Social interaction is often fraught with anxiety and nervousness. But equally challenging can be the total absence of contact as we try to work from home, and struggle to hide our real feelings from those who are looking at us for emotional cues.
We at Timbre Media continue to connect a large cross section of people via informative podcasts and music programming but working from home has been a challenge for us as well.
And we realise that the questions we face today are not unique but universal. How can we all remain strong if we don’t acknowledge our vulnerabilities?
Dr. Brené Brown is a research professor who has spent the past two decades studying vulnerability among other things. At a stressful time like this one, her research is particularly enlightening as we learn many meanings of the word, “vulnerability.” And how in a crisis, our need to feel comforted and to comfort those we care for, becomes urgent and almost primal. But conditioned as we are to repressing our emotions, it is not always as easy to receive comfort as it is to give it.
In this blog, we try to address how we can learn to be vulnerable and seek help even when it seems difficult.
Relearning ourselves from scratch
Contributor Frances Bridges recently did a piece in Forbes where she mentioned Dr. Brené Brown’s new podcast, Unlocking Us which has been launched in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the first episode, Brown spoke about the unprecedented nature of the current crisis which is challenging us all personally and professionally. Let us get to the core of what she suggests we should do to deal with the lock down and the anxiety surrounding it.
She suggests, we use a three pronged approach: Normalize what we are feeling, put it into perspective and put a reality check on our expectations at this time.
Let us expand on each of these points.
How do we, begin to normalise a situation that is so abnormal? By allowing ourselves to feel whatever it is that we are feeling, says Brown.
Whether we are anxious, uncertain or afraid, we need to know that it is OK to feel all or any of those things, name them for what they are instead of trying to push them away or “armor up” as we have been conditioned to do. Brown says , “If you don’t own those feelings and feel them, they will eat you alive.”
The point of her podcast is that we are not supposed to go through any crisis alone and if we allowed ourselves to receive emotional support and tangible help, we would deal with life’s challenges with less stress and anxiety.
Perspective is everything
And what is that we need to put into perspective according to Brown?
Well, everything at this time can feel more urgent and bigger than it is and we can easily get overly hurt or even disappointed with ourselves and others.
Then how do we deal with everyday triggers? Brown opines that feeling disappointed at the way things are, with ourselves and each other is also OK. She reminds us that we don’t know when this lockdown will end, but we do know it’s not forever.
She also asks us to remember that perspective is a function of experience. The less experience, the less perspective.So basically we cannot undermine anyone’s current anxiety or our own because human experience varies. If we can feel empathy for others, we can also extend it to ourselves and not use this time to judge ourselves or each other.
Unless we give ourselves space to air what we are feeling, we cannot deal with our emotions. As she says, “Denying your disappointment doesn’t make you more empathetic towards people who have it a lot worse than you do, it makes us less empathetic. So, all the feelings are OK, name them and talk about them.”
A reality check is a must
Brown expands the meaning of a reality check when it comes to expectations. This doesn’t just doesn’t apply to what we expect from ourselves and from others around us but to the so called influencers, leaders or experts that are offering certainty in this very uncertain time. And taking advantage of the fact that people are vulnerable and afraid.
Says Brene, “One of the scariest times for us collectively is when we’re vulnerable and people who call themselves leaders or experts pop up and quickly gain our trust by selling and peddling certainty to us. And anyone who is telling you, ‘It’s not a big deal, we’re all OK,’ anyone who is using anything but science and facts to give you certainty right now in my opinion needs to be reality checked.”
What she means perhaps is that it is okay to accept uncertainty and allow ourselves to know that nobody has all the answers. She is also implying that we can cope with a difficult situation better when we dealing with facts, finding solutions rather than just giving or receiving false reassurances.
Vulnerability is courage
Brene Brown found international fame when she hosted a Ted Talk about vulnerability in June 2010. This March, she spoke to CBS in the show 60 minutes about why she wants to revisit the subject again and again till the conversation around it is normalised.
The first thing she said in the show is that the word “self help” is misleading because as humans, we’re supposed to help each other.
Her message is persistent and consistent. She says, “I know this from my life, I know this, from 20 years of research, and 400,000 pieces of data. If you don’t name what you’re feeling, if you don’t own the feelings, and feel them, they will eat you alive.”
What we need to accept and understand is this, according to her,” To be alive is to be vulnerable.”
And vulnerability is not a weakness.
Her 2010 Ted Talk has till date been watched nearly 50 million times. And her message is still the same.
Vulnerability and courage are teachable skills. And we need them now more than ever before. And it all begins with how we talk to ourselves. Brown suggests, we become comfortable with self-kindness and self-compassion. If we became comfortable with asking for human contact, help, advice, comfort and warmth when we needed it, our existence would flow with just a little more ease and joy. And we could all use some of that.
We at Timbre customise music for business and design bespoke content solutions for clients, and we suggest you do the same for yourself and create a work space that works for you even at home.