Book Review: Rising Strong

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She’s back. And this time Brené Brown wants us to get curious about our feelings, get honest about the stories we’re telling ourselves, and get on with writing a new ending to transform the way we live. It is a book about falling down, getting back up, and trying again: Rising Strong; The Reckoning. The Rumble. The Revolution.

“The truth is that falling hurts. The dare is to keep being brave and feel your way back up,” says Brown.

Brown goes on to say, “My goal for this book is to slow down the falling and rising processes: to bring into our awareness all the choices that unfurl in front of us during those moments of discomfort and hurt, and to explore the consequences of those choices.”

In addition to a generous appendix – which includes key learnings from her previous books, The Gifts of Imperfection and Daring Greatly, and assistance finding a certified daring way helping professional – Brown weaves many of her own personal stories into this one-stop-shop gem of a book.

She writes about the physics of vulnerability and outlines 10 rules of engagement for rising strong, including; we are wired for story (it’s in our DNA), courage is contagious, and rising strong is a spiritual process.

“Courage transforms the emotional structure of our being,” says Brown.

The reckoning (walking into our story) and the revolution (crafting a braver story for going forward) serve as critical bookends to the rising strong process, but the bulk of the work lies in the rumble – the daily grappling with our thoughts, feelings, and actions.

Brown convinces the reader that curiosity is king, especially when it comes to the stories we tell ourselves. And because we tend to make up stories in the absence of data, one of the rumbles she references is the rumble with the truth.

The antidote to being captured by our conspiracy theories and confabulations, says Brown, is to get curious. And she offers a most useful checklist to that end:

  • What more do I need to learn and understand about the situation?
    • What do I know objectively?
    • What assumptions am I making?
  • What more do I need to learn and understand about the other people in the story?
    • What additional information do I need?
    • What questions or clarifications might help?
  • What more do I need to learn and understand about myself?
    • What’s underneath my response?
    • What am I really feeling?
    • What part did I play?

Simply put: What is really going on here, what part is you/yours, and what part is me/mine? Imagine getting to the bottom of that trifecta instead of immediately jumping into a story about how the other person is wrong.

“There is a profound relationship – a love affair, really – between curiosity and wholeheartedness,” says Brown.

One of the other elements Brown wants us to rumble with is identity – who you are vs. who you say that you are. With a nod to Carl Jung’s idea of individuation, she says, “Integration is the soul of rising strong. We have to be whole to be wholehearted…to reclaim and reconnect with the parts of ourselves we’ve orphaned over the years.”

Trusting ourselves and trusting others is a vulnerable and courageous process according to Brown. She came up with the acronym BRAVING to remind us of the seven elements of trust, homing in on the reciprocity inherent in each:

Boundaries – You respect my boundaries, you make sure you understand them, and you’re willing to say no. I respect my own boundaries and I am clear about what’s okay and what’s not okay.

Reliability – You do what you say you’ll do and I do what I say I’ll do.

Accountability – You own your mistakes, apologize and make amends. I do the same.

Vault – You don’t share information or experiences that aren’t yours to share, mine or others. I respect the vault and share appropriately.

Integrity – You choose courage over comfort. You choose what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy. And you choose to practice your values rather than simply professing them. I do the same.

Nonjudgment – You ask for what you need and we can talk about how we feel without judgment. I ask for what I need and I can be nonjudgmental about needing help.

Generosity – You extend the most generous interpretation possible to the intentions, words, and actions of others. I do the same, and I am also generous with myself.

Imagine the world we would inhabit if most of us practiced most of these things most of the time. Just imagine.

Brown concludes with a Manifesto Of The Brave And Brokenhearted, part of which appears here:

We will not be characters in our stories.

Not villains, not victims, not even heroes.

We are the authors of our lives.

We write our own daring endings.

Questions to ponder:

  • On a scale of 1-10, what is your commitment level to getting more curious about the situations that vex you?
  • Which is your weakest element in the BRAVING definition of trust?
  • Which is your partner/colleague/child/boss/neighbor’s weakest element in the BRAVING definition of trust?
  • How in sync do you find your thoughts, feelings, and actions?
  • What is one small, courageous step you could take today to begin transforming a situation in need of your attention?

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