For the past couple of weeks my work has led me to consider issues of inclusion/exclusion and connection/disconnection. During this time I have discovered the work of Brene Brown, who is a researcher in social work. Her video on ‘vulnerabilty’ is over on my work blog and is well worth the look if you’ve got a spare 20 minutes or so. I’ve also been reading her books, “I Thought It Was Just Me – but it isn’t;” and “The Gifts of Inperfection.” Brene has spent the past twelve years researching the somewhat unpopular subject of ‘shame,’ something from which we all suffer, yet are reluctant to talk about. Brene’s books encourage us to practice ‘shame resistance,’ in order to be able to live our lives to the full. The main weapon in the shame resistance army is empathy. Apparently, if one could put ‘shame’ into a petrie dish the necessary growth media are silence, judgement and ridicule. If you want ‘shame’ to disappear though, you just add empathy. Of course, it’s not as simple as it sounds, (what on earth is)? Firstly, you have to have a sound grasp on what empathy actually is. It’s not just sympathy and it’s not, as I’ve often thought of, ‘putting oneself in another’s place.’ Empathy goes further – it’s trying to see the situation through the eyes and feelings of the other person; so, not imagining how you might feel in any given situation, but how the other might feel in any given situation. If more of us were able to practice empathy we would be doing ourselves and each other a great favour. Brene’s insights are very thought-provoking and I’m still working with them. Her assertion is that we need to be kinder to ourselves to begin with, because only by practising this kindness to our ourselves can we transfer this skill to our empathy for others.
Our connection to one another is at the core of this working of course. As Brene puts it, “We are hard-wired for connection.” Too many things stop us from developing authentic relationships with one another and that brings me on to the other interesting video I’ve discovered, a message from Sherry Turkle. Sherry’s recent work has focussed on the way we are forsaking genuine connection for connections in the ‘virtual’ worlds of the internet and technology. I’d be interested to know what you think about these issues, so feel free to comment below. In the meantime, this is Sherry’s message, so you can see for yourself.