Once in awhile, there comes along a book, a film or a moment that changes everything in your life. This one vital piece in the puzzle of life that makes all the others click in place and make sense. The first such book for me was Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. I read that when I was 15 and it forever altered my ability to overcome any obstacle in my life.
The most poignant lesson from that extraordinary account and analysis of life in a WWII concentration camp, came in one succinct line:
No matter what I have faced since I was first introduced to that concept, I’ve never forgotten that vital key to empowerment.
And now there’s another book that has grabbed me by the collar and forced me to look long and hard at all the times I’ve come up against those obstacles. A book that digs deeper into what Frankl was describing, a book illuminating how the strong rise again.
Rising Strong¸ by Brené Brown is her latest tome on the subject of her research on shame, resilience and the courage to continue to rise after a fall.
Her whole thesis, I believe, could be boiled down to this:
“When we deny our stories and disengage from tough emotions, they don’t go away; instead, they own us, they define us. Our job is not to deny the story, but to defy ending—to rise strong, recognize our story, and rumble with the truth until we get to a place where we think, Yes. This is what happened. This is my truth. And I will choose how this story ends.” – Brené Brown
Without giving too much away, I will tell you that The Rising Strong process, as she calls it, can be broken into three aspects of the journey. The Reckoning, the Rumble and the Revolution. To give a super brief explanation of each stage… the reckoning is first just becoming aware of what you’re feeling, which is oftentimes harder than you may think. The rumble is dealing openly and honestly about why you’re feeling that way and what’s contributed to it. And finally the revolution is choosing to deal with it in a different way than you have before.
You must go through all stages, sometimes repeatedly, in order to finally rise strong against whatever is happening. But once you take that first difficult step, you’ll already be better off than you were before.
Looking back at how this has played out in my own life is fascinating. When I first graduated from college, I moved to London. The original plan was to stay several years, but as I’ve mentioned in other posts, things didn’t go according to plan.
My temporary work visa ended and I have to leave. I went to teach ESL in Ukraine for a few months and then returned to England for another short while looking for a more permanent job to keep me there. After months of looking and trying I had to return back to the U.S., feeling like an utter failure. Ugh.
But I didn’t stop there. I tried once again to move to the U.K. and did my second master’s degree in Northern Ireland. Again, big hopes were dashed as once more I couldn’t find a permanent job to extend my visa. In a deja vu turn of events, I returned back across the Atlantic.Each time I tried and failed to stay in Europe, my ego and pride took massive hits.
Had I known about the rising strong process years ago, I would’ve saved myself a lot of pain and misery as I sorted through my emotional rollercoasters.
As it was though, I held on to a lot of anger, resentment and confusion for years after. It’s only been in the last couple years that I’ve allowed myself to heal after each of my major falls.
The rising strong process is a tough one, don’t get me wrong. It’s not for the faint of heart. Being honest and vulnerable is the bravest thing you can possibly do in this life. But the price of the temporary pain is beyond priceless.
“Integration is the soul of rising strong. We have to be whole to be wholehearted. To embrace and love who we are, we have to reclaim and reconnect with the parts of ourselves we’ve orphaned over the years. We have to call back home all of those part of ourselves that we have abandoned.” – Brené Brown
Once you’re fully whole again, nothing in this world can stop you from reaching your fullest most magnificent potential. And that’s the highest honor we can do for ourselves and the world.