Armor and Alibis – 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 — no reading this week
  • Brené Brown Book Club — Rising Strong, starting session 2 reading: Three – Owning Our Stories through Five – The Rumble

(Commissions earned on Amazon links.)

Rising Strong

Three – Owning Our Stories

“The tools they used to integrate their stories of falling are readily available to all of us because they are deeply human and part of our wholeness: storytelling and creativity…” Quinn affirms these qualities as deeply human in The Story of B, Beyond Civilization and elsewhere.

“When I asked [Shonda Rimes] about the role of struggle in storytelling, she said, ‘I don’t even know who a character is until I’ve seen how they handle adversity. Onscreen and offscreen, that’s how you know who someone is.'” Quinn’s story about the lions in Tales of Adam is emblematic of his critique of Taker culture, showing how extreme attempts to avoid adversity end up backfiring in a self-destructive way.

Four – The Reckoning

“Recognizing emotion means developing awareness about how our thinking, feeling (including our physiology), and behavior are connected. While some researchers and clinicians argue that you can change your life by just changing your thoughts, actions, or feelings, I have seen no evidence in my research that real transformation happens until we address all three as equally important parts of a whole, parts that are inextricably connected to one another, like a three-legged stool.” As Quinn’s focus on social structure stands to contribute much to Brené, Brené’s focus on emotion stands to contribute much to Quinn, who may often overestimate the connection between thinking and behavior while leaving emotion substantially aside.

“Greenspan explains why she believes our culture is ’emotion phobic’ and that we fear and devalue emotion.” Describes Taker culture.

“Choosing to be curious is choosing to be vulnerable because it requires us to surrender to uncertainty… There is a profound relationship — a love affair, really — between curiosity and wholeheartedness.” Quinn critiques Taker culture’s striving for certainty and describes Leaver cultures and the community of life in general in terms of system thinking, which discusses learning organizations, systems that are inherently curious and inclined to learn/evolve.

“Curiosity led me to adopt and live by the belief that ‘nothing is wasted’ – a belief that shapes how I see the world and my life… I used to look back at those far-flung dots as mistakes and wasted time, but allowing myself to be curious about who I am and how everything fits together changed that. As difficult and dark as some of those times were, they all connect to form the real me, the integrated and whole me.” Compare Quinn on providence.

“In his book Curious: The Desire to Know and Why Your Future Depends on It, Ian Leslie writes, ‘Curiosity is unruly. It doesn’t like rules, or, at least, it assumes that all rules are provisional, subject to the laceration of a smart question nobody has yet thought to ask. It disdains the approved pathways, preferring diversions, unplanned excursions, impulsive left turns. In short, curiosity is deviant.’… Embracing the vulnerability it takes to rise up from a fall and grow stronger makes us a little dangerous. People who don’t stay down after they fall or are tripped are often troublemakers. Hard to control. Which is the best kind of dangerous possible. They are the artists, innovators, and change-makers.” Compare Quinn broadly on Taker culture vs. Leaver culture, notably when he discusses the New Tribal Revolution in Beyond Civilization.

“There are numerous, complex reasons why the well is dry — why there’s so little open discussion and engagement around emotion…
“1. Being emotional is a sign of vulnerability, and vulnerability is weakness…
“3. We don’t have access to emotional language or a full emotional vocabulary, so we stay quiet about or make fun of it…
“5. We’re so numb to feeling that there’s nothing to discuss.
“6. Uncertainty is too uncomfortable.
“7. Engaging and asking questions invites trouble. I’ll learn something I don’t want to or shouldn’t know.” Most of the reasons Brené gives for why people aren’t curious connect deeply to Taker culture.

“What’s been rebuilt is far from perfect, and there are still heartaches and family struggles — fights, bruised relationships, hurt feelings, and the occasional throw-down — but the pretending and the silence are gone. They just don’t work anymore.” Compare Quinn talking about the tribe as a social structure that, though, imperfect, works well for humans as they are in their messiness.

“Chandeliering is especially common and dangerous in ‘power-over’ situations — environments where, because of power differentials, people with a higher position or status are less likely to be held accountable for flipping out or overreacting… And when you mix in issues like gender, class, race, sexual orientation, and age – the combination can be lethal.” Compare Taker culture’s power-over structures and its inclination toward violence, war and othering.

“Our ego is the part of us that cares about our status and what people think, about always being better than and always being right… Our inner hustlers have very little tolerance for discomfort or self-reflection. The ego doesn’t own stories or want to write new endings; it denies emotion and hates curiosity. Instead, the ego uses stories as armor and alibis. The ego has a shame-based fear of being ordinary (which is how I define narcissism).” Compare Taker culture, broadly.

“We can take the edge of emotional pain with a whole bunch of stuff, including alcohol, drugs, food, sex, relationships, money, work, caretaking, gambling, affairs, religion, chaos, shopping, planning, perfectionism, constant change, and the Internet.
“And just so we don’t miss it in this long list of all the ways we can numb ourselves, there’s always staying busy: living so hard and fast that the truths of our lives can’t catch up with us.” Compare Quinn’s lists of what Takers do to forget their worries.

“Stockpiling starts like chandeliering, with us firmly packing down the pain, but here, we just continue to amass hurt until the wisest parts off us, our bodies, decide that enough is enough. The body’s message is always clear: Shut down the stockpiling or I’ll shut you down. The body wins every time.” Directly parallel to how ecosystems respond to Taker culture’s habitual behaviors.

“The idea that ‘we’re only as sick as our secrets’ is more than an adage; there’s growing empirical evidence that not owning and integrating our stories affects not just our emotional health but also our physical well-being.” Compare the broad results of Taker culture’s Great Forgetting.

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