Brené Brown’s TedxHouston talk from 2010 entitled "The Power of Vulnerability" is an inspiring and timeless talk that I recently revisited as I’ve been thinking a lot about shame and its various manifestations and impacts. Shame is a central theme in my work with those recovering from addiction and trauma, as is secrecy, or the effort to deny or hide your struggles from others. I see this effort to hide or deny as closely linked to the tendency to “numb” which Brené describes in her talk, in that they are all ways to escape vulnerability and shame and they can become part of a “dangerous cycle”. The more you numb, hide, or deny your vulnerability, the more you detach from yourself and don’t allow yourself to be authentic or be seen by others, which in turn leads to feelings of disconnection, misunderstanding, loneliness, depression, resentment, and sometimes even panic. This then intensifies the feeling of vulnerability and reinforces feelings of shame, leading to more efforts to numb or hide, with consequences that can become increasingly damaging.
Breaking this cycle and facing your vulnerability and shame requires a great deal of courage, self-compassion, and commitment, and you can’t do it alone. Connection is essential for conquering shame and an essential part of recovery. Reach out to someone you trust or seek professional support. Let yourself be seen. It’s worth it.
Thanks to Brené Brown for her wisdom, courage, and inspiration and I hope you enjoy her talk!