Welcome to Day 6 of “30 Days of Brené Brown” wherein I’m relating, on my blog here, to each quote as determined by Goodreads.
Here is today’s quote:
Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.
― Brené Brown
Today, I’m taking a risk of vulnerability to tell you about the physical pain we create in ourselves without knowing it.
Any volunteers? Oh. Me. Ok.
Never in my life have two people (until now), whose clinical work I admire, crossed jet trails: Dr. John Sarno’s and Brené Brown’s. Brown writes compulsively about vulnerability, emotional freedom, courage and the harm of perfectionism. Sarno just puts it all in a different framework:
That chart. That was basically my FBI profile. I’ve dialed way back on my people pleasing, legalistic and perfectionism stuff. Check out that chart… if you see yourself on it (and you will), high-five me.
On Day 1, Brown said something about the challenges in owning our stories versus running from them and that when we own them, when we step into the darkness we can come to know the power of our light.
Today, we’re here to talk about how vulnerability drives change. I owe it to myself to really do this right.
But first: I can’t tell my big life story on this blog because it keeps coming out in chunks. I need to sit and compose it in one place. I remember a friend saying last year, “Why would you write your memoir? You’re not famous.” The resultant shame I felt inside, burning and humiliating and basic resignation was unbearable; I remember my stomach immediately sinking. Sometimes friends suck at being friends.
Indeed, I thought, who would want to hear my story? Who the hell am I to think that anyone would give a damn? I don’t know who, but but I do know this: Keeping it inside breaks down my body, joint by joint and ligament by ligament. Maybe the best thing which comes from telling your story –once and for all– is that you can finally put it to bed.
This putting it to bed is something I have never done. Instead, I have repressed a bunch of heavy duty emotions to the tune which Sarno would determine as the catalysts for all manner of -itises on my elbows, knees, shoulders, stomach stuff, food allergies I ignore and some freakin’ sciatica that I want to heave.
The good news: is that I live my life despite these ailments, as many of us do. I’m dependable, I’m not a social mess, I’m physically active, and I do my best to be honest with myself. The other great news is that like a lot of people out there, I’m emotionally balanced, I’ve been married almost 20 years, I’ve got three great kids and my friends like me. I really try not to be a burden.
Ok. Vulnerability leads to change.
In 2009, a relative told me about Dr. John Sarno’s book The MindBody Prescription. This relative plays her cards close to the vest and thus seldom recommends anything, so when she told me about this one, I had to believe it. She sent it to me, actually, as a gift.
Anyway, the book changed my life. I read it in three weeks (I’m a diligent, deliberate reader) with all manner of annotations and highlights. When I was finished, my gastric stuff cleared up completely. I mean… goneski for the entire season. Then it returned, but I understand it better and it’s under control.
Sarno’s other books, The Divided Mind, and Healing Back Pain talk about the same issues; The MindBody Prescription is his most recent book. He has a theory, to which I subscribe completely, that all these ailments I mention, AND some others including (I’m wincing, don’t get mad at me) such as migraines, fibromyalgia, Epstein-Barre, chronic fatigue, IBS, TMJ and allergies (yes!) are all symptoms of our mind’s ability to repress negative emotions until our bodies can’t take it anymore and then we have these issues.
He’s a medical doctor. He’s a pariah in his community. He has changed lives. His books piss people off.
These fruitless pursuits: invulnerability, perfectionism, people pleasing, rigidity/stoicism, “legalist” (being right) … and so many more all work against us. Our bodies simply can’t take it and the longer we fight it, the weaker we get, just from “trying to keep it together, man!” and we burst either by our muscles giving out, our bellies blowing out (sorry), our brains shutting down with migraines, or our bodies saying “fuck it” with fibromyalgia.
According to Sarno, the culprits (hang on to your hats) are unexpressed, unattended, pent-up, repressed, suppressed, denied, projected and completely ignored hidden narcissistic rage from our childhoods — stay with me — which can come from a shitty childhood, a horrific childhood, or a completely normal childhood.
Just because you had a normal childhood doesn’t mean you weren’t pissed when you didn’t get the red lollipop instead of the orange one and that when your little sister got the red one you wanted to smash it into her face. Admit it. You wanted to grind that red lollipop into her
stupid sweet, smiling, ugly perfect, little face. (I feel better already and I don’t have a sister!)
Feeling those feelings is normal. Acting them out is frowned upon. Even (especially) in polite company we don’t share such feelings, but man… that’s where we done screwed up.
I’ve read The MindBody Prescription three times. Each time I do, I am relieved in one form or another. The crap I’m going through right now, this stupid sciatica, is bullshit. Plain and simple. There is nothing wrong with me physically, it’s in my head. You should hear me talk to my ailments, I’m like a cyber bully: “You’re nothing, useless, you don’t exist. You have no value… You suck…”
I discovered this morning on my walk with The Murph, that I have put off reading it this time because I said, “I don’t want to read nonfiction; I’m tired of it.”
Well, how urbane and smart I sound.
The bottom line, as I admitted to myself, is that reading nonfiction means reading reality and reading reality means I have to live in my reality and living in my reality means I need to admit and allow some feelings and allowing some feelings means I have to … see? I can’t even go there.
Oof! Butt pain!
Because I subscribe to all things woo-woo (Western medicine is so far from having everything figured out) I also know that the sides of our bodies have distinct messages to share with us.
The right side is the masculine side.
The left side is the feminine side.
All my pain, for most of my life, has been on my right side. Since four months before Mom died, I’ve had this nagging sciatic stuff on my right. It’s mostly been nagging, nothing too major. But the last three weeks? Get me a gurney. It must be the holidays.
The joint and ligament stuff, it’s a bear. I really hate it. The fact that it’s on my right side is telling me that it’s about the masculine energy in my life. The fact that it’s been bugging me since spring, when my father stopped speaking to me because I made demands about my mother’s care, tells me that it’s likely about him and that I need to do some Work, emotionally, to truly give the pain the heave ho.
It means I have to let go. Let go of the resentment and the control. After all these years — decades upon decades of my life — I suspect I will feel lost. Is it better to hang on to the resentment that I knew forged me or let go and float down?
Letting go for me means have to live in the now and the reality of Mom never coming back and my never being able to fix her and the fucking frustration I have had inside me all my life about wanting her well. Phuuuuck. It’s acting up again. My right hamstring is howling at me; it feels like it’s about to snap and I’m just sitting here.
To me, a lot of what is causing our sadness, our Sarno issues, is that people are afraid to admit their fragility. We are gossamer, but we have limits.
We have an attachment to brawn, to guts, to bravery, to courage and strength and all attachments lead to suffering. This attachment concept is more than metaphorical: in the case of my elbow tendonitis — the grasping mechanism, I was told lonnnnng ago by my acupuncturist, “Sometimes we hold on to things too tightly.”
NnnnNnnn. What did he know?
I was “holding on” to Mom then, she was making headway, but it was elusive. The codependence was at an all-time high: it was as though she did it for me to witness it for her to do it for me to see her be well for me to see her do it… get it? There is no way to keep that up; it results in disappointment. We must pursue our health for ourselves; if we hinge it on anyone else, it’s too much — there will always be missteps. We are human; we make mistakes.
Brawn, guts, our modern attachment to them, they are all façades for the real action of vulnerability: it takes guts to admit flaws and sensitivities, to put ourselves (myself) out there.
The things I do for you people… 😉
So here’s the finalé of this post: if you’re suffering physically and you suspect you’re repressing emotionally, do yourself a favor and get one of Sarno’s books. Check it out on the cheap: read Mark’s Daily Apple about the physical effects of repressing negative emotions. Go to the TMS / PDD wiki website and learn more.
You don’t have to suffer. All attachments cause suffering. That’s your first truth.
For me, I hope this step into vulnerability will usher my innovation and change in the form of freedom from lies I’ve been hearing all these years.
ps – apologies for the length of this one; combining two writers in one post is bound to be verbose.