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The Swim of Awakening with Brené Brown

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Paper cut illustration of lake scene

Artwork by Julene Harrison

In the absence of data, we will always make up stories. It’s how we are hardwired. In fact, the need to make up a story, especially when we are hurt, is part of our most primitive survival wiring. But these stories are typically not true.

The minute we find ourselves face down on the arena floor, our minds go to work trying to make sense of how we got there. This story is driven by emotion and the immediate need to self-protect, which means it’s most likely not accurate, self-actualized, or even civil. In fact, if your very first story is any of these things, you’re either an outlier or you’re not being fully honest. The rumble starts when we have the willingness, ability, and courage to wade into that first uncivilized story we’re making up. Why is capturing this uncensored story necessary? Because embedded in these unedited narratives are the answers to three critically important questions—questions that cultivate wholeheartedness and bring deeper courage, compassion, and connection to our lives: What more do I need to learn and understand about the situation?What more do I need to learn and understand about the person or people in the story?What more do I need to learn and understand about myself? In the absence of data, we will always make up stories. It’s how we are hardwired. In fact, the need to make up a story, especiall …

Brené Brown, PhD, is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work who has spent the past 10 years studying vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame. She is the author of best-sellers including Rising Strong: How the Ability to Reset Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead, from which this article was adapted. Rising Strong is now in paperback from Random House.


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