Nothing Fundamentally Wrong with People – As You Were

As You Were – looking for connections between the work of Brené Brown and Daniel Quinn as I revisit them in book clubs. See the introductory post for what this is all about. In this post, I look at:

  • Daniel Quinn Book Club — Ishmael, week 3: chapters 4-6
  • Brené Brown Book Club — The Gifts of Imperfection, starting week 3-4 reading: Exploring the Power of Love, Belonging, and Being Enough – Guidepost # 2

Ishmael

Chapter 4

“So: Without man, the world was unfinished, was just nature, red in tooth and claw. It was in chaos, in a state of primeval anarchy… It needed someone to come in and… straighten int out. Someone to put it in order.” Brené talks about over-functioning 🙂

“As the Takers see it, all this is simply the price of becoming human… In order to become fully human, man had to pull himself out of the slime. And all this is the result. As the Takers see it, the gods gave man the same choice they gave Achilles: a brief life of glory or a long, uneventful life in obscurity. And the Takers chose a brief life of glory.” Echoes plenty about over-functioning, finding one’s worth in being productive, not taking time for self-care or connection with loved ones, etc.

Chapter 5

“But you realize, of course, that if you’d been telling this part of the story a hundred years ago — or even fifty years ago — you would have spoken only of the paradise to come. The idea that man’s conquest of the world could be anything but beneficial would have been unthinkable to you.” Echoes Brené’s notion of mid-life unraveling. The time when you finally hit a wall and everything is going to fall apart if you don’t change. You’d been acting some way all along, thinking you were creating the life you wanted, and you come face to face with the fact of your misguidedness. Crucial: it’s a mid-life unraveling, not an end-of-life unraveling. If you fail to face it, maybe it ends your life/culture. If you face it, course correct, you go on to plenty more years of life with much higher quality. A great lesson for our culture.

“It’s because there’s something fundamentally wrong with humans. Something that definitely works against paradise. Sorting that makes people stupid and destructive and greedy and shortsighted… So when the people of your culture concluded that there’s something fundamentally wrong with humans, what evidence were they looking at?”
“They were looking at the evidence of their own history.”
… “There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with people.”
Echoes individual unworthiness, unlovability, why one might believe one can never have the things one wants, why one’s beliefs about that are all skewed by narrowly looking only within one’s own story. Affirms the ultimate worth and lovability of any individual.

“Doesn’t that seem strange to you? Considering the fact that this is by far the most important problem mankind has to solve — has ever had to solve — you’d think there would be a whole branch of science devoted to it. Instead, we find that not a single one of you has ever wondered whether any such knowledge is even out there to be obtained.” Echoes Brené’s own unprecedented choice to dive into understanding shame the way she did, and look what she came out with. Perhaps there may be deep connections between the “certain knowledge about how people should live” and the knowledge Brené’s research gives us about the antidotes and alternatives to shame.

“Perhaps in fact the two things are actually one thing. Perhaps the flaw in man is exactly this: that he doesn’t know how he ought to live.” Connects to something I’m about to say below for Brené — the one thing that separates people who feel love and belonging from the people struggling for it.

“Yes, there is another story to be in, but the Takers are doing their level best to destroy that along with everything else.” Culturally and individually, there is another story to be in. And it is utterly dangerous. See Brene in TGOI chapter 1, quoting about living one’s true self being the most difficult thing to do. Being authentic is dangerous.

Chapter 6

“We don’t need prophets to tell us how to live; we can find out for ourselves by consulting what’s actually there.” Quinn and Brené share an appreciation for gathering evidence and basing their conclusions on reality!

“But the last of the gods’ tricks was the worst of all. Though the Takers don’t know it yet, the gods did not exempt man from the law that governs the lives of grubs and ticks and shrimps and rabbits and mollusks and deer and lions and jellyfish.” Universality. Fame, fortune, achievement, recognition, these things don’t exempt people from pain and from the principles of how to overcome shame and find wholeheartedness.

“That craft is doomed — and so is he unless he abandons it… like our hapless airman, they were in the air but not in flight. They were in free fall, because their craft was simply not in compliance with the law that makes flight possible.” Mid-life unraveling, hitting a wall / rock-bottom. Any achievements up until then start to seem hollow.

“But oddly enough, the harder and more efficiently they pedal, the worse conditions become.” Over-functioning pushes ever farther from health mental state.

The Gifts of Imperfection

Exploring the Power of Love, Belonging, and Being Enough

“Only one thing separated the men and women who felt a deep sense of love and belonging from the people who seem to be struggling for it. That one thing is the belief in their worthiness. It’s as simple and complicated as this: If we want to fully experience love and belonging, we must believe that we are worthy of love and belonging.” Getting beyond “the flaw in man” as Quinn was discussing. The flaw is, itself, seeing ourselves as flawed, because we value perfection.

“… our worthiness — the feeling that we are enough just as we are and that we are worthy of love and belonging.” Above: “nothing fundamentally wrong with people.”

“Fitting is about assessing a situation and becoming who you need to be to be accepted. Belonging, on the other hand, doesn’t require us to change who we are; it requires us to be who we are.” Civilization demands — will always demand — fitting in, rejection of who we are as humans. Tribes provide genuine belonging.

“We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don’t function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick.” Civilization is full of all of this, chronically. Affirmation of the need to live in ways that are consistent with who we evolved to be as a species.

“Cultivating self-love and self-acceptance is not optional. They aren’t endeavors that I can look into if and when I have some spare time. They are priorities.” Imagine if this were extended to Quinn’s descriptions/explanations of who we are as a species.

“In a society that says, ‘Put yourself last,’ self-love and self-acceptance are almost revolutionary.” A connection to the societal level, indeed. Civilization tells us all to put ourselves last, unless we are lucky enough to be a the top of a hierarchy. Even then, it requires us to lock away part of our authentic selves.

The Things That Get in the Way

“My work — me — the decade I’ve spent doing research — it’s all about ‘the things that get in the way.’ I’m not about the ‘how-to’ because in ten years, I’ve never seen any evidence of ‘how-to’ working without talking about the things that get in the way.” Echoes Quinn not giving solutions, but rather pointing out constraints, limitations, the bars of the prison. There can be trust, on both levels, that people will know what to do if they can set aside the things that get in the way. Ditto Internal Family Systems — a focus on lifting burdens, removing constraints, as opposed to the more Pollyanna-ish notion that strengths/positives are enough to look at.

“We don’t talk about what keeps us eating until we’re sick, busy beyond human scale, desperate to numb and take the edge off, and full of so much anxiety and self-doubt that we can’t act on what we know is best for us. We don’t talk about the hustle for worthiness that’s become such a part of our lives that we don’t even realize that we’re dancing.” Acknowledgements of human scale, the larger structure of our lives, that these are not merely individual problems.

“Reality-checking the messages and expectations that tell us that being imperfect means being inadequate.” Quinn saying there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with people. Fine as we are. Don’t need to be better than what we are.

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