Monthly Archives: March 2018

I Thought it was Just Me (But it Isn’t)

by Brene Brown

The shame researcher returns with an in-depth look at the elements of shame, shame resilience, and anecdotes to illustrate each step along the way. Based on years of research with women across all identities and demographics, Brown distills the themes into 12 main categories in which women feel shame, including things like motherhood, body image, and sex and relationships. Her research shows that these categories of shame are almost universal among women because they are taught both through interactions with others, and also through dominant narratives (thanks, media) of who, what, and how women are supposed to be. Brown suggests strategies for identifying areas in which we feel most shame, and asking where the shame messages come from. Shame messages often include “should,” as in “beautiful women should look like…” or “strong female professionals should act like…”. Recognizing shame triggers is just one step in building shame resilience, a multi-faceted practice that also involves identifying a supportive network and speaking your experience of shame. Based on the shaming experience, each step of resilience may look different. Throughout the book, Brown offers several questions and activities for developing awareness of our own shame, and emphasizes the importance of trying again to develop shame resilience.

“I Thought it was Just Me (But it Isn’t)” is one of many books by Brene Brown discussing emotions that, generally, people would rather not acknowledge, talk about, or deal with. Which is exactly why this book is necessary. As the saying goes, “that which we resist, persists,” which means the only way to pass through an experience of shame is to acknowledge, talk about, and deal with it. While the content often hits painfully close to home, Brown regularly makes readers practice one of the components of shame resilience – recognizing that other people deal with shame, too – by sharing anecdotes and examples from research participants. Each chapter covers an element of shame or shame resiliency, which makes the topic slightly more digestible because it becomes a bit less frightening when listed in an orderly fashion. By regularly reiterating the elements of shame resilience and returning to questions that help readers recognize their own shame triggers, Brown also puts the reader in the position to grow in their own shame resilience practice. Despite feeling alone in shame, Brown reminds readers that shame is universal, though the way in which it manifests and the strategies for overcoming it are highly personal.

This book reminded me of going through my social work program, in which every lesson was not just a discussion of social work topics, but also a practice in self-reflection to recognize the ways we had experienced these topics in our own lives. Brown compassionately but firmly encourages regular reflection throughout the book, which, more often than not, feels challenging. There is lots of depth in her discussion of shame and shame resilience strategies, and much for me to learn from this book. Definitely worth the read. And for men who think this doesn’t apply to them – she’s doing research on you too. Your book should be coming out soon.

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A Wrinkle in Time

by Madeleine L’Engle

Meg Murry doesn’t really fit in for a lot of reasons. She has a quick temper, she’s stubborn, and though she excels at math and science, her attitude in school gets her in trouble constantly. She doesn’t particularly care about that. She does care about her youngest brother, Charles Wallace. Though he’s too young for school, he also shows a peculiar aptitude that has already marked him as different. Moreover, Charles Wallace and Meg’s father has been missing for 4 years. They believe wholeheartedly that he will return, but they have no sign of when or how that might happen. Until a dark and stormy night when one of Charles Wallace’s new friends stops by for a visit. Mrs. Whatsit recently moved to the outskirts of town, along with Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which. They heard a call from Mr. Murry out in the universe, and will take the children to rescue him. Along with Calvin O’Keefe, an older classmate of Meg’s, the group tessers across the universe by wrinkling space and time. They discover the monstrous power of darkness, and of IT, has been holding their father captive. Facing their fears and their faults, the children strive to become warriors of light to rescue Mr. Murry from the darkness.

“A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeleine L’Engle is a classic children’s novel originally published in 1960 that still makes regular appearances in classrooms across the country. The writing is ideal for its young adult audience because the plot moves quickly, maintaining a pace of adventure that keeps the pages turning. L’Engle does not underestimate her audience, and sprinkles the story with scientific and linguistic challenges that stretch the mind as well as what’s possible. By casting Charles Wallace as the youngest and sharpest character in the story and giving him the love and protection of his sister, L’Engle gives permission for young kids to embrace their differences without regard to the potential social cost. Indeed, her story tells us that the social consequences don’t matter because the people who do matter will always stick with us. L’Engle also teaches a valuable lesson by hinging a critical plot point on Meg’s ability to accept her faults. The imagery of overcoming darkness with light stands as a versatile metaphor applicable to grief, anger, morality, trust, and countless other themes throughout the book and in life. This novel stands the test of time and remains relevant for readers of all ages and generations.

As much as I love the themes and lessons throughout the book, I distinctly recall this novel being my first introduction to psychological thrillers. Not that this book even remotely fits that category, but the menacing darkness and overwhelming power of IT were pretty scary as a kid. Not to mention the man with the red eyes. The fantasy and possibilities mostly make up for that. As an adult reading the novel now, I can almost finish it in one sitting. Highly recommended for all readers.

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