Characteristically — 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 — The Story of B, session 9 reading: Monday, June 3; Tuesday, June 4; Wednesday, June 5; Saturday, June 8; Undated
  • Brené Brown Book Club — I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t), starting session 5 reading: Nine – Practicing Connection in a Culture of Disconnection

(Commissions earned on Amazon links.)

The Story of B

Monday, June 3

“I’m not a charismatic firebrand, but that doesn’t matter. I am B.” The notion that people “become the message” and help it spread echoes Brené talking about the importance of not just seeking support in our shame/difficulties but offering it to others in theirs.

Tuesday, June 4


Wednesday, June 5


Saturday, June 8

“War is not a defect found only in our quirky, deranged culture. It’s found wherever human culture is found — in the past and in the present. The myth of the peaceable noble savage is exactly that, a myth.” Echoes Brené looking realistically at people, recognizing that it’s normal to have flaws and be less than a saint, and that such things only become especially problematic in a culture that amplifies shame.

“Tribes living in a given area are more or less constantly in a state of low-level war with each other, but when Tribe X attacks Tribe Y, it doesn’t typically take over its territory or its mates; rather, after inflicting a certain amount of damage, it typically turns around and goes home. Before long, typically, Tribe Y returns the favor, attacking Tribe X, inflicting a certain amount of damage, then going home. This relation of more or less permanent low-level hostility between X and Y isn’t special. The same relation exists between X and Z and Y and Z — and these three have similarly hostile relations with the neighbors around them.
“Characteristically, the people of these tribes don’t think of themselves as having ‘a problem’ with their neighbors; characteristically, no one is ‘working for peace’; characteristically, no one thinks there’s anything wrong or reprehensible about this way of life. Also characteristically, the people of Tribe X don’t imagine that their life would be sweet if one day they went out and killed off all their neighbors; they know there are neighbors beyond their neighbors, and these distant neighbors would be no friendlier than their near ones. It’s in fact really not so bad. Years go by in which X doesn’t attack Y and Y doesn’t attack X, and in these years relations between them are typically very cordial.” Compare Brené talking about the importance of having healthy boundaries on the individual level, and about the importance of having ways of responding to conflict so that it doesn’t get out of hand when it arises.

“What works, evidently, is cultural diversity. This should not as a surprise. If culture is viewed as a biological phenomenon, then we should expect to see diversity favored over uniformity. A thousand designs — one for every locale and situation — always works better than one design for all locales and situations.” Compare Brené talking about authenticity and bucking cultural messages demanding uniformity for individuals.

“So: Tribal warfare — casual, intermittent, small-scale, and frequent — worked well for tribal peoples, because it safeguarded cultural diversity. It was not sweet or beautiful or angelic, but it did work… for hundreds of thousands of years, perhaps even millions of years.” Reiterating above about boundaries and realistically minimizing conflict.

“Suddenly I heard her say, ‘The universe is all of a piece… This tells you that the flight path of a goose over Scandinavia has something to do with a man dying in a hospital room in New Jersey — but it takes some figuring to find out what it is. This tells you that what’s hidden inside a fossil two hundred million years old has something to do with Jared Osborne. This too takes some figuring. This kind of figuring is the diviner’s specialty, Jared, though anyone can learn to do it. The diviner is just a special tracker, a tracker of events and relations.” Compare Brené on spirituality.


“This isn’t something that will be undone by any one author — or by any ten authors. Nor will it be undone by any one teacher or by any ten teachers. If it’s undone, it will be undone by a whole new generation of authors and teachers.
“One of which is you.
“There’s no one in reach of these words who is incapable (at the very least) of handing them to another and saying, ‘Here, read this.’
“Parents, teacher your children. Children, teach your parents. Teachers, teach your pupils. Pupils, teach your teachers.” Compare Brené’s deep valuing and regular references to countless other researchers and thinkers, her discussions of parent-child relationships in which each may have things to teach the other, and the Wholehearted Revolution she poses for countless people to join.

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

Nine – Practicing Connection in a Culture of Disconnection

“Disconnection is both the source and consequence of shame, fear and blame. Insulating, judging others, blaming, raging, stereotyping, labelling — these are all forms of disconnection. But there is another form of disconnection, one that is often more painful and confusing than all of these other forms: It is the feeling of being disconnected from ourselves. We are often so influenced by what other people think and so overwhelmed with trying to be who other people need us to be, that we actually lose touch with our sense of self. We lose our grounding. We lose our authenticity. The reason this is so painful is because our authenticity is the very foundation from which all meaningful change occurs.” Compare Quinn’s general message pointing humans to what is authentic for us as a species. It’s no coincidence that our culture is out of touch with our authenticity and finds it hard to make meaningful change.

“We cannot share ourselves with others when we see ourselves as flawed and unworthy of connection. It’s impossible to be ‘real’ when we are ashamed of who we are or what we believe.” Compare the broader cultural notion that humans are flawed and continually striving for perfection, and the connection between that and cultural-wide institutionalized hierarchy.

“When we feel like this, we are more likely to reinforce the messages and expectations, individualize the problems and feel like our inability to meet the expectations is about our own deficiencies or pathologies.” Culturally, we see ourselves as flawed/deficient, pathologizing our problems and failing to see our way to the broader picture of who we are.

“‘Addictions do to shame what salt water does to thirst.’ -Terrance Real” Compare Quinn discussing many ways in which supposed cures/solutions just exacerbate the problems they were intended to solve.

“As you can imagine, it is much easier to change or fix any given behavior than it is to fix a defective self… The shame-prone person, because he is overwhelmed by the emotion resulting from the realization that he is bad (defective, unworthy, etc.), can’t problem-solve, and therefore can’t make the same types of plans for how to do things differently (and hopefully better) the next time he finds himself in a similar situation. In essence, the shame-prone person gets stuck in the emotion, whereas the guilt-prone person is able to move on.”” Compare Taker culture believing both that it is flawed and that it is humanity itself and therefore that the flaw cannot be fixed.

“We are members of a culture that fosters, then vilifies, addiction. Psychologist and activist Charlotte Sophia Karl writes, ‘Patriarchy, hierarchy, and capitalism create, encourage, maintain and perpetuate addiction and dependency.'” Compare Quinn on the inherent hierarchy, dysfunction and addiction-to-power of Taker culture.

“Another pattern that emerged is the belief that faith is about nurturing our best selves and shame moves us away from that purpose. The sources of shame seem much more connected to the earthly, man-made and interpreted rules and regulations and the social-community expectation around religion.” Compare Quinn’s critique of invented laws.

“Just like in many other institutions (e.g., corporations, schools, medicine, government) individuals and groups in leadership positions can use shame as an instrument of control. When this happens in a repeated and systematic way, the entire organizational culture becomes shame-based.” Again, compare Quinn on the inherent hierarchy, dysfunction and addiction-to-power of Taker culture.

“One way that we can increase our self-empathy and the connection to ourselves is to explore and acknowledge our strengths as well as our problems or limitations.” Compare Quinn’s general focus on what works, on design to produce desired results as opposed to focusing on problems with an eye toward minimizing their symptomatic impact without actually designing them out of the system.

“The information in this book is based on the theory of shame resilience that emerged from my research. I really like the definition of theory found in The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook — a wonderful book on building learning organizations. The authors define theory as a ‘fundamental set of propositions about how the world works, which has been subjected to repeated tests and in which we have gained some confidence.'” Compare Quinn’s focus on what works as opposed to what is right or wrong, on evolutionary thinking, and on systems thinking, with The Fifth Discipline on his recommended reading list.

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