[Audio]Book Review: Brene Brown || The Power of Vulnerability


I'm late to the Brene Brown party. People I love and respect have been talking about her wisdom and innovative take on how we move through the world for a few years now, but that somehow didn't translate to me picking up one of her books and actually reading it. Who knows why we have inner resistance or what makes us say yes or no in a moment, but with no warning, when cashing in an Audible credit, I remembered Brene Brown and  The Power of Vulnerability and just grabbed it. But I still didn't listen. It sat in my book list for another few months, until vulnerability and I were ready to dance. 

Listening to an author read their book is always an intimate and powerful experience. This isn't so much a book, as it's a series of lectures on vulnerability and wholeheartedness, based on Brown's research over a dozen years. Brene Brown has a completely compelling voice and Texan accent, which is very listenable but it is the content that packs a power punch beneath that gentle drawl. I've heard talk of vulnerability being the new leadership catch phrase, the backbone of innovation, but had never heard the reasons for it being articulated, against evidence based research. 

As Brene describes it, qualitative research are stories with data, but in a world where so much of what is passed as self help is a form of magical thinking, this work is truly magical in being able to map the patterns of what creates success or happiness, and the individual traits that are markers of that. It is the mark of the academic to define for consistency, and Brown took on some pretty significant sacred cows in defining terms like what love is, as well as vulnerability, authenticity, wholeheartedness, shame, blame and guilt. The gravitas of this is that while these are often seen as nebulous and soft concepts, her work has proven that they are so entirely fundamental to the human condition, and yet had been missing from the research pantheon.

What makes The Power of Vulnerability so listenable, aside from Brene Brown being side splittingly funny and able to deliver her truths with deep pathos that underscrore her points, is the she is a clear advocate for the lived experience of being vulnerable, of being acutely aware of her own gaps and blind spots, and how that impacts her work. She models the life we can also choose, and then can quantify the benefits if we do so. It was interesting to hear the number of anecdotes she told of being silenced in her work on shame, that people wanted to hear of things that are 'light and breezy', positive stories of uplift.

This is at the heart of what creates so much suffering in our societies, we are so terrified of the negative or dark binary that I think on some level we think to even hear it spoken of we will be sucked into its vortex, without realising we are already there. The shame and guilt research and results for me was a complete revelation, along with the absolute correlations between shame and addiction. Likewise, the power of guilt to make behavioral change was so interesting, and seeing it as a productive state rather than the personalising corrosion of shame was fascinating.

One of the most enjoyable audiobook experiences i've had for a while, and of course came at a time when I was ready to hear and apply her words. Brene Brown is undoubtedly doing some of the most important research work of our time into how to create personal and community capability through vulnerability, and were we to collectively apply her concepts, much repair and joy would be restored.

Polly McGee