Brené Brown: Rumbling With The Stories We Tell Ourselves

I wrote the post below to my best friend. She has gone through her fair share of jerks lately (haven’t we all). I remembered the last time a guy had disappointed me, and for once, I was very proud of how I handled my disappointment. Rather than default to my ice cream, Grey’s Anatomy, and blanket routine I went to my office. I wrote out my feelings for an hour and before I knew it I moved along to other work until 2AM! Here’s my post!

Dear Friend,

This year has brought a lot of change to my life and yours. One of the highlights of 2015 for me is that you and I have cemented a deeper friendship, and it only took us 10 years to get there. We are the 10-year overnight best-friend relationship success story! In big part, our friendship flourished because of our engagement with Brene Brown’s books, videos, and talks about shame, vulnerability, and courage. One particular quote comes to mind when I think about a recent conversation we had at our weekly Starbucks date.

“The opposite of recognizing that we’re feeling something is denying our emotions. The opposite of being curious is disengaging. When we deny our stories and disengage from tough emotions, they don’t go away; instead, they own us, they define us. Our job is not to deny the story, but to defy the ending — to rise strong, recognize our story, and rumble with the truth until we get to a place where we think, Yes. This is what happened. This is my truth. And I will chose how this story ends.”

You, Jake, and I were talking about what had gone wrong in his previous relationship. Unbeknownst to me, he had done the very work Brown suggests in her book and captured in the quote above. Boy had really done his work. I have yet to meet another man who hand writes in a notebook and goes over his previous relationship from start to end. There were pivotal moments that he could only see in retrospect and a few years later there were edits that he was still making. The edits were full of insights which eventually brought him peace and closure.

My interpretation of Brown’s call to “rumble” is to write the story you’ve made up in your head about an uncomfortable or painful experience. For real girl, you have to write it out. Pull out your iPhone, iPad, or a notebook. Let your words sit for a bit, review it, and fill in the missing gaps. You may feel sad, angry, or disappointed but keep going. It’s part of the experience of not disengaging from your emotions. Each feeling, both physical and emotional is going to help you piece the story. Both are equally important, physical tells (e.g. burning sensation in your face) and emotional (e.g. sadness, anger, disappointment) are also part of the story.

This exercise encourages curiosity — go and wonder why a particular conversation or comment stung. What else was going on that day? Did he/she jab at a deeper insecurity (e.g. your bony arms)? Or were you just very hungry and went off on the alleged offender? It’s all part of the story. Far too often, in our ever nature we tend to jump to conclusions too quickly and move on to the next order of business (oh hey, new selfie on Instagram).

Personal anecdote? I love my father dearly but man can he lose his mind over vacuuming the hallway at the entrance of our house. It’s no wonder my sister and I share a morbid inside joke about placing a vacuum next to his grave when the day comes (yes, we’re a bit twisted. So is he, because he laughed at our suggestion). Back to the story,the day of my birthday party he blew up at me for stepping on the front entrance with my shoes on, threatened to cancel the party, and then remembered I’m 25 and an adult. Had it not been for Brown, I would not have made up a big story about the fact that I’m his step-kid and how he does not love me as much or other ridiculous stories. Rumbling eventually helped me to identify that my dad had been upset for a while, specifically about not pitching in with house chores because I usually run into the house for what I need and run out just as quickly. I thought that paying my little brother to do my part had me covered. Big mistake. From my dad’s point of view, in paying my brother I was essentially saying I was too good to clean or take out the trash. My version? I avoid errands and house chores as much as possible in the mornings (one exception is washing dishes, which is why all my friends want to take me home), because I feel my brain is the sharpest in the mornings and I resent using this time to do chores. I’d much rather clean and organize on a weekend evening. My cleaning schedule definitely does not match my father’s cleaning schedule. In short, we both had good reasons and ultimately having a conversation about my contribution got us back to our happy place.

In any case — next time your dad loses his cool or you have a painful conversation with someone, write it out and rumble. Go back to your notes a day later and see what you’ve missed. The time you’ll rumble is proportionate to the weight of the problem. Rumbling about my dad’s vacuum rant? A few minutes of writing in my notebook and a few edits the following morning. Rumbling about my previous relationship? Months of writing about our breakup conversation and the months leading up to it. I’m still piecing parts together but I’m also learning a lot about myself.

I hope you check out Brown’s, Rising Strong at some point! If anything, you and I both agree that her video on the anatomy of trust and her video on sympathy/empathy have made us much kinder and understanding people.

Muchos abrazos,

Medalis

TLDR: Painful conversations makes us want to hide or ignore our feelings, don’t do it. Rumble — write it out, figure out the story you are telling yourself, sit with it and make edits as your thought process moves along.

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