Again and Again and Again – 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:

The Story of B

Friday, May 10


Tuesday, May 14


Thursday, May 16

“Everything Atterley was saying was obvious, and all of it was new. This made it maddening, because what is obvious should be old — and therefore well known, boring, and unnecessary to say.” Similar feeling reading both Quinn and Brené.

The Great Forgetting: 16 May, Der Bau, Munich

“Only gradually did I understand that saying a thing once is tantamount to saying it not at all. It is indeed sufficient for people to hear the laws of thermodynamics once, and to understand that they’re written down somewhere, should they ever be needed again, but there are other truths, of a different human order, that must be enunciated again and again and again — in the same words and in different words: again and again and again.” Similar feeling reading both Quinn and Brené. She often talks about needing reminders, about things being a practice, requiring repetition.

“But here is one of the most amazing occurrences in all of human history. When the thinkers of the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries were finally compelled to admit that the entire structure of thought in our culture had been built on a profoundly important error, absolutely nothing happened.” How many people read both Quinn and Brené and are not transformed?

This was history, this story of farmers turning up just a few thousand years ago, turning farming communes into villages, villages into towns, towns into kingdoms. This was the stuff, it seemed to them. This was what counted, and the millions of years that came before deserved to be forgotten.” Compare Brené talking about the dangers of putting achievement and productivity on a pedestal.

“It’s become a solid part of our cultural mythology that a profound gulf separates East from West, ‘and never the twain shall meet,’ and this causes people to be disconcerted when I speak of East and West as a single culture. East and West are twins, with a common mother and father, but when these twins look at each other, they’re struck by the differences they see, not the similarities, just the way biological twins are. It takes an outsider like me to be struck by the fundamental cultural identity that exists between them.” Compare Brené discussing overfunctioners and underfunctioners, oversharing and withholding, etc. More broadly, compare Imago Relationship Therapy’s maximizers and minimizers, Internal Family Systems’ polarized parts. Polarization is part of dysfunction, and it happens within and between individuals just as it happens between large social groups.

“Totalitarian agriculture is more than a means of getting what you need to live, it’s the foundation for the most laborious lifestyle ever developed on this planet. This comes as a shock to many listeners, but there isn’t any question about it: No one works harder to stay alive than the people of our culture do. This has been so thoroughly documented in the past forty years that I doubt if you could find an anthropologist anywhere who would argue about it.” Compare Brené talking about the dangers of putting achievement and productivity on a pedestal.

“… they’re both obsessed by the strange idea that people need to be saved.” Compare Brené’s focus on being worthy here, now, as one already is, instead of needing to be fixed.

“During the Great Forgetting it came to be understood among the people of our culture that life in ‘the wild’ was governed by a single, cruel law known in English as ‘the Law of the Jungle,’ roughly translatable as ‘kill or be killed.’ In recent decades, by the process of looking (instead of merely assuming), ethologists have discovered that this ‘kill or be killed’ law is a fiction. In fact, a system of laws — universally observed — preserves the tranquility of ‘the jungle,’ protects species and even individuals, and promotes the well-being of the community as a whole.” Compare Brené talking about the dangers of comparison, including competition.

“… I’m a bringer of good news, the best news you’ve had in a long time. You might think that bringing good news would make me a hero, but I assure you this isn’t the case at all. The people of our culture are used to bad news and are fully prepared for bad news, and no one would think for a moment of denouncing me if I stood up and proclaimed that we’re all doomed and damned. It’s precisely because I do not proclaim this that I’m denounced.” Some react to Brené this way. See the early story of handlers wanting her to avoid talking about shame in lectures, the women clamming up on the flight (which she mentions in this week’s reading), etc. See her own reframing of a breakdown into an awakening — she has to remind herself that it was the latter, not the former.

I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t)


“People often want to believe that shame is reserved for the unfortunate few who have survived terrible traumas, but this is not true. Shame is something we all experience.” Compare Quinn talking about how universally people experience the dysfunctions of Taker culture, and even how those at the top of any hierarchy are just as much imprisoned as those lower down.

“To varying degrees, we all know the struggle to feel comfortable with who we are in a society that puts so much importance of being perfect and fitting in.” Taker culture insists that it has the “one right way,” must be ever more perfect in controlling the world and itself, and totalizes so that the only place acceptable for humans is within itself, hence the importance of, essentially literally, fitting in.

“We spend an extraordinary amount of time and energy tackling surface issues, which rarely results in meaningful and lasting change.” A systems-based view underlies Quinn’s work.

“We’re still afraid of shame. Even the word is uncomfortable. You’re studying a topic that people have been taught and socialized not to discuss. It’s as dangerous as violence — but we just keep pretending that it’s not happening.” Various aspects of Taker culture are like this — hierarchy, violence, the basic identity of humans, the basic relationship of food production and population.

“We can’t see the enormity of it — we think it’s a personal problem or a self-esteem issue rather than a serious social problem.” Recognition of pervasive cultural factors affecting individuals.

“… you’ll see that shame is the primary weapon used in these cultural wars.” Shame as a tool of Taker culture, perhaps the very driver of it, the thing that keeps people from finding their authenticity, as individuals and as a species. Takers are ashamed of humans’ evolutionary past, both biologically (so-called lower forms of life) and especially culturally (societies that supposedly didn’t accomplish anything).

“… we need to understand that shame is the voice of perfectionism.” Perfectionism in Taker culture, one right way, conquering and controlling.

“Shame comes from outside of us — from the messages and expectations of our culture. What comes from inside of us is a very human need to belong, to relate.” Compare Mother Culture for Takers, demanding of us everything that keeps us from feeling connection and belonging, that keeps us out of social structures designed to foster that belonging.

“We sometimes think compassion is a saintlike virtue. It’s not. In fact, compassion is possible for anyone who can accept the struggles that make us human — our fears, imperfections, losses and shame.” Taker culture cannot accept these struggles, and so it fosters that same inability in its members, so no wonder it’s often seemed like those who push through to compassion are saintlike.

“Compassion is not a virtue — it is a commitment. It’s not something we have or don’t have — it’s something we choose to practice.” Echoes Quinn’s “again and again and again” this week.

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