When something makes you uncomfortable — whether it’s as simple as hearing a condescending comment from a friend or as life-altering as being cheated on by a partner — most people immediately develop a particular narrative about what they’ve just experienced. They’ll feel insulted, betrayed, hurt. They’ll tell themselves the story of why this unpleasant thing happened, and often, the gut-reaction narrative soon impacts our self-worth. “He doesn’t respect me,” for example, morphs into, “I’m not worthy of respect.” “She doesn’t love me,” can become, “I’m not lovable.”
Researcher and best-selling author Brené Brown has seen (and even experienced) this type of narrative on various scales. As she tells Oprah on “SuperSoul Sunday,” the reason why we tell ourselves these lies comes down to one primitive thing: survival.
“Our brain is wired, above all else, for survival. So, the minute we have a threat, whether it’s anxiety, fear, shame, whatever that threat is, our brain says, ‘Give me a story,'” Brown says. “Our brain recognizes the pattern of a narrative: Beginning, middle, end. ‘Give me a story that tells me who’s safe, who’s good, who’s bad, who’s dangerous.'”
Typically this story forms in an instant, she continues. “It’s really about trying to make sense of things very quickly,” Brown says.
However, in this haste, our brain overlooks something very important.
“What our brain does not take into consideration is the need for discomfort and vulnerability in real relationship,” Brown says.
You may want to sidestep the discomfort, but Brown says that doing the exact opposite is actually what will help you overcome the feeling and rise above the pain.
“It’s he or she who’s willing to be the most uncomfortable can rise strong,” Brené says. “Discomfort: the way home.”
It may be more tempting to lean away from discomfort with “a glass of red wine, or six,” Brené jokes, but leaning in is far more powerful. This is a concept that Oprah articulates back to Brené with just a few words.
“Leaning into it actually helps you eventually push through,” she says.
“It does,” Brené nods. “It can revolutionize the way you live, the way you love, the way you lead, the way you parent. It has completely changed everything for me.”
“SuperSoul Sunday” airs Sundays at 7 p.m. ET on OWN.
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