Brené Brown, one of our favorite contemporary scholars, indulges in the curiosities of the human experience and its darker corners. It is in these spaces where the unspoken/shameful rests, secretly impacting our every day and our ability to navigate through life. Her mission, much like ours, is to create a space of empowerment, through the recognition of our flawed existence. One of the concepts she highlights is the idea of a “vulnerability hangover,” and we are digging in, to explore more about this.
Everyone has had such an experience; waking up the morning after you’ve had a heart to heart, an ugly cry, felt triggered or caught off-guard and burst into tears, and you wake up the next day feeling off, maybe even embarrassed. For Brown, this is a great sign. Why? Because we live in a time, at least in the Western world, that commodifies values like strength, perfectionism, homogeneity, and stoicism. These subcultural languages permeate the belief, that in order to be successful, (which is an ambiguous idea to begin with), we must never show a crack of destabilization or doubt. So, for Brown, a vulnerability hangover means you’re embracing your human experience in a world which says, only be human when you’re in private. The truth of the matter is that, what we all actually want, more so than being perceived as belonging to our human tribe via external validation, is a sense of truthful connection. This only comes in being vulnerable, and fuck, it’s hard. The deep fear of revealing ourselves perhaps comes down to a fundamental human impulse to survive, and thus the need to be perceived as strong. Strength, as opposed to weakness, does not show its flaw (says contemporary society).
But, what if we flipped the switch, and began to view vulnerability as strength? In actuality, it leads to a closer, more full-hearted connection, and empathy. We all want a more empathic world; we want validation from our tribe. This is where we get confused and displace our empathetic drive for our ego drive. So, what if instead of taking the closed-off route of perceived strength, and instead, we went straight for what we want—- mutual understanding and community? What if we started to realize that vulnerability is shammed because it isn’t commodifiable. The reason we feel hungover is because of shame, not because of a lack of truth. The shame comes in because there is no foundation of trust established in our world for being open and raw. Let’s fucking change that. Show me yours, and I'll show you mine.