[Weekend Wisdom] Tragedy, Shields and Turning People Into Trees
“Nothing is as uncomfortable, dangerous, and hurtful as believing that I’m standing on the outside of my life looking in and wondering what it would be like if I had the courage to show up and let myself be seen.”
- Brene Brown, Daring Greatly
Have you ever felt like that?
That you are “outside” of your life, looking in?
Have you had moments when you were on a date…
… or talking with your mother, or girlfriend or boyfriend or a colleague – and it feels a little numb — as if you are watching yourself from outside…
As if you’re watching a movie of yourself…
And you don’t really like this movie.
Because the actor playing you kinda sucks. Doesn’t feel into it.
You know what I mean…
The words that come out of your mouth feel “rote” or practiced.
You stay on the surface. Make small talk.
Stuff you’ve said before…
You make that joke about your last marriage you know gets a chuckle.
You tell that tender story about your kid or childhood or pet that you know evokes empathy and makes somebody like you.
For a moment.
You nod your head. You try to be polite. But the conversation is boring the hell out of you…
And you just want to SMASH
through that feeling…
The feeling that you are not speaking your truth.
That you’re not telling the truth to others…
The pain that arises when you hold back from telling somebody you think they are f**cking amazing and you want to kiss them and feel their body’s warmth on yours till the stars spin fully across the firmament and the morning sun softly reddens your bodies with its first light
Or you want to tell them that that they are full of crap.
Or that you want them to be JUST BE REAL with you.
Well guess what?
If you’re living “outside yourself” – meaning you’re not speaking your truth – you’re probably that person who feels UNREAL to the one you’re talking to.
And therefore they be screaming inside, too.
So What Does it Mean
To be “Real”?
Brene Brown, the great shame researcher out of UT Austin calls these ways in which we live outside ourselves and prevent ourselves from being known as real – “shields.”
Sarcasm is a shield.
Perfectionism is a shield.
Trying to “fit in” is a shield.
We hold these shields up because we don’t want to be seen for who we are.
And we don’t want to be seen because we secretly feel there are things about us – that if they WERE seen – would cause people to reject us. Refuse us. Belittle us. Push us away.
It’s normal to create shields.
Mostly because we were made to feel unsafe as kids.
We were taught that our feelings were “wrong,” that we shouldn’t publicly show our fear, our yearning, our natural and beautiful sexuality, our desire to be loved.
… even when those feelings are the most REAL thing about us in the moment.
And we end up exiled from our own lives.
Our own selves.
This is a tragedy.
It’s a tragedy to be perpetual exiles from your own heart, mind, truth and reality.
It’s a tragedy to never speak your unique voice in this world – unleashed, free and open-hearted.
But there is a second tragedy…
How can you love someone
if you are not even you?
If you are not there?
If you are behind a mask?
If you’re holding up shield so even your love can’t see you?
How can you BE loved if you are not being you.
If you are holding back your truth?
Stepping Into Yourself Allows
You to Be Loved…
Socrates said the unexamined life wasn’t worth living.
Brene Brown teaches us that the masked life is a tragedy because we are never really IN it.
You know the feeling in others right?
I mean, I’ve known people for years whom I still only experience as a MASK.
Because they want to seem “on top of the world.” Big handshakes! Flashy smile!
Or because they want to seem “cool” or “perfect” or “okay” even though their hearts are breaking underneath.
They (you, me) are afraid of settling into their bodies and just allow themselves to be seen and experienced as the imperfect beings they are (as we all do, as we all are).
So… what do we do about all this?
How do we not MISS OUT on our whole lives and miss out on love because we are secretly afraid to be seen for ourselves?
How do we begin to allow ourselves to be vulnerable enough to be seen?
Ready? Two steps…
The First Step: Courage
In it – she teaches her four step “shame resilience” process – which should be required teaching for all human beings. It teaches you how to deal with the inevitable shame you feel about your past, your family, your height, your sexuality, your income, your solitude – you name it. We’ve all got something!
The first step is to admit that you are carrying some shame – feelings that you are “not enough” and to know the social triggers that send you spiraling downward. The other steps include practicing critical awareness around your responses, coming to see that EVERYBODY suffers from shame and to speak what you might feel awful about yourself aloud.
Because when you bring the shadow into light, it evaporates.
Jung taught us that.
You don’t have to do this.
You only have to “dare greatly” and express your vulnerability IF AND ONLY IF you ever want to be seen as the REAL person you are.
Is this going to be socially risky?
Because that will scare the small, scared, shielded people in your life.
But it be the most powerful beacon of welcoming light to the people who are going to genuinely love you and make your life a heart’s paradise.
The great truth is that only great risk brings great reward.
You want the reward of being loved?
Then listen to Brene here…
“Daring greatly is not about winning or losing. It’s about courage. In a world where scarcity and shame dominate and feeling afraid has become second nature, vulnerability is subversive. Uncomfortable.
“It’s even a little dangerous at times. And, without question, putting ourselves out there means there’s a far greater risk of feeling hurt.”
But you’re up to the challenge, right?
Of course you are. That’s why you’re reading me.
Because you CARE about your life.
Because you are prepared to take the actions that create genuine love.
The far worse choice is NEVER to be real.
Never to be vulnerable.
Never to speak your truth.
And therefore NEVER really love and be loved for who you actually are.
Or as she puts it…
“…standing on the outside of my life looking in and wondering what it would be like if I had the courage to show up and let myself be seen.”
The alternative to being truthful and vulnerable sounds like a witch’s curse.
The Second Step: Turning People Into Trees
You’re not a noun.
You’re a verb.
You’re changing. You’re on a path.
Things happened in the past that caused you to veer you onto your path.
Lovers were cruel or kind. You read a book that changed you. You found a mentor or teacher who opened or closed your heart.
And things call to you from the future that are shaping your path right now…
The promise of genuine love. Of wealth. Of peace.
Of wanting to feel you made a difference in this clumsy, infantile, angelic world we live in.
You are in process. You are dynamic.
There are REASONS for you being who you are right now.
You’re a verb in the fluid state of becoming.
Not a noun.
Yet, when you go on a date with others, when you meet someone new, what’s the FIRST thing you do?
You “nounify” them.
Meaning – you PASS JUDGMENT on them for who and what they are right now.
We all do this.
Unless we change our habit.
Unless we turn them into trees.
About 6 years ago, I traveled to Hawaii for a crazy hippie music festival on a green cliff overlooking the sea. I went to meet two people, and one of them is the most graceful, the most loving, the most spacious-minded man I’ve ever encountered in all my years seeking out great teachers.
And we wrote this…
‘When you go to and you look at trees, you see all those different trees, and some of them are bent, and some of them straight, and some of them are evergreens and some of them are whatever…
“And you look at the tree and you allow it. You appreciate it. You see why it is the way it is. You sort of understand that it didn’t get enough light, and so it turned that way. And you don’t get all emotional about it. You just allow it. You appreciate the tree.
“The minute you get your humans you lose all that. And you are constantly saying “you’re too this or I’m too this…
“That Judging Mind comes in. And so I practice turning people into trees. Which means appreciating them just the way they are….”
Turning people into trees.
Simple appreciating them for who and what they are in this instance as they are.
What a magnificent practice to undertake for all of us.
As Ram Dass says above, we start by simply ALLOWING each other.
This practice is not only the beginning of true understanding of what IS (rather than the illusions we create in our private stories about what is)…
But it is the foundation of true love between you and others, because it helps make us REAL to each other.
And, I would surmise, in this time of missiles and explosions and crashes and fear and fury…
… it can be the foundation of peace.
May we practice a lot.
May we bring an age of peace and love soon.
I hope you find this a rousing start.
Every month we read someone CRUCIAL to deepening your wisdom and preparing you for full-hearted, full-throated, passionate, true intimacy.
This month and next – July and August we are reading Brene Brown.
Please feel free to join the discussion with the growing number of men and women in this daily online forum working hard to open more powerfully into a life of intimacy and love.
You can share your thoughts and learn from the thoughts and experiences of the others. Plus – you never know who you may meet that will grow your tree higher and stronger.
I hope to see you inside here…