Brene Brown helps with self-discovery

Aug. 29, 2013 @ 10:09 AM

When my son and daughter-in-law were new parents, I gave them the audio of Pamela Druckerman’s “Bringing Up Bebe: One American Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting,” narrated by Abby Craden (Random House, approximately 9 hours).
They put the baby to sleep and then, together, listened to the audio.  It changed their lives when they heard that the French think it strange when a baby doesn’t sleep through the night by 4 months old.
Like most parents, exhausted 24-7, they decided to let their baby learn the skill of getting herself back to sleep. I never could stand hearing my children cry at night. Part-time employment meant I could be semi-functional from sleep deprivation, but they both had full-time, demanding jobs that required sleep. The experience taught them how a schedule helped their baby thrive. 
Since then, I’ve kept my eye open for audios that might make a difference for them and That’s part of what drew me to Brene Brown’s two-hour recorded session, “The Gifts of Imperfect Parenting: Raising Children with Courage, Compassion and Connection” (Sounds True, 2 CDs, approximately 2 hours).   
I planned to give it to them after I listened, but that occasion came sooner than I’d imagined. Curiously, our flight to see them was delayed for 12 hours. I saved my sanity in the plethora of delay notifications by listening to the Brene Brown’s parenting audio. I had, however, no idea of what an emotional journey I would take.
I think part of this time travel was launched by the fact that Brown willingly relates poignant, pertinent personal stories to make her points, many tinged with humor. Her voice is light, but it’s clear how she’s been taught by her own experiences growing up and raising her children.
I was struck first by Brown’s defining comment that “the most powerful meaning making moments in our relationships with our children happen in imperfect moments. … We can’t give (our children) what we don’t have,” she said.
She backs this statement with research that has shown that who we are as parents is the most accurate predictor of how our kids will be. “Parenting is about making a journey toward whole-heartedness with our children,” Brown said. Instantly, I flashed on how I’d once held my infant daughter when she cried and had a bizarre, unexplainable feeling that I was somehow holding myself.  It took me ages to make an understandable link, for my mother had been told by a nurse that she was not allowed to pick me up when I cried and something in me was comforted by the act of doing something I’d not experienced in my own infancy. 
Brown covers parenting guideposts like vulnerability and perfectionism and recommends ways to foster hope, play, gratitude and joy, and “uncoolness.”
Famed for her work on shame, it’s not surprising that she speaks first about the differences of shame and guilt. Guilt means telling your child, you’re a great girl, but you’ve made a bad choice and shame means you are bad.  “Shame,” she says, “means you’re not worthy of love and belonging,” she said and I was transported back in time again.
I have a sister who knows how to go for the emotional jugular and she’s honed a fine set of strategies that wound. The one that always lays me low is when she screams, “Shame on you!” For years I’ve tried to understand why. I don’t remember being shamed as a child. But Brown’s comment clicked, and I had a compassionate view of my early years. I was born to a father who adored me. My mother once told me, “Your father loved our neighborhood games of bridge. Everyone was young and we were the only couple who had a child. So he planted cables linking every house to the baby monitor in your room.
“I’ll never forget the night,” she continued, “when a scary bang came over someone’s loudspeaker as we played. We jumped up and to our house.”
I pictured my father leading them all, galloping heroically across suburban yards to rescue his darling daughter.
My father died when I was 2. My mother remarried a year later to a man incapable of loving me like his own children. And something in me knew intuitively that I didn’t belong in the family. This was the cause of my shame.
I wanted more and remembered that lurking in my downloads was her “The Gifts of Imperfection: Letting Go of Who You Think Your Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are” (Brilliance Audio, 4 CDs, 5 hours). The reader is Lauren Fortgang, and at first I missed Brene Brown’s voice, but quickly I heard how this reader expresses the messages in the spirit of the author. 
I listened to this audio again and again, each time determining that I did want to let go of shame. She’s specific about how to do this, simply set boundaries and tell the truth about your feelings and learn to recognize when shame comes creeping. Not simple to live, but Brown speaks of the daily practice of “couraging,” likening this verb form as something similar to exercising. 
That makes me want to hear “Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Become Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead,” read by Karen White (Blackstone  Audio, 81/2 hours). 
I don’t listen to self-help audios all that often, but I guess now I’ve become a Brene Brown junkie. Certainly there are worse addictions.
Read more at Susie Wilde’s website, ignitingwriting.com.