Only when we’re brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”

As the Frankie Boyle Paralympic controversy underscores, if there one life-skill that any comedian must develop, it is embracing vulnerability. The ultimate guru to aspiring performers…an just about anyone else…is Brene Brown. Her TED talk on the subject (above) is a classic and powerful expression of embracing the failure in all of us. She admonished us that there are 3 things we all do to avoid embracing failure and vulnerability…

  • We pretend (that things are okay when they are not) – “The people who have a strong sense of love and belonging believe they’re worthy of love and belonging. That’s it…. So what I did is I took all of the interviews where I saw worthiness, where I saw people living that way, and just looked at those. What do these people have in common?…They fully embraced vulnerability. They believed that what made them vulnerable made them beautiful. They didn’t talk about vulnerability being comfortable, nor did they really talk about it being excruciating — as I had heard it earlier in the shame interviewing. They just talked about it being necessary. They talked about the willingness to say, "I love you" first, the willingness to do something where there are no guarantees, the willingness to breathe through waiting for the doctor to call after your mammogram. They’re willing to invest in a relationship that may or may not work out. They thought this was fundamental.
  • We perfect (in an effort to control) – “And now my mission to control and predict had turned up the answer that the way to live is with vulnerability and to stop controlling and predicting. This led to a little breakdown — which actually looked more like this. And it did. I call it a breakdown; my therapist calls it a spiritual awakening. A spiritual awakening sounds better than breakdown, but I assure you it was a breakdown. And I had to put my data away and go find a therapist…And I know that vulnerability is the core of shame and fear and our struggle for worthiness, but it appears that it’s also the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love.”
  • We numb (in an effort to blunt and hide the pain of failure) – “This is the world we live in. We live in a vulnerable world. And one of the ways we deal with it is we numb vulnerability…And I think there’s evidence — and it’s not the only reason this evidence exists, but I think it’s a huge cause — we are the most in-debt, obese, addicted and medicated adult cohort in U.S. history. The problem is — and I learned this from the research — that you cannot selectively numb emotion. You can’t say, here’s the bad stuff. Here’s vulnerability, here’s grief, here’s shame, here’s fear, here’s disappointment. You cannot selectively numb. So when we numb those, we numb joy, we numb gratitude, we numb happiness. And then we are miserable, and we are looking for purpose and meaning, and then we feel vulnerable, so then we have a couple of beers and a banana nut muffin. And it becomes this dangerous cycle.
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