“Numb the dark and you numb the light.”
~ Brene Brown
Why is the United States the most obese nation in the world? Why are we the most addicted nation in the world. Why is it that 70% of Americans take at least 1 prescription drug? Now don’t get me wrong; I am beyond grateful for this wonderful country. My family escaped tyranny in Eastern Europe during World War II to find comfort, safety, and opportunity here. I am what I am and largely have what I have because of the great freedoms and subsequent opportunities afforded to me in this great nation. I have been and continue to be proud of this nation, regardless of our flaws. And like every other nation, we are imperfect. But we seem to be having the greatest difficulty with the acceptance of our imperfections. Instead, we have the increasing NEED for perfection. We have the accumulating need for certainty. We too often demand control when such a thing does not exist.
And when these needs and demands are not met or achieved (and be sure that perfection, certainty, and exact prediction are not real and do not exist), we feel tremendous discomfort. And at an increasing rate, the action that often follows discomfort is the practice of numbing it. We use drugs. We excessively shop. We binge eat. We gamble. We distract with technology. We lie to those we love most. And most unfortunately, we lie to ourselves. And this makes us more uncomfortable so we numb some more. And the most tragic outcome of this numbing is that we not only blunt the very unhealthy negative emotions we are experiencing; we also squash the most beautiful and important of human emotions: joy, happiness, love, contentment, empathy, and many others.
I am so concerned by the increasing degree of perfection that we demand of ourselves and that we demand of others. If we continue to practice these unhealthy demands, we can and will fulfill a destiny of intense suffering. We will continue to build and reinforce a land of fear and a practice of blame. You see, as fear grows, it often promotes avoiding and blaming and hating. If you do not believe me, just watch some of our potential future leaders debate as the next presidential election approaches. The most frightening part about the practice of blame is that the primary feeling that underlies blame is discomfort; the same discomfort that is ripened and reinforced by perfectionist living and philosophies. Similar to the practice of numbing our emotions with food or drugs, blame distances us from our emotions as well. Blame is often gratifying in the short term; however, when we blame, we lose our ability to see the whole picture. We lose the opportunity for insight, the insight that allows us to see what is actually in our control. There is no problem or conflict that is completely 1 sided. And when we blame, we make it 1 sided and we spread fear in the process, we distance ourselves from guilt but also distance ourselves from truth and empathy.
Courage is the awareness and willingness to be vulnerable. Bravery is the desire to see all of ourselves; not just our strengths. And therefore, a life of freedom is cultivated by an acceptance and embracement of our imperfections. True heroism is founded in an acknowledgement and acceptance of our vulnerabilities. And be sure that our future is largely dependent on the choice to be heroic in this way. Be uncomfortable, make mistakes, and know that you and your imperfections are inherently worthwhile.
I want to thank Dr. Brene Brown for re positioning vulnerability into the frame of true courage. Dr. Brown’s thoughts, efforts, and work (which are largely reflected in this article) are so valued and so amazing and so important.