May you enjoy this book summary of Braving the Wilderness. The shame and vulnerability researcher, Brene’ Brown has written another book that informs, pleases and inspires–Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone.
In true Brene’ Brown style, she shares her own struggle, confusion and journey of seeking a sense of belonging. She shares how she felt a sense of loneliness and disconnect. As a child she moved to a number of new communities. As a teen she was not chosen for the high school cheerleading team. At some point she felt disconnected from her own parents and family.
Her research into belonging began with a quote, and then a meeting with, the philosopher, poet, author, and activist, Maya Angelou. The quote is:
“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.”
Brown discovered that trying to fit in does not accomplish a sense of belonging but finding ways to trust others and our own selves, does. Sometimes, we need to risk rejection.
Brown uses the analogy of being in the wilderness to describe the times we choose to be firm in our values which tend to separate us from others. As a bonafide people pleaser, this image resonated with me; that is when I have felt rejected I also had a sense of lost in a wilderness.
Trust plays a significant role in belonging, trusting yourself and others. Brown describes seven aspects of trust. We can notice these behaviors in others and ourselves.
1. Respecting boundaries. Responding respectfully to the response of no.
2. Being reliable. Keeping agreements.
3. Being accountable. Acknowledging mistakes, apologizing, and making amends.
4. Being in integrity. Deciding based on values and demonstrating the courage to take a stand.
5. No judging. Sharing and accepting needs and feelings without judgment. Being curious when not understanding.
6. Believing the best. Believing that intentions are basically good.
Pain and Anger
Pain is part of the dance between establishing a sense of belonging to self and others. That pain can surface as anger. Anger can be useful if it is directed to create positive change but be aware that internalizing it can become exhausting and debilitating.
Brown explores the process of dehumanizing. Dehumanizing goes from separation to conflict, to taking sides and often to hate and violence. She describes the hate-mongering that was created by the Nazis connecting the image of disease-carrying rats to Jews.
Humanity and Politics
Yes, Brown bravely wades into the discussion of American politics and controversy over the National Rifle Association. But her stance is one of seeking to understand or becoming curious rather than taking sides. She encourages us to first consider our connection and humanity. For those ready and willing, Brown calls us to think, speak and live to a higher standard. Within her exploration of civility, she discusses the difference between lying and bullshitting.
Strong Back, Soft Front
In her last chapter, Brown explores the phrase strong back, soft front. Strong back means strengthening our boundaries, staying reliable, accountable and honest, living with integrity, while continuing to give and receive. Soft back means allowing ourselves to take risks, to be vulnerable and feel what we feel.
Brene’ Brown Quotes
1. “We must sometimes stand alone in our decisions and beliefs despite our fear of criticism and rejection. . . (and end up in) the wilderness.”
2. “Even in the context of suffering—poverty, violence, human rights violations—not belonging in our families is one of the most dangerous hurts. That’s because it has the power to break our heart, our spirit, and our sense of self-worth.”
3. “True belonging is the spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness. True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.”
4. “Spirituality is recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power greater than all of us, and that our connection to that power and to one another is grounded in love and compassion.”
5. “We’re not showing up with one another in a way that acknowledges our connection. Cynicism and distrust have a stranglehold on our hearts . . . we’re witnessing a backslide to a vision of power that is the key to the autocrat’s power over people.”
6. “At the heart of loneliness is the absence of meaningful social interaction—an intimate relationship, friendships, family gatherings, or even community or work group connections.”
7. “As we think about our journey from ‘fitting in” to striding into the wilderness of true belonging, we will be well served by understanding and recognizing the boundaries of respecting everyone’s physical safety, and not participating in experiences or communities that utilize language and/or engage in behaviors that dehumanize people.”
8. “We need to question how the sides are defined. Are these really the only two options? . . . The ability to think past either/or situations is the foundation of critical thinking, but still, it requires courage.”
9. “Not enough of us know how to sit in pain with others. Worse, our discomfort shows up in ways that can hurt people and reinforce their own isolation. I have started to believe that crying with strangers in person could save the world.”
10. “Funerals matter not just to the people grieving, but to everyone who is there. The collective pain (and sometimes job) we experience when gathering in any way to celebrate the end of a life is perhaps one of the most powerful experiences of inextricable connection.”
11. “Common-enemy intimacy is counterfeit connection and the opposite of true belonging.” (Referring to participating in gossip)
12. “People are hard to hate close up. Move in. Speak truth to bullshit. Be civil. Hold hands. With strangers. Strong back. Soft front. Wild heart.”
Note: One of the most resilience strengthening strategies Brown describes is writing herself permission slips. For example, I might write, “I give myself permission to acknowledge the worth of my knowledge and experience by raising my speaking fees.” These slips create an intention to demonstrate courage; to overcome fear or anxiety or as Brown says, “to belong to myself and no one else.”
If any of the topics in this book summary resonate with you or have ignited your curiosity, please get a copy of Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone.