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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Understanding the Nature of Guilt, Shame, and Vulnerability - The Work of Brene Brown - Part 2


In order for us to connect to others, we have to allow ourselves to be seen.  We have to give ourselves permission to show others who we really are without fear of being rejected or shamed because it is the only way we will be able to have a true authentic connection with another human being.  We have to feel worthy of connection.  Now, this is what shame boils down to: am I worthy of love, belonging, and connection?  To feel shame is to believe you are not worthy.  The opposite of shame is worthiness.  So how do you get a sense of worthiness, a deep feeling of being worthy of belonging, love, and connection?  The key is to allow yourself to be vulnerable, to speak your truth without guilt, shame, anger, or blame, and to trust that your willingness to be totally transparent, will foster the conditions to bring the truth of who you are out for all those to see.

Brene Brown talks about whole-hearted people.  Whole-hearted people feel they are worthy of connection, and have a strong sense of who they are, regardless of what other people might be saying about them.  Brown describes four characteristics of whole-hearted people: courage, compassion, connection, and vulnerability.  Courage is often confused with bravery.  One of the ways our culture has defined courage is the inner strength to face your fears, which is often equated with standing on the battlefield in the front line facing a barrage of artillery, witnessing and partaking in the horrors of battle.  This is bravery.  Courage comes from the Latin, and its etymological root is ‘of the heart.’  Hence, the true meaning of courage is to tell your story of who you are with your whole heart.  That’s what courage is. 

Whole-hearted people are able to speak the story of who they are with their whole heart.  They’re able to speak all their imperfections, their insecurities, their self-doubts, and they’re able to do that with a sense of love about themselves, and recognition of their own limitations.  Our ego-minds have a tendency to infect how we perceive ourselves. If we are not as “perfect” as our ego mind directs us to be, then, we will believe on some level, whether we are conscious of this or not, that we are not good.  Whole-hearted people do not have this conundrum.  They recognize that life is a journey; they are imperfect by nature, which gives them permission to grow and learn from their mistakes and errors consciously without the burden of the excessive weight of guilt and shame.  We can only become the people we are capable of becoming by learning from our mistakes.  If we don’t allow ourselves to learn from our mistakes, and get stuck in guilt and shame, we impede the process of our evolution.

Compassion is the understanding or empathy for the suffering of others.  Whole-hearted people have compassion for themselves, for others, and recognize their own humanity.  They have let go of anything they thought they were supposed to be, or should be, so that they could be who they are.  This enables you to have true connection with someone because you are not hiding anything.  You are showing your strengths, your weaknesses, all of it.  By allowing yourself to be truly seen, you miraculously get this deep connection we’re all searching for, but what’s unique about this kind of connection, allowing yourself to be that vulnerable, is it is authentic.  You have an authentic connection to another human being.  You’re not hiding anything, you’re not covering up anything, you’re not deceiving anybody, and thus you’re opening yourself up to be who you truly are, the whole of you. 

People who are whole-hearted fully embrace their vulnerability.  It’s not something they run away from, cowering in fear, worried about what others might think of them.  They are not afraid of losing love because they know the source of their love is inside them.  They believe their vulnerability is what makes them beautiful.  To be vulnerable is to be fully open to life, to be fully alive, and is characterized by the willingness to embrace all that life has to offer.  So, whole-hearted people forgive easily, not because the other person deserves it, but because they deserve peace.  They will be the first ones to say, ‘I’m sorry’ or ‘I love you’, because they know there are no guarantees in life; they recognize the transience of the material world, and will find out and cultivate what is truly most important.  It is not material things or grievances which are of value to the whole-hearted person.  ‘Love holds no grievances’ as A Course in Miracles says.  You cannot love someone and at the same time, hold a grievance against them.  These are contradictory impulses, and deny the holder of these impulses with the ability to see past the ‘sins’ of the other to the beauty that is in them.  

All you see when you hold a grievance is the sinner, the unforgivable sinner who deserves punishment by you.  They may have done something in the past that was wrong, and the wrong may need to be addressed, but there is a difference in how you do it.  When you do it from a place of love, you respect the person who stands before you, you recognize the error they committed is not who they really are, that in that moment they fell asleep to who they truly are, and behaved in ways that were hurtful.  But you can’t solve a problem on the same level that it occurred.  You must rise up above the pain, anger, and desire for revenge, and seek what is noble in you.  When you seek what is noble in you, and act from that place of self-love and self-respect, you will begin the process of transcending the event which has caused you so much pain.  Trust in this process, and I promise you, you will see the person you hold a grievance against transform, you will no longer be holding them hostage to their past, and you and they will eventually be free from the past completely.

Tomorrow, Part 3.

Charlie Pacello is a PTSD, Depression, and Healing Trauma Recovery Expert and Life Coach, a former US Air Force Lieutenant, and creator of the program, 'Lt. Pacello's Life Training Program.'  He can be reached by visiting his website at