Brené Brown is basically a hero in the Knox household. Brené is a researcher who studies shame, courage, empathy and vulnerability, and she has had a significant impact on how Michael and I communicate with each other, as well as how we parent. In her research, she shares about the need to embrace vulnerability in order to live a wholehearted life. She also shares about the negative impact that shame has on our identity and how it hides the truth that we are good enough, that we are ok as we are and that we belong. (If you're interested in hearing more about her thoughts, I'd recommend starting with the book The Power of Vulnerability, there's also a TED Talk: The Power of Vulnerability.)
Since becoming a parent I've felt hungry for information about how I can be more mentally and emotionally healthy, so that I can raise mentally and emotionally healthy children. And I'm grateful that Brené's research exposed for me some very basic barriers that can prevent us from becoming the best us. If I can be vulnerable and bring things I need to work through to the light, then perhaps, I can help the boys embrace vulnerability, and then rather than feeling shame, they will have the courage to face their challenges head on.
Around the same time that we learned about Brené, we also discovered Onsite, which uses group therapy to help individuals live a more healthy and centered life. (Onsite also facilitates one of Brené's programs called The Daring Way.) Recently, our friend recommended a documentary called The Work, which follows a group of men who join convicts in Folsom Prison for four days of intensive group therapy. We were intrigued by how this was similar to Onsite (just a very different setting), and we were lucky to view it recently at a local film festival. There were so many takeaways from the film, and as I heard the stories of betrayal that all of the men faced, convict or not, I could not help but to dwell on the role of a parent. It made me wonder how our actions are impacting our children, how we can be better aware of how our children are responding to our actions, and how we can help our children process the shame they may feel. We can't remove shame from the equation, but we can try to be our best selves and help our children become their best selves. This happens by understanding the significant impact that shame has on our identities. This also happens by showing up and not being afraid of being seen as we truly are. That is vulnerability, and that is the center of where our true identity awaits.
The most important thought for me—with Brené's research, Onsite, and The Work—is that none of us are beyond transformation, and The Work especially reminded me that our life experiences cannot be compared to one another's. Rather we must all work through the things that are holding us back from living full, centered lives. And for the people we love, we must listen, and provide safe spaces to be and to feel.