Braving the Wilderness

by Brene Brown, 2017. Vermillion.

Chapter 1:

“In the context of suffering…not belonging in our families is still one of the ost dangerous hurts. That’s because it has the power to break our heart, our spirit, and our sense of self-worth. And when those things break, there are only three outcomes:

You live in constant pain and seek relief by numbing it and/or inflicting pain on others

  1. You deny your pain, and, your denial ensures that you pass it on to those around you and down to your children.

  2. You find the courage to own the pain and develop a level of empathy and compassion for yourself and others that allows you to spot hurt in the world in a very unique way”

  3. “Sometimes the most dangerous thing for kids is the silence that allows them to construct their own stories. Stories that almost always cast them as alone and unworthy for love and belonging.”

“I used my pattern recognition skills to anticipate what people wanted, what they were thinking and feeling. I learned how to say the right thing or to show up in the right way. I became an expert fitter-inner, a chameleon, and a very lonely stranger to myself. As time past, I grew to know many of the people around me better than they knew themselves. But in that process, I lost me.”

“Never underestimate the power of being seen.”

Chapter 2:

Charles Feltman defines trust as “choosing to risk making something you value vulnerable to another person’s actions. He describes distrust as “deciding that what is important to me is not safe with this person in this situation or in any situation.”

BRAVING is an acronym depicting the 7 components that came out in her research that explain trusting others, as well as, self-trust.








She considers self-trust as perhaps the most important thing for our experience in the wilderness of living.

Chapter 3:

Being alone can be one of the most healing things, choosing solitude can be deeply spiritual. Feeling lonely can increasing dying early by 40%. They are very different things. In a culture where we sort society and find like-minded people and push away those who don’t think and believe similarly, we’d hope that connection rates would soar and rates for people feeling lonely would drastically decrease. That’s not the case. Instead, as sorting increased, so disconnection.

Chapter 4:

Zoom in means rather than thinking "I hate all ____" or "I disrespect all ___" consider someone in your close circle who may demonstrate to you not all ___ are as bad as your brain initially had you think.

"Courage is forged in pain, but not all pain. Pain that is denied or ignored becomes fear or hate. Anger that is never transformed becomes resentment and bitterness."

"We pay for our hate with our lives and that is too big of a price to pay."

"The clearer and the more respected the boundaries, the higher the level of empathy and compassion for others. Fewer clear boundaries: less openness. It's hard to stay kind-hearted when you feel people are taking advantage of you or threatening you."

She describes the process of dehumanization and the human biology to believe what we see vocabulary and images for: hence polar riots regarding political parties, human rights issues, and genocides. In doing so, she shares her stance that says: we should be both advocates for Police Rights and Black Lives Matter, because while all lives matter, in this time, we are re-programming society's view of the African American community. Not every population needs that focus right now.

Goal: to leave a conflict or difference of opinion conversation with deepened mutual understanding, respect, and connection even if both people still disagree.

Dr. Buck's Conflict Transformation approach: Rather than arguing over what has happened in the past, consider where are we now in the present? What do we want for our future?

"Listen with the desire to learn more about the other person" in the same way we desire to be listened to to be understood

Ask: "Tell me more" in the very moment you feel the urge to walk away from the conversation or tune out the other person

From an interview with Viola Davis:

"Every story matters...we are all worthy of telling our stories and having them heard. We all need to be seen and honored in the same way that we all need to breath."

Her Simple Rules, Practice for living in the wilderness:

  1. I'm doing the best that I can

  2. I will allow myself to be seen

  3. Go further, don't be afraid, put it all out there, don't leave anything on the flow

  4. Do not be a mystery to the closest people who matter, so they too do not feel alone in the world

Chapter 5:

"The paradox is one of our most valuable spiritual possessions" - Carl Jung

She calls out Bullshit culture as being a culture of "truth doesn't matter, what I think matters."

  1. Approach bullshitting with generosity when possible. Feelings of being not enough can full bullshitting, unaware that we have no data to back-up what we're saying. Generosity, empathy, and curiosity go a long way.

  2. "Civility is claiming and caring for one's identity, needs, and beliefs without degrading someone else's in the process. Civility is about disagreeing without disrespect. Seeking common ground is a starting point for dialogue about differences, listening past one's preconceptions and teaching others to do the same. Civility is the hard work of staying present even with those with whom we have deep rooted and fierce disagreements. It is political in the sense that it is a necessary prerequisite for civil action. But it is political too, in the sense that it is about negotiating interpersonal power such that everyone's voice is heard and nobody's is ignored" (Institute for Civility and Government).

Chapter 6:

"Social interaction makes us live longer healthier lives by a lot.

Pinker writes "In fact, neglecting to keep in close contact with people who are important to you is at least as dangerous to your health as a pack-a-day cigarette habit, hypertension, or obesity...research shows that playing cards once a week or meeting friends every Wednesday night at Starbucks adds as many years to our lives as taking Beta-blockers or quitting your pack-a-day smoking habit."

Personal contact lowers your cortisol (stress hormone) and gives you a dopamine boost (reward hormone)

"For true belonging, real connection and real empathy require meeting real people in a real space, in real time."

"The only way of combating foreboding joy is gratitude"

We have to be brave and vulnerable in showing up in collective moments of joy and in collective moments of pain.

"No vulnerability: No courage"

Chapter 7:

“A wild heart fights fitting in and grieves betrayal.”

Putting BRAVING into practice:

  • Boundaries: Learning to set, hold, and respect boundaries. The challenge is letting go of wanting to be liked and the fear of disappointing people.

  • Reliability: learning how to say what we mean and mean what we say. The challenge is not overcommitting and over-promising to please others and prove ourselves.

  • Accountability: Learning how to step up, be accountable, take responsibility and issue meaningful apologies when we’re wrong. The challenge is letting go of blame and staying out of shame.

  • Vault: learning how to keep confidences, to recognize what is ours to share and what is not. The challenge is to stop using gossip, common enemy intimacy, and over-sharing as a way to hotwire connection.

  • Integrity: Learning to practice our values even when it’s uncomfortable and hard. The challenge is choosing courage over comfort in those moments.

  • Non-judgment: Learning how to give and receive help. The challenge is letting go of ‘helper’ and ‘fixer’ as our identity and the source of our self worth.

  • Generosity: learning how to set the boundaries that allow us to be generous in our assumptions about others. The challenge is being clear with others about what is okay and not okay

Jen Hatmaker quote, minute 10, part 4

“Standing on the precipice of the wilderness is bone chilling, because belonging is so primal, so necessary, the threat of losing your tribe or going alone feels so terrifying…human approval is often one of our most treasured idols, an offering we mislay at its’ hungry feet is keeping others comfortable. I’m convinced that discomfort is the great deterrent of our generation. Protecting the status quo against our internal convictions is obviously a luxury of the privileged, because the underdogs, and outliers and marginalized have no choice but to experience the daily wilderness. But choosing the wiley outpost over the security of the city gates takes a true act of courage. That first step will take your breath away.”

Brown describes an approach to living with a strong back and a soft front, rather than an armored front that leads to so much more hurt in the end.

  • “Most of the time, we approach life with an armored front because one of two reasons

  1. We are not comfortable with emotions and equate vulnerability to weakness, and/or,

  2. Our experiences of trauma have actually taught us that vulnerability is dangerous

  • When the barrier is our belief about vulnerability, are we willing to show up and be seen when we cannot control the outcome?

  • When the barrier to vulnerability is about safety, the question becomes: Are we willing to create courageous spaces so we can fully be seen?

  • Vulnerability = uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure

  • "Vulnerability is not weakness, it is our most accurate measure of courage.”

“A wild heart cannot always be seen, and yet, it is our greatest spiritual possession…A wild heart is awake to the pain in the world, but does not diminish its’ own pain. A wild heart can bear with gratitude and lean into pure joy, without denying the struggle of the world. We hold that tension with the spirit of the wilderness. It is not always easy or comfortable, sometimes we struggle with the weight of the pull, but what makes it possible is a front made of love and a back built of courage.”

“Love, belong, and joy. These are essential and irreducible needs for all of us. And we can’t give people what we don’t have…The practice to joy is practicing gratitude…And when we experience gratitude for what we have, we communicate that we understand the magnitude of loss others experience."

“The more we diminish our own pain…the less empathic we are to everyone.”

Goal: Get to the place where we can think ‘I am aware of what is happening, the part I play, and how I can make it better. And that doesn’t mean I have to sacrifice my joy.’”

“Built on a foundation of tension and paradoxes”:

“True belonging is a spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself, so deeply, that you can share your most authentic self with the world, and find a sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness. True belonging doesn’t demand you to change who you are, it requires you to be who you are.”

She encourages: “Stop walking through the world looking for confirmation that you don’t belong. You will always find it because you’ve made that your mission… True belonging and self-worth are not goods. We don’t negotiate their value with the world. The truth about who we are lives in our hearts. Our call to courage is to protect our wild heart against constant evaluation, especially our own. No one belongs here more than you.”

“You are only free when you realize you belong no place, you belong every place, no place at all. The price is high, the reward is great.”

- Mya Angelou