Some time ago, I was impressed by Brené Brown at TEDxHouston. Brené’s 20 minute video introduced me to an idea that inspiring people are Whole Hearted ! These people have the courage to be imperfect, and be who they are. Brené pointed out that Whole Hearted people seem to live with a sense of worthiness. They also show a sense of love and belonging. For Whole Hearted people seem to have a willingness to overcome vulnerability in a society where criticism and self-criticism is rife. In Brené’s research, she saw the vulnerability as having shame and fear at the core of people’s experience. Thus, if we overcome vulnerability, we can have a willingness to say “I love you” first!
Also, Brené found many Whole Hearted people living with a sense of worthiness and that their sense of worthiness came as something like a “spiritual awakening.” Making the distinction that “spiritual awakening” need not imply something religious, the term Whole Hearted can lead us to respect the Heart as a source of wisdom. After all, to overcome shame and fear, many ancient and modern systems advise us to cultivate courage in order to overcome debilitating emotions such fear and shame; a popular quote is: “Let not your heart be troubled,…”
Although regret and fear may have been useful in our past evolutionary programming, these now stimulate our sympathetic nervous systems, understood as the “fight or flight response.” In my previous blogs, I imply that much of our emotional experience results from a critical heartless society. The words Heartless and Heart are new considerations in contrast to the two previous blogs, focused on Nihilism, and on self-hate in Narcissism. (After reading this, the reader may have deeper insights rereading the first two.)
In this blog, Whole Hearted and Heart are at centre stage. Actually, the wisdom of the Heart, overcoming feelings of vulnerability, is necessary for the human spirit to emerge and play an extremely inspiring role in our lives. Brené Brown’s Whole Hearted people, whether they know it or not, are using Compassion of the Heart to perceive in terms, which are common to Buddhism and indirectly Taoism and several Western philosophies. I have found these listed in a book, COMPASSION FOCUSED THERAPY, by Paul Gilbert (2010):
- “A deep commitment to you— desire to help you heal, cope with and relieve your suffering, and take more joy from your life.”
- “Wisdom—which comes from three sources. First, it understands that ‘we all just find ourselves here’ having to cope with a brain we did not design, and early life experiences that shaped us but, that we did not choose. Second, it understands our own personal life history and why we use the safety strategies we do. Third, at one time it has lived through many life experiences of its own and so it is not some separate mind that has little idea of human struggles.
- “Strength of mind—it is not overwhelmed by your pain or distress, but remains present, enduring it with you.”
To me Compassion (best understood as: Com = with & passion = feeling, or feeling with) and thus my Heart may have a feeling with another person. We could say that it is possible to have resonance between or among people. That is to say, resonance in physics is called “sympathetic vibration” or vibrating with.
Thus, I feel what the other person is feeling, but recognize it is theirs and not mine. That’s Empathy and it is very useful to convey your recognition of how the other person is feeling! However, if I feel another’s feeling, and mistake it for my own, that’s sympathy (no help to either of us, adding insult to injury)!
Working with these characteristics of the Heart, we can and should have Self-compassion. Dr Kristin Neff has explored this subject beautifully! Also, I have stated in the earlier blogs that, if we make a mistake, the usual thing is to judge ourselves harshly!
The Self with capital S is not an error! It recognizes that the Heart and its deep commitment, wisdom and strength are made available by the Human Spirit. Thus, this Compassionate quality allows for Heart-to-Heart communication to verify that the other person’s emotions are accurately perceived by sight and sound. Also, the Heart allows us to live with the courage to be “imperfect” and the courage to struggle with challenges, rather than blame and criticize others. We can now understand how Brené Brown’s Whole Hearted people report their courage to be “imperfect” and feel they are living with worthiness, not numbing vulnerability with medications. These ideas are the basis of “Transpersonal Psychology.” If your interest is stimulated, one can Goggle it in Wikipedia. From my perspective, this topic needs another blog, as the Heart is our true power source in life!