One Right Way – 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:

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Providence: The Story of a Fifty-Year Vision Quest


“The nonhuman world? There’s no such thing as a nonhuman world — not here and now at any rate. The world that we have is the world that has humans in it, just as the world that we have is the world that has air and water and insects and birds and reptiles in it…
“Where would you draw a line between the human and nonhuman worlds? To which world does the wheat in our fields belong? If it belongs to the human world, what about the thousands of species that thrive in and around the wheat — and the tens of thousands of other species that thrive in and around them? It doesn’t even make sense to say that this house belongs to the human world. Carpenter ants and termites are making a meal of it as we speak, I can assure you of that, and it would be a miracle if there weren’t some moths in there snacking at our sweaters. The walls are inhabited by hundreds of different insects (most of which, thankfully, we never see), and funguses, molds, and bacteria flourish by the thousands on every surface.
“No, it’s nonsense to try to find two worlds here that can be separated into human and nonhuman. Biological and philosophical nonsense.” Compare Brené on spirituality involving the recognition and celebration that all things are inextricably connected.

“Yes, helpless was the word. I was embracing a whole lifetime of helplessness, of utter vulnerability. As I sat there alone in that bleak, empty classroom, my mind went dark with despair… You know what it means to live in the hands of God, I said to myself. It means abandoning your will utterly… I released my will, and it flowed away, leaving me as limp as a drowned man… No, now that I think about it, it isn’t right to say I was feeling nothing. I was feeling a sort of solemn terror. I was feeling doom. I had done what I had come to the monastery to do: I had given myself to God — without reservation — and now I was in for it, no matter what it was.” Compare Brené on vulnerability, reckoning, facing discomfort, accepting fundamental uncertainty.


“I was certain that nothing is more lovable than perfection and had no inkling that nothing is more irritating.” Compare Brené on perfectionism and the gifts of imperfection.


“The psychoanalyst isn’t there to provide reassurance. He’s there to provide a mirror in which you can see yourself.” Brené regularly stresses the importance of validation, acknowledgment, feeling seen and understood.

“Someone whose self-esteem depends on being perfect is incapable of maintaining a relation of intimacy with anyone for very long. This is because, no matter how hard you try, you’re going to slip up occasionally… The gloss inevitably wears completely off of anybody, and this is disastrous for someone whose self-worth is bound up with being perfect.” Compare Brené on the cost of perfectionism and the shame it brings.

“I don’t think there’s any loneliness greater than the loneliness to be found in a bad marriage. In solitary confinement, everyone knows you’re lonely and feels sorry for you. In a bad marriage loneliness is your darkest secret, one you dare not even share with your spouse. But now the secret was out. Everyone knew — and suddenly I had people to talk to for the first time in many years.” Compare Brené on shame, secrecy, its inability to survive once spoken, paving the way for connection.

“Finally he [the priest] spoke a few simple words that were to change the direction of my life once again. He said, ‘I find that the longer I live, the more I worry about people and the less I worry about rules.” Compare Brené on the rules and regulations of religion.

“It’s like an enormous, perfect argument, unshakable and unassailable, and indeed inescapable — provided that you accept its premises. But its very perfection constitutes a weakness. You see, in a perfect argument there is no redundancy; every brick in the structure is necessary to the stability of the whole. This means that, if you pull a single brick out of that perfect structure, the whole thing collapses.” Compare Brené on the problematic impossibility of perfectionism.


“What people failed to consider was that, just as there are two fundamentally different ways to teach math, there are two fundamentally different kinds of kids trying to learn it. But no, you can’t have two different ways, our educational system won’t accommodate that; it has to be one way or the other. This was my introduction to one of the fundamental concepts that drive our culture: the concept of the One Right Way. There can’t be good ways of teaching something, there has to be a right way — one and only way, with all other ways wrong.” Brené regularly upholds the value of being able to make space for multiplicity, both/and, for apparent contradictions and opposites held together, in a culture that too often leads people to be capable of thinking only either/or and right/wrong.

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