In her book Rising Strong author and social scientist/researcher, Brené Brown, shares stories of people from many walks of life who have bravely tried, fallen, and risen to try again with strength and determination. Dr. Brown interviewed leaders, teachers, members of the clergy, artists, people in committed, long-term relationships and parents struggling with one of the hardest jobs on earth, and gained insight into how people find the courage to rise again after falling.
One common denominator in every human life is experiencing failure and falling short of our intended goal. Since most of our endeavors have an audience, whether large or small, we may hesitate to pursue something difficult for fear of public embarrassment.
The stories gleaned from Dr. Brown’s study include people who have suffered major failures, such as the loss of a job or a failed relationship, as well as those who have fallen short in smaller ways. Conflicts between family members and co-workers can cause emotional pain and reveal our vulnerability.
In Rising Strong, the third in a series of self-help volumes, Brown reveals secrets of people who learn to ‘lean in’ to the pain and discomfort of life’s losses and failures and emerge stronger and more resilient with a greater capacity for empathy and compassion.
Rising Strong describes a three-step process for rebounding from life’s painful failures and losses. Regardless of the nature or degree of falling involved, this formula has been proven to achieve positive results.
Reckoning with our failures involves taking an honest look not only at what went wrong but at what we are feeling as a result of the experience. When we go through a divorce or break-up of a close relationship, our instinct might be to withdraw and shut down or strike back in anger.
In the process of reckoning, Dr. Brown warns against denying the truth about what happened. Only when we take ownership of our life story will we be able to bring about desired changes.
Do we tell ourselves we are not good enough, not smart or attractive enough, or that the other person is bad, unfeeling and cruel? We are allowed to have those thoughts, but not to stop there. We must honestly and bravely seek the truth about what hurt us and be willing to feel the hurtful emotions instead of running from them.
This is where the hardest work is done, and it cannot be accomplished without strong resolve. The way out of our hurt has to be through it. As hard as it can be to explore feelings we would rather bury, the exploration is necessary. Dr. Brown shares insights from people who have done the work and shared their experiences.
Once this work (rumbling) is done, we must scrutinize the results to discover the difference between the initial story we tell ourselves and the more objective story that evolves. It would be easier to deny the facts of our story and withdraw into our painful emotions, but this path would never lead us out of the darkness of self-deception into the light of self-discovery.
After we step out bravely and look ourselves squarely in the eye, feel the emotions of pain, fear, anger or shame generated by our mirror encounter, we can begin to make real changes in ourselves and our lives.
We can stop telling ourselves that this is catastrophic, that the other person is bad and untrustworthy, that our lives and safety are being threatened. We can pause and search for the actual facts of the situation and ask ourselves whether the objective facts match our destructive narrative.
Having learned to carry on conversations with ourselves, we can then go a step further and open up dialog with the people in our lives we feel have hurt us. Instead of angry, defensive language, we can speak with honesty and objectivity, and often diffuse a potentially explosive, toxic, and ineffective encounter.
Just showing up, putting yourself out there, whether in a new relationship, a job application, running for public office, or sharing your creativity with the world, means being vulnerable to failure and falling.
We shrink from the pain that is part of the process of trying and failing. We may hear voices saying we should not bemoan our losses and failures because others have much worse situations to deal with.
The truth is, anytime we suffer, fall, and rise strong, we learn how to care a little more and show more empathy for other people’s pain and losses. By working the process we can revolutionize our own little world and make the world at large a better place to live.
For more information about Rising Strong and Brené Brown, visit her website