Brene Brown - the Power of Vulnerability

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1. Summarize the “Ted” talk:

Brené Brown, Ph.D., LMSW, a self-purported “shame-and-vulnerability expert”, is a research professor at the University of Houston, Graduate College of Social Work. Focusing the last ten years of her studies on the topics of vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame, Brené Brown’s work has been featured on PBS, CNN, NPR, and most notably TED. In her TED talk, she shares the findings of her lengthy qualitative research, a massive collection of interviews including a colorful rendition of her own personal struggles, on the idea of human connection which she states “fundamentally expanded her perception” and has “changed the way she lives, loves, works and parents”. Her touching account of her personal struggles with this research centers around her views of vulnerability, which Brown summarizes as our “ability to empathize, belong, and love”. Brown digs even deeper into her exploration of shame and vulnerability, and how they act as obstacles in one's pursuit of true happiness. Brown draws together her ideas in a concept she labels “Wholeheartedness”, and illustrates her theory on how to engage in our lives from a place of authenticity and worthiness.

2. Identify the assumptions made by the speaker:
To summarize her concept of “Wholeheartedness”, Brown begins her talk on the topic of ‘Connection’. “We are hardwired to connect with others, it’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives” explains Brown, that in order to allow connection to happen, “we have to allow ourselves to be seen as we are, not presenting only the parts we think others will like”. During Brown’s research on connection, she elaborated on the idea that we often fear being disconnected from others, which she describes as the meaning of ‘shame’. We often feel shame and fear when we feel that we may become disconnected from others. Brown decided to take a one-year detour from her research to explore “shame” in depth, unexpectedly resulting in six long years of what she quotes as “the most important things she has ever learned in the decade of her research”. Brown discovered thru her interviews that there were two distinct groups of individuals with only one variable separating the two groups: a sense of ‘Worthiness’, which she defines as “a strong sense of love and belonging”. Brown explains that the one thing that keeps us from connection is the fear that we are not worthy of connection. While digging deeper into the minds of those individuals whom had a strong sense of worthiness, what she found in common was their sense of ‘Courage’. Brown reveals her participants “had the courage to be imperfect, the compassion to be kind to themselves first and then to others,” further stating “they had a connection as result of authenticity, they were willing to let go of who they thought they should be in order to be who they were,” which she theorizes you absolutely have to do in order for connection to happen. Moving on to the group of participants who struggled with worthiness, Brown stumbles on the concept of ‘vulnerability’, which she describes as the core of shame and fear, and why we struggle with vulnerability. Having to see her own therapist to sort out her ideas on vulnerability, she explains that to be seen lets us build that connection with others which often means that we may find ourselves “excruciatingly vulnerable”. “We live in a vulnerable world” states Brown, and in order to cope with these emotions, we numb ourselves”. Brown theorizes that by numbing everything, we feel miserable and look for purpose and meaning, we feel vulnerable and then reach for something to ease our discomfort, a quick-fix, such as alcohol, drugs, or even food. Brown’s assumptions are summarized in her overall theory of ‘Wholeheartedness’: We must have the courage to allow ourselves to be seen even if it means we are vulnerable. To do so allows us to have compassion to connect with ourselves and others.

3. Describe any...
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