Thoughts on “Rising Strong”
A disclaimer: I can’t give a truly unbiased review of Dr. Brown’s work because I am committed to and trained in The Daring Way™ work that grew from her books and is now being used all over the country by mental health professionals, coaches and leadership and development teams. I am, to put it bluntly, her number one fan (kidnapping and ankle hobbling not included). Still, I wanted to record my thoughts on her newest release, “Rising Strong.”
Brené Brown’s new book, “Rising Strong,” is another in a series of books about how to cultivate a life that is what she calls “wholehearted.”
I have read a lot of self-help books. I’m a driven believer in self-improvement, so I collect bits of wisdom wherever I can find them. No books or theories have empowered me like Brown’s work, though. Her study of shame, vulnerability, and courage resonates with me. I am more shame resilient and connected to the people around me as a result of what I learned reading her books.
Unlike many other self-help books, Brown’s are research-based. Her studies use Grounded Theory to collect data points from thousands of stories, winnowing the information down to the most straightforward ways people live happily, healthily and well. I like that her theories aren’t made up, but developed from thousands upon thousands of real stories.
Brown defines her books this way: “ ‘The Gifts of Imperfection’—Be you. ‘Daring Greatly’—Be All In. ‘Rising Strong’—Fall. Get up. Try again.” Her conceit in “Rising Strong” is that if you are brave enough, often enough, you will (as she puts it), “get your ass kicked.” Many of us who read “Daring Greatly” were compelled to be more open with our boundaries, our opinions, and our thoughts. Anyone who is open and vulnerable will get hurt eventually. “Rising Strong” is a guide for survival once living brave has gotten hard.
The three step process outlined in the book is clear, described through anecdotal stories, and easy to remember when times get tough in our lives. Brown recommends that when we find ourselves struggling we try the following:
- The Reckoning: Get curious about our emotions.
- The Rumble: Get honest about our stories to ourselves.
- The Revolution: Process becomes practice.
Each section contains both specific examples of how she and other interview subjects have used these steps in their lives. Each section also includes specific strategies. For example, Brown recommends tactical breathing as a way to calm and focus the breath when we are in The Reckoning—when we’ve had an emotion or reaction but we’re not sure what it means or what to do with it.
I like that “Rising Strong” addresses the painful side of being brave. We often equate being brave with being emotionless, as though brave people do things with no fear of consequences. Instead, Brown asserts that bravery and courage can feel confusing, overwhelming, isolating, and miserable at times. Now I know that a feeling of isolation is normal while doing brave things, and that reaching out for support is part of the process.
Brown also emphasizes the brain’s attachment to stories. She says that the three step process aligns with three acts of a story. Our brain is wired for story, so much so that we get a chemical reward when we’ve mentally completed a narrative—even if that narrative is completely false. So, if I am telling myself the story of the mailman who hates me because he gave me what I perceived to be a dirty look as I pulled out of my parking lot, I feel a real chemical ping whether or not that story has any merit at all. Brown challenges me to rumble with my stories, to examine them from every angle, and be willing to get curious about the emotional side of what I am telling myself. All too often my stories are not good at containing all the facts, and yet my brain relies on those stories to react to the world around me. The “Rising Strong” process can help reshape and reframe those stories into ways of seeing the world that align better with my values and integrity.
All in all, I found this to be a fabulous follow up to “Daring Greatly.” I like that she reminds us that we will all encounter hard and painful times, and that she holds our hands as we walk through the process of getting back up and trying it all again.