us to do, let them keep being wrong!?" Yeah, that's working out great for Utah and pornography ... you'd think people were trying to numb the shame, or something.

  3. I also think that towards the end of the video, it started to sound like an indictment of corporate culture. Which seems to equate "professionalism" with "having no vulnerability whatsoever." And not incidentally, having no passion, either.

    Also also, sorry again for taking so long to reply to your comment. >.>b I'm glad you enjoyed my writing!


Religion, skepticism, and carving out a spiritual life post-Mormonism