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I Thought It Was Just Me


Interviews & Videos Brené Brown in Video, Audio, and Print

  • Still Points North: One Alaskan Childhood, One Grown-up World, One Long Journey Home
    Still Points North: One Alaskan Childhood, One Grown-up World, One Long Journey Home
    by Leigh Newman

    Can't wait! 

  • Einstein's God: Conversations About Science and the Human Spirit
    Einstein's God: Conversations About Science and the Human Spirit
    by Krista Tippett
  • The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone---Especially Ourselves
    The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone---Especially Ourselves
    by Dan Ariely
  • Marriage Rules: A Manual for the Married and the Coupled Up
    Marriage Rules: A Manual for the Married and the Coupled Up
    by Harriet Lerner
  • Rhythm And Repose
    Rhythm And Repose

    Tender and beautiful. 

  • Boys & Girls
    Boys & Girls
    by Alabama Shakes

    Love this album! So happy when I saw BrainPicker post this on her site! 

  • City of Refuge
    City of Refuge
    by Abigail Washburn

    Pure magic!

  • Some Nights
    Some Nights
    by Fun.
  • She Ain't Me
    She Ain't Me
    by Carrie Rodriguez

    I'm such a fan. 

  • I'm Your Man
    I'm Your Man
    by Leonard Cohen

    Take this Waltz is on my top ten list of all songs!

  • Babel
    by Mumford & Sons
  • Masterpiece Classic: Downton Abbey (Original UK Unedited Edition)
    Masterpiece Classic: Downton Abbey (Original UK Unedited Edition)

    So totally addicted to this series! Absolutely amazing!

  • Zen: Vendetta / Cabal / Ratking [Blu-ray]
    Zen: Vendetta / Cabal / Ratking [Blu-ray]
    starring Rufus Sewell

    Based on your recommendations from a recent blog post! It's another wonderful BBC mystery series! 

  • The Good Wife: The First Season
    The Good Wife: The First Season
    starring Julianna Margulies, Chris Noth, Josh Charles, Matt Czuchry, Archie Panjabi

    One of the best shows on TV. Juiliana Marguiles is incredible. 

  • Doc Martin: Collection - Series 1-4
    Doc Martin: Collection - Series 1-4
    starring Martin Clunes, Caroline Catz, Lia Williams, Stephanie Cole, Ian McNeice

our stories matter because we matter: thoughts on the power of our voices

I can’t remember what I wanted for my fourteenth birthday, but I’m pretty sure “battery-operated socks” were not on the list. That November I got those fancy socks along with an Ocean Pacific wallet, a new belt buckle for my cowboy belt, and an AC/DC tape. My dad thought I’d love the socks because I always complained about my feet getting cold in the deer blinds. 

I was raised in a hunting family. We weren’t gun collectors or enthusiasts, but we hunted and we shot skeet so we had guns. And they were serious business in our house. We were all responsible for cleaning, loading, and storing our guns. By the time I was in high school I could probably take a gun apart and put it back together.

Because we hunted there was no need to fantasize about what a gun could do or rely on violent television shows for imagery, we knew exactly how it worked (plus, we weren’t allowed to watch much besides Disney, Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, and presidential debates). 

There was absolute respect for hunting as a sport. We ate what we shot. Our family was to venison what Bubba Gump was to shrimp (chicken-fried, baked, sausage, jerky – you name it, we made it and ate it). My father had little tolerance for trophy hunting or any kind of “horseshit about playing around with super guns.”

While I don’t hunt anymore, I respect and appreciate the culture. I also fully support a ban on assault weapons and multi-magazine, combat-style weapons. I believe in criminal background checks and waiting periods. I write letters to my legislators and I give to The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. And, as a teacher, I absolutely do not support the idea of arming more people to stop the violence. 

Like so many Americans, my experience doesn’t align with the politics of either side. My story is not political – it’s about family and culture. It’s also deeply personal.

In 1989, my uncle – my mom’s only sibling – was shot and killed in a random act of violence. My first response to the Sandy Hook shootings on Friday was prayer, not politics. I was very politically active when my uncle was killed so several people wrapped their sympathies in gun control arguments and it was devastating to me. I just wanted to be physically, emotionally, and spiritually held. I just wanted my pain and disbelief to be acknowledged.

Here are my five observations from the past couple of days:

Prayer and activism are not mutually exclusive.

For many of us they are inextricably connected. We don’t need to criticize those who are praying. You don’t have to pray or even believe in prayer, but be respectful (or at least quiet).

Politics is easier than grief.

To skip over feeling and rush to policy-making dehumanizes the process and weakens policy.  

Blame is simply the discharging of pain and discomfort.

It has nothing to do with accountability. Accountability requires long, difficult, respectful conversations. Blame fizzles out with rage, where accountability is in for the long haul.

Self-righteousness is a sign of fear and uncertainty.

It has nothing to do with activism or change. The loudest and most vitriolic among us are often the most afraid. As my friend Harriet Lerner says, “Change requires listening with same level of passion that we feel when we speak.”

You can't shame a nation into changing any more than you can shame a person into changing.

Shame is much more likely to be the source of destructive, violent behaviors than it is to be the cure. We need courage, vulnerability, hard work, empathy, integrity (and a little grace wouldn't hurt). 

I believe we need common sense gun laws. I believe we need better access to mental health services. Neither one of these things will happen unless we’re willing to listen and to speak up about our own experiences and share our ideas. We can’t afford to be the silent majority on these issues. 

I'm not a member, but I seriously doubt that the NRA always speaks for the NRA membership. I don’t believe the media are in service to the public as much as they are in service to advertisers and ratings. When I see the media interview children or jump on the autism/Asperger’s storyline it confirms that they know very little about mental health (otherwise they wouldn’t be so careless with their reporting).

I know some people will read this and think that my beliefs are part of the problem. Others will agree with me. Some of you aren’t sure what you think. I’m not lobbying for my ideas, I’m asking that we all take the time to figure out what we believe, why we believe it, and then share those beliefs with our legislators.

In times of national crisis we often think, “My stories don’t matter – this isn’t about me” or "I'll stay quite because I'm somewhere in the middle of the obnoxious people raging on TV." The truth is that in the midst of tragedy nothing matters more than our stories. Our complex, nuanced stories are the path to healing and change. They are the truth and there's no better foundation for change than the truth. 

We need politicians and policies that reflect the stories of our lives, not the stories that are easy to sell because they create fear and blame.

I'd love to hear your thoughts and stories. Any name-calling, meanspiritedness, etc. will be deleted. 

« wishing you love and light | Main | prayers for the sandy hook elementary school community »

References (3)

References allow you to track sources for this article, as well as articles that were written in response to this article.
  • Response
    How does one walk in the way of peace, in this season of peace, when so much has been shattered?
  • Response
    We can all agree that we all want a society where we don’t have to live in fear of armed gunmen terrorizing innocent people. The gap between where we are and where we want to be is immense.
  • Response
    Mental illness aside, doesn’t it make sense to look at what is happening in our society through a much broader lens than mental illness, gun control and/or the prevalence of religion? Aren’t there truths about the human condition that are universal? Things that lead to a collective nodding of heads instead ...

Reader Comments (91)

I wholeheartedly agree with you. There are guns in my household, but they are used with respect and care.

We are all saddened by the loss of so many innocent lives. Perhaps if that principal had had a gun herself, there would have been less loss of innocent life.... food for thought.
12.17.2012 | Unregistered CommenterKathi
I wholeheartedly agree with you. My husband grew up in Vermont hunting, had guns in the house, and is very comfortable shooting a hunting rifle. He is among the most outraged people I know at this event, and one of the most pro-gun control. I also agree with you that getting angry and laying blame is (possibly) a way to avoid feeling our feelings. Or, at least, it's easier than feeling. Today has been the most difficult day for me yet, probably because of going back to school, and because it is sinking in. xox
12.17.2012 | Unregistered CommenterLindsey
Your thoughts and approach resonate with me, and I agree. I am not impressed with the politics around this tragic incident... We do need to mourn and process thoughtfully and CARE-FULLY.

Many have a need to react, to blame, to move in any direction to get past the shock and pain. We need to recognize and be in the shock and pain - as a group and individually - in order to make sense of it and move ahead positively.

Thank you for your insights and clarity!
12.17.2012 | Unregistered CommenterAmy
Thank you Brene for this thoughtful post. This gives people positive options for action and avoids the immediate re-action that sometimes follows these events. The horror and loss of the events in Newtown are overwhelming, so calm introspection leading to direction is the most respectful and positive support for all of us who are grieving the safety that has been shattered once again.

My heart goes out to everyone, as there are some that are grieving loss of life, some grieving loss of safety, and some who have yet to discover the survivor issues from such an event.
12.17.2012 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth
Dear Ms. Brown - thank you for your words of kindness and gentle nudging to the masses during this time of great spiritual and emotional unrest in our nation. The journeys and stories of our lives is so what makes us who we are! This senseless tragedy is just that - and trying to figure it out is not the point. But rather the point lies within each of us and how we as individuals respond and move our lives and journeys and stories forward from this point on. What we take from the past few days and MOVE FORWARD with that is the point. Your urgence to get clear on what we believe and why and then share is vital and so importance.

On Friday, when I first saw your post I was so encouraged when you challenged us to just PRAY! Thank you - a voice of reason and calm. Prayer may be foreign to many in our world - but how many times have we seen or heard about a tragic situation and instantly thought or said a loud "Oh God" - is that not in and of itself a prayer. The idea of crying out to God is so real and so linked to our own vulnerabilities and weaknesses that I can't cry out to God without acknowledging my own weakness and vulnerability.

When it comes to guns and murderers and etc - I am weak and vulnerable. I don't get guns? I never have. I have shot a shot gun a couple of times at a friend of mine's farm a few years back, but really I have no desire for them. Not saying there is not a time or place!

I have thought and prayed long and hard for my five beautiful kids these last few days and even today as the go off to day care, elementary school and middle school and pray that God's grace will shine on them and bring them home safely today. Is that a selfish prayer - yes it is - but you know what I prayed that many days before last Friday - so what makes it selfish now?

Thanks for being open to sharing and listening and talking.
Blessings to All
Brock A Ballard - Jefferson City, Missouri
12.17.2012 | Unregistered CommenterBrock Ballard
Thank you, Brene'. Having raised a son with serious mental health issues, the picture is grim and SO discouraging. My son was locked up in either mental health wards or the juvenile justice system most of the time from age 13 to age 18. When he threatened his sister, Child Protective Services told me I had to remove HER from the home, not him. I did so much research on long-term placement/treatment options, I knew more about it than our family therapist. My son finally turned a corner one day
(in what his therapist termed a "miracle") and is now happy, functioning well, engaged to be married, and has more than two years of sobriety under his belt. In my opinion, even when a violent/threatening child who is ill gets treatment, the road is very long and uncertain. We need much better options.
12.17.2012 | Unregistered CommenterTira
My experience was very similar to yours regarding guns, yet today I am actively trying to address issues of social injustice such as the ways in which we're failing our mentally ill population. Something I frequently address on Facebook is how our polarization does nothing to heal us, and that only by truly listening to each other will we discover how much alike we are, while being able to respect our differences in culture, race, gender, and beliefs. The silence I hear in response to those kinds of postings is deafening, but I keep trying. Thanks for being willing to help the rest of us through your materials and your heart. Here is my Facebook posting this afternoon:

"Much has already been articulated and, undoubtedly, much more will be said about the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary. It is easy to try to explain, to give reasons and solutions for the very worst of our experiences. Though it may seem counterintuitive, what is much more difficult is to sit with the pain, to feel it, to experience its ragged edges. While it’s important to turn to each other when something so terrible has happened, very often the people we need so much are the ones who do the most damage in the aftermath. It only took a moment, and in the next breath we were arguing about why this tragedy occurred and what it will take to keep it from happening again. There are some things that words cannot fix, and in the freshness of the horror, it is best not to try. Yes, we need to make changes, and yes, we all think we have the particular answer. But to argue now, when we need each other most, is to dishonor our relationship to one another as fellow human beings, as humanity in need of love, as a world in need of hope. Let us do the hard thing and be silent in the face of inconceivable pain, but let us do it where we belong, next to each other, holding hands, healing hearts with love, not words."
12.17.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle Harris
My greatest fear out of all of this is that there is no change. In the last month, I can name 4 stories in the news of gun violence from KC, to Portland, to my county, to Newtown. All ended tragically and painfully. I fear everybody wants other people to change, but are unwilling to change themselves. I am seeking where I need to change my life and how we orient our family. Not trying to react, but reflect.

Thanks for speaking into that for me.
12.17.2012 | Unregistered CommenterGuido
Politics is easier than grief.

Yes. It is hard to grieve. It takes bravery to be broken.
Thank you for this reminder.
12.17.2012 | Unregistered CommenterCasey
My observations go along a similar vein - with an addition.
We get uncomfortable when we come face to face (soul to soul) with the recognition that life is fragile. We like to pretend that we can plan - that we are in control - and it is a useful illusion.

This is how I blogged about it, with a shout out to what I've learned from you at the end, Brene.

Life is fragile. The call to notice this is always there, but in a way that we can ignore. And we do. It is easier to move through life without always being aware of its tenuousness; that it could disappear at any moment. Instead many of us have the privilege of pretending that we can actually prevent tragedy from visiting our neighborhoods or our loved ones. We make plans, have dreams and create expectations. We begin to believe that the sense of order we’ve developed for ourselves is the way life “should be.”

Deep down we know it is an illusion. As a physician I sat witness to families who had done “everything right” and whose lives were catapulted down difficult paths they did not anticipate, imagine or want. By what? By fate? An act of God? We search for meaning when we don’t have answers. These are people I knew, cared for and yes, loved; people with heart wrenching stories and no real way of making meaning.

Walking down these “darker” paths of life illuminated by the courageous human beings who were my patients I learned to listen to another call. They taught me about slowing down, about noticing the subtleties of love and forgiveness, about noticing beauty, about living in the moment, about gratitude. And about love. This other path is actually there for each of us everyday and yet mostly we walk about on our own illusion of solid ground, busy being busy, focusing on the future or what we have to “get done” and then….we can actually miss each other, miss the connections that are so rich…and not even notice.

There are lots of calls right now for changing public policies about guns and mental health. Those are important. And there is another opportunity. Maybe, as we notice our own broken hearts and our own fears we can also pause and use this moment to acknowledge the fragility of life and the opportunity to be grateful for the people we hold dear; to forgive their foibles and to value the richness they bring to our lives. Perhaps that will show up as slowing down, having a meal together, some additional tenderness, a moment with a neighbor who needs help, a hug that lasts a few seconds longer or a heartfelt “I love you.” It may be reaching out to someone or some group who is in need. We may be able to reset our own compasses to reclaim what is really important in our own lives. As Brené Brown notes, it is through our vulnerability that we find the whole-heartedness we seek.
12.17.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJody
Thank you. I needed reminding of the truth you spoke here.
Ad Astra Per Aspera,
12.17.2012 | Unregistered CommenterKevin Tones
Thank you, Dr. Brown. As usual, you have been able to articulate the thoughts swimming in my mind. I am somewhere in the middle and feel saddened every time I read such extreme, brash summations that will “fix” this problem or squarely lay the blame. For me, it oversimplifies the magnitude of this tragedy and does not address the most fundamental question for me in all of this – how can we prevent this from happening again?

I have seen the different stages of grief unfold on social and public media. It is such a different perspective on dealing with these incidents that touch so many of us – this collective grief and reflection. Some struggling with their spiritual beliefs (why would God allow this to happen?), others advocating their political views in anger, still others misdirecting their anger at those who think or feel differently than they do. This collective mourning is an opportunity for a new kind of dialogue and every chance I have seen in any forum I visit, I feel compelled to encourage tolerance, empathy, and inquiry. Tolerance for different perspectives, empathy for why another person might feel the way they do and for ourselves, and inquiry into why both the other and the self feel the way they do. Without that, we cannot move this discussion to the next phase where true transcendence will occur. Without that, we will continue to dig our heels in and close off our minds and hearts to possible solutions. In essence, we will ensure this happens again…and again.

I am a gun owner. I am a mother to a young boy who enjoys video games. I am a Veteran who understands the widely unknown or forgotten repercussions of war and violence. I am an Aunt to a boy with Asperger’s Syndrome. I want to engage in this conversation in a meaningful way, without judgment, certainty, and blame – but don’t know how or where or if that is even possible. I am scared, I am unsure. The only thing I am sure of is what I keep telling my children – there is more love than hate. We must hold on to that.

That is my story, thank you for giving me the opportunity to share it with someone.

12.17.2012 | Unregistered CommenterRachel LaMedica
Thank you, Brene, for your words of wisdom. I absolutely agree and would just like to add a third element (in addition to common sense gun laws and better access to mental health services). I would like us to find a way to minimize the culture of violence that our children are growing up with. We see it more and more in the movies, TV shows, music, advertising and video games. It conveys the notion that not only is it okay to speak and act violently towards each other; it is, in fact, what makes you a hero, and it's the appropriate action to take when you feel angry or wronged. To me, it's divisive and merely helps perpetuate the notion of "us vs them", which by its very nature, can never lead to peace. As Jean Houston said, "The world needs the sense that we are all in it together."
12.17.2012 | Unregistered CommenterKayla Waxman
Mental Health is what needs to be addressed. We as a nation, need to look at mental illness just as we do the physical. Unfortunately, our society does not see mental illnesses as credible as physical illnesses. And they are afraid of them b/c there is no sure quick fix. We have lived with mental health issues with our daughters and at times, is pure hell! And our schools need to be better equipped and trained to handle and provide for students with mental health issues.
What can I do to help? Changes need to take place on so many different levels.
12.17.2012 | Unregistered CommenterCandace
I am SO not sure what the *political* response should be. The HUMAN response of compassion and care and HEARING is right on point.
We definitely need to better address mental health in our country.
I also hesitate to give the government MORE control and entry into our lives. I believe the constitution should be protected (our right to bear arms) and our majority's constitutional rights not lost because of some mentally ill people's despicable behavior. (Plus the true "bad guys"/criminals will always still have access to guns.)
Yes, rushing to politicize it insulates us from the pain and fear and loss and FEELINGS we would feel when faced with our grief and powerlessness in the face of it.
12.17.2012 | Unregistered CommenterStacie
Thank you for your thoughtful article. I agree with it wholeheartedly. I believe part of the problem is the desensitizing of our youth through the sheer number of violent acts they witness on TV and in gaming. The media also creates an atmosphere of competition among sick people who need to feel special by copying senseless acts of violence.

In my mind, there will always be a place for responsible gun ownership. When the media talks of the millions of legally owned guns in the US, they fail to mention that responsible gun owners do not commit the crimes. The media insists on grouping gun owners into one group of "bad" people. This is heartedly untrue.

When the US closed all of it's mental institutions years ago in favor of more localized group homes and attempted to "main steam" individuals with problems, they created a lack of treatment facilities for seriously mental ill people. Now, most of those people are incarcerated in prisons. This is not "treatment" of mental illness. We have serious problems with health care and even more serious problems with mental health care.

We need law makers with common sense who are prepared to make tough choices for the good of the people, not for the good of their pockets or the pockets of their big money corporate supporters. What we don't need is a "knee-jerk" reaction that erodes more of our civil rights.
12.17.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarie
Will the background checks know what kind of home the guns are kept in?
Why so many guns for protection?
Why live by the woods, move if your having issues and isolated.
Why don't your neighbors know you, when you have more $choices?
There seemed to be a need to uphold a persona there in perfectville.
We are OK with feral children in this society, a leftover from when there was no birth control.
Brains are not done forming until 20-25,
and the legal age is 18 so the armed forces can take them.
Peace & Awareness to you
12.17.2012 | Unregistered Commenter?
Social media was overwhelming on Friday. I read your post and immediately tuned out the news. After an hour of reading posts from friends and colleagues, I took it one step further and signed off from social media as well. The anger and agendas were more than I could handle. I decided that the time I would have spent on social media would instead be spent in prayer. This exercise allowed me to focus on my family and I cannot remember the last time I prayed that much.
Throughout the weekend I wondered what profound words I would post when I logged back in today and to my surprise, I had none. I knew I wanted to address prayer, anger and shame, but didn't know how. Thank you for taking the time to share your words. You've eloquently stated much of what has been on my mind and of course so much more.
Thank you, Brene Brown. Thank you!
12.17.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer Evans
Thank you for sharing. Having lost my only sibling when he was 18 to random gun violence it is so hard to hear stories like these. This was almost 9 years ago and I still weep when I talk about him. These families have a long road ahead and letting them be in their grief is the best way to be supportive. I believe strongly in stricter gun control policies and increasing access to and the destigmatization of mental health services but I agree that individually people should advocate for their own beliefs not share them in a spiteful way with the world. Healin thoughts going out to those families and to the world.
12.17.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarina DK
Thank you for sharing your beliefs, this has given me a lot to think about my thoughts on the matter and my actions/behaviours to help change. xx Tara
12.17.2012 | Unregistered CommenterTara
As someone who suffers from and struggles with major depressive disorder, general and social anxiety and intermittent panic attacks, mental health is a VERY sensitive subject for me.

When the shooting happened, I thought about the families, I thought about those who perished, I thought about my own nieces and nephew and the children my mother cares for in her daycare. I thought about all of these things and not once did gun control OR mental health awareness enter into it. Some friends on Facebook on the other hand were not so compassionate. They immediately started posting gun control articles and quotations. I was sick to my stomach. I eventually hid their posts from my news feed and wrote a post of my own. I basically stated that right now is a time for grieving. There are gifts under the tree that will not be opened. There is a man whose girlfriend he will never marry. There is a dog who will wander looking in vain for his beloved owner. There are husbands, fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, grandparents, friends, neighbors who will no longer look upon the faces of innocence and hope. A family is grieving. A town is grieving. A country should be grieving too.

I immediately went to blaming the shooter. "Why children?" "Why anyone?" "Why not just take out yourself?" Ultimately my parents pointed something out to me: They said, "Of all the people in the world, you are one of them who understands the mentally ill mind. You can empathize with people who feel there is no other way out. You know what it's like to get something stuck in your head and that no amount of persuasion will deter you from changing your mind. You have compassion for these people." After thinking about what they said, my anger shifted to empathy.

Although we will never understand the "why", we will never understand the "how could he", we will never understand "why kids", we still can learn. My dad pointed out something that may be cold-hearted, but rang true. He told me that since he and my mother have been alive (67 and 65 years) there have been so many acts of violence from wars, shootings, stabbings, terrorism, hostage situations, etc. He told me that if you focus on the actuality of these tragic and horrible events that it will only lead you down a path of sorrow and heart-break that will never be mended. It happened and nothing we do can bring them back. We (as a world) need to move on and move forward trying to find a way to stop it from happening again.

There is not an easy answer to how to stop it. You can ban guns, people will find a way to get them. You can raise mental health awareness, but there aren't always warning signs. And therein lies the problem. No matter how much you educate, no matter how many articles or research there is, some people just do not and will not lead on that anything is wrong until it's too late. How do we stop this? We need to be a more compassionate and tolerant society. We need to try to stop bullying, we need to try to stop teasing and berating, we need to try to stop hatred. The only way to do that is to try to come together, no matter how much we disagree.

One thing your books and articles have taught me, is exactly that. Empathy, compassion and vulnerability. All it takes is one person. One person who spreads it to another. That person who spreads it to someone else. It will take a long time and some will resist and fight, but ultimately that is the only thing that will stop these tragedies. We need to stop sensationalizing it. We need to focus on the good that comes from it, however hard that may be. I have seen what hate does, hate towards others and yourself. Love, however corny, is the answer.

Cliche as it may sound, my belief is that no law will stop it, no amount of awareness about mental health will stop it. The awareness we need to spread??? KINDNESS, COMPASSION, EMPATHY AND VULNERABILITY. A quotation I remember from one of your books is simple: "Vulnerability is not a weakness; it takes courage." Admitting to our faults, admitting we can be wrong, those are the only ways we will learn.

Thank you for your words. Thank you for opening up my eyes. Thank you for all you do to raise awareness not only for mental health, but compassion and empathy. You are what is right in this society and I truly believe that that is the answer.
12.17.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMK
Brene, you are in my eyes wholeheartedly amazing and i completely agree and shared for you.
12.17.2012 | Unregistered CommenterKristy
Beloved Brenée,

Thanks for your always profound arguments, you are a rare source of inspiration.
I find myself a little closer to the British approach to weapons, well described here than to the US one, but I love the chance you allow for discussion. I won't be able to influence any US legislator, but besides feeling a little worried for your country's passion for arms, I would underlyine the urge not just for more prevention on mental illnesses, long overdue, but for systematic coverage of human consciousness among the subjects of the world's education systems. What you teach should become mainstream, not just object of some (well, a few millions, admittedly) passionate cyber addicts.

With much admiration,
Thanks for sharing Brene, I appreciate your story. And agree with your main points here.

Any time I hear about stories like the mass shooting I worry about my brother. He's a veteran, the war disturbed him greatly, and I worry about his mental health. It feels like that's all I can do, worry and hope. He goes to the VA. He's tried getting a job. He's obsessed with collecting guns and bayonets.

It saddens and worries me because I can first-hand see how society is failing our young men (not that I'm trying to place blame). But I find it ironic, it seems our historically most advantageous class, white men, are developing quite the disadvantage. And it is costing society dearly. It seems kind of self-destructive when you think about who generally is in power....

I think it's the negative stigma attached to mental illness. The lack of real and meaningful community to be a part of. And the pre-determined affinity for positions rather then values. Pardon the pun, but aren't we just shooting ourselves in the foot so-to-say.

Of course, the truth is that gun violence is even worse among those in the lower socio-economic class. But we don't hear as much media hype about those senseless deaths.
12.17.2012 | Unregistered CommenterAriana
Brene, thank you for starting this exchange. Gun control, mental health services, redirecting the entertainment industry from gratuitous violence . . . all important,implicated and intensely imperative. Does no one realize that fighter/killers in our military are in part trained by videos not unlike the 'games' that are sold for young children? I greatly hope that we will begin to see conversation and action that returns our society to a basic sense of human value and compassion; starting as you say with deep listening and taking the time to process feelings. Health care and social services included. Much assembly required.
12.17.2012 | Unregistered Commentersarahwbartlett
More control about who is going to get a gun. Government should invests more money in psychological tests also this is a family communication issue.
12.17.2012 | Unregistered Commenterandre
I don't have any answers. I don't think the media bombardment with traumatic images is helpful in the least. The recent tragedy has only confirmed my belief that our human disconnection is at an epidemic level, and I personally think that many of our mental health ailments are a direct result of now knowing how to function amidst incredible fragmentation. I have a child with "issues" as a result of early neglect and orphanage trauma. I have no idea what our future holds, as the odds have been stacked against him from early on. I do know that parenting a child with "issues" can be an isolating experience, and that there is a tendency to blame mothers for their children's behavior. It is always much easier for folks to dismiss situations that cannot be easily explained by blaming, rather than expending the energy to try to better understand (and even harder if there is NOTa good explanation to be had). This is a fantastic article which I believe explains our predicament (and encouraged response) well:
12.17.2012 | Unregistered CommenterChris PM
Thank you for sharing your thoughts and inviting ours. My perspective is influenced by my own experience of growing up in a violent home, where lives were actually lost and, later, one person committed suicide. In addition to grieving, I have also come to believe the violence continued because there was no action plan. People were too afraid.

While I don't like the media hype, I hope we can honor these children by grieving their loss AND developing a plan of action to keep our children safe. Not only from this type of horror, but from predators and bullying, etc. If we can find ways to honor each other, to be kind whenever possible, to create and not destroy, then we can create a better future...

Thanks for letting me share my thoughts & for being a beacon of hope.
12.17.2012 | Unregistered CommenterDenise
This was beautifully stated. I work in criminal defense as an investigator and have been reminded since entering this profession of the issues in the 70s (I believe) with the psychiatric institutions and their horrible treatment of patients. It was the first incident that I recall as a child of the government, rather than fixing the problem, just closed down the institutions. I remember hearing about the patients who were turned out onto the streets - and now they inhabit our prisons. I wonder how many others recall this little part of our history? I always wondered, even as a child, why the government did what they did, rather than "fixing" the institutions. I always wondered what would happen to all those people whose families could not take care of them or who had no families. Now I know.
12.17.2012 | Unregistered CommenterBarbara
I was the child of a home rocked by domestic violence, including the use of a hunting rifle. At 13, I swore I would never own a gun, would never have one in my home, etc. At 51 I understand that the rifle had very little to do with the violence in my home, it was merely available. When it wasn't, there were still knives and fists. The lack of a gun didn't prevent violence.

As an adult, I understand and respect the entire culture of hunters who eat what they kill. I respect the right to bear arms for protection. But if our motives for gun ownership are worthy of respect, they will also withstand rigorous background checks and waiting periods and won't require ownership of assault rifles. So I find myself falling smack in the middle of this controversy with no clear answers.

But I was clear about one thing on Friday. That is, that right now what our world needs is an influx of LOVE and acceptance. For anyone looking for a way to "help" try a few random (or even not so random) acts of kindness. It might go a lot further than you think!
12.17.2012 | Unregistered CommenterCheri
When I was 25 years old my mother finally felt comfortable enough to share with me that she suffered from manic depressive / bi-polar disorder. Which explained A LOT of her inexplicable behavior and random disappearances from my life. I knew something was wrong but I didn't have a name to put to the behavior. When I left for college at 18, I rarely returned home because of the fractured relationship that developed as a result of her erratic and unpredictable behavior. When she finally had the courage to tell me she had this illness I asked her why it took so long. She said it was because she felt ashamed. I wish I had known this info when I was growing up because things would have made much better sense to me and I hope I would have had been more forgiving.

When I was 26 years old my mother put a gun to her head and pulled the trigger. Now I'm not anti-gun, she could also just as easily drove off a cliff or found another way to die. My point is that the stigma against mental illness is so palpable in society that many suffer in silence. And some silent sufferers explode with tragic consequences. The overall attitude towards mental illness needs to change to create a safer more accepting environment so that those who have mental illness are more willing to seek help and not feel ashamed. My mother didn't even tell her own daughter for 25 years because she felt she would be judged. I know I'm preaching to the choir here but everyone needs to be a part of a community - even ones with mental illness. My sense from what I've read about the gunman in the Newtown shootings is that he was a loner who never felt like as if anyone "saw" him - in this final act he was going to make sure that he was going to be seen.

I agree with much of what has been already written in this comments section - we rush to pass laws to appease the short term outcry but what's really needed is open dialog for more compassion and acceptance for people who suffer from mental illness and support for the people who take care of them. A combination of tougher access to guns and easier access to mental health support will drastically reduce the chances for such horrific mass shootings. And as we determine the best way to move forward, ENGAGE the people who suffer from mental illness. Once we understand each other better, more effective prevention will take place.
12.17.2012 | Unregistered CommenterSarah
Thank you, Brene, for sharing this story with us. As a Canadian, I can tell you that the affects of this tragedy are far-reaching and many of my fellow Canadians are grieving right along side you and your fellow Americans. My heart is filled with heaviness for the grief that has been placed on the people of Newtown, and I pray that God gives them the strength to help them get through this dark time. My hope is that many positive changes will come from this tragedy. I also hope that the people of America ask for help from countries like Canada, Britain, Australia, and so on. It's not only the stories of Americans that will help in this time, but the stories of all citizens around the world.
12.17.2012 | Unregistered CommenterBrooke
Thank you for these words Brene. That saying, that politics is easier than grief, seems so true. I have no interest in a loud conversation right now. I just want to hold these precious people to my heart and feel their loss. Then when the times comes for action I won't just be reacting.
12.17.2012 | Unregistered CommenterAnna

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. I couldn’t agree with you more. I think in our world - we forget that stories are our culture, our home, and how we share and transfer knowledge to our children. Some may have found stories to be childish rather than a form of communication. I think there needs to be more storytelling - that is what our nation's foundation was built upon. Stories also bring a sense of community and belonging – which I believe is greatly lacking in this country.
When I hear about these violent shootings I instantly think….there needs to be greater gun control. However, reading this blog makes me understand guns are only part of the problem. I do believe are government needs to be tighter around gun control; however that cannot be where we put all of our effort.
It’s going to take village and community to help move our country to a better place. I think the more love, storytelling, open-mindedness, and sharing our voice will help get there over time.
Thanks for allowing me to share my thoughts.
I loved your thoughtful, complex, personal response to this tragedy.
12.17.2012 | Unregistered CommenterGabriele Case
An Australian perspective - I read your books and your blog regularly - a huge fan ... I agree with sentiments here however guns are designed to kill ... things ... people, animals, birds ... I love the US and Americans - my 24 yo daughter now lives in NYC and graduated from Dartmouth in June but I am unsettled by the prospect that she may opt to live permanently in the US. I am unsettled because of 'the right to bear arms' ... what will it take for this aspect of legislation to be changed? US society has great strengths but is deeply flawed and blinded in terms of the 'gun issue' . I am an academic who teaches new teachers in Sydney ... I can't imagine preparing new teachers in this country to deal with possible assault from guns in a school environment. In 2004 in Tasmania Australia 35 people were killed by a lone gunman at Port Arthur - our Prime Minister of the day immediately changed gun laws making it far more difficult to buy these weapons. I understand the points about 'shame, guilt, more mental health' ... however while purchase of guns is so easy and sanctioned ... dare I say 'condoned and seen as a right' by the culture - incidents like this one will continue and escalate. Please act with policy changes and an amnesty to hand over guns. The rest of the world is watching and hoping the US will show its civility on this important issue.
I think yours is the perfect response to such a tragedy and I thank you for posting it. As at least one commenter above mentioned, I would add to the list taking a hard look at what this country calls 'entertainment'. Video games and movies depict shooting/violence as the way to handle life's problems. The debate shouldn't just be about guns/mental illness etc...we should be questioning where the idea to rain such violence down comes from. It's not obviously true in all cases, but the trend is for young (teens and 20's) to be the ones who are causing so much pain...and they are the generation brought up with the most violent entertainment and with access to anything under the sun via internet.
12.17.2012 | Unregistered CommenterRachel

Stick to the psychological response. This blog IS very political in nature.

Stick to the psychological response. This blog IS very political in nature.
Such a wonderful blog post, thank you so much for sharing it. You are so right - as a nation we need to begin very difficult conversations about gun control and mental health care. However, there is a small change that we can begin to make at home through our parenting. I am hoping every parent in America who has a young child hooked on violent video games and media will have the wholehearted courage to throw out the games, limit the violence exposure and begin authentic conversations with their kids about why it is so very important exposure them to learning that will serve them into becoming whole hearted adults. Children learn what they live and violence begets violence. I am not blaming the Newtown shootings on video games, but I do strongly believe that the digitalized unpinnings of the violence this generation has been exposed to has warped an instinctional sense of right vs wrong toward their fellow man.

Brene' - will you consider joining me in support of enouraging parents to rid their households of the violence at the finger tips of their children?

Thanks again for a wonderful post.
12.17.2012 | Unregistered CommenterAmy
I am one of those people whose thoughts and posts immediately turned to gun control. But this post frankly "shamed" me into feeling like I"m less sensitive for that. Though I'm advocating as a mother for gun control doesn't mean that I'm not grieving...I've been crying copious tears every day since Friday. But my pleas for gun control come from the depth of my grief as a mom who can't bear the thought of what those families must be going through. I'm just one citizen of a grieving nation. If I were there with the families, I wouldn't wrap my sympathies in gun control arguments. But it's those of us who are not drowning in the throes of our own personal grief who can try to act on behalf of all of our children. I know the issue isn't gun control alone. But I don't feel that my deep feeling on the issue of the gun control is separate from my deep deep grief and my prayers for the families involved and for our world. I don't think it's easier than grief. In fact, I think it's's the thing that we've been ignoring or feeling helpless about and if we refrain from bringing up the issue now "out of respect" for the grieving, I feel that only serves the interests of the status quo....give us time to forget and get lost in our endless distractions once more until the next time innocent lives are shattered. Action is more likely to be taken while the slap on the face still burns. I say this with the utmost respect to the grieving families. I want to fight for them because I know that they can't right now.
12.17.2012 | Unregistered CommenterLakshmi
It is my hope they stop the assault mental health and stop cutting necessary funding. I live in the state of Michigan where just about 15 or so years ago, those who needed in patient treatment had no place to go but to jail or homeless on the streets. This was because our mental hospitals funding was cut by our then Governor and republican legislature. Now with everything that is happening with this budget showdown and the "sacrifices" we need to make as a nation, I fear that mental health funding will continue to be cut for those with serious mental disorders and no way to pay out of pocket.
12.17.2012 | Unregistered CommenterBubbles4987
Just wanted to jump on and say thank you for the respectful discussion. We clearly don't agree about everything but we are certainly proving how discourse is possible. I'm grateful for your courage and honored that you are sharing your stories here.

I don't have the answers and I'm so comforted by being a part of a community that's willing to live in the question until we figure it out.

YES to more awareness and less stigma around mental illness. YES to truth-telling about our losses and our families and our struggles. There is no question that shame kills.

YES to less violence as entertainment. We're pretty strict in our family so our children aren't very desensitized (nor am I). It can be problematic with their peers but I think it's worth it.

YES to learning more from other countries and cultures. There is wisdom all around us.

Lakshmi - it certainly wasn't my intention to be critical of those responding right away with political appeals. I'm sorry. It was just very hurtful for me personally when it was my family member. I'm also not sure that we can fight for the families without first knowing how they feel and what they think.

Catherine - "Stick to the psychological" sounds and feels a lot like "stay in the kitchen and keep your mind on cooking, little lady." It's demeaning. Like most people, I have political opinions and viewpoints and I will express them when and where I feel appropriate and with as much openness and compassion as I can muster. "Stick to the psychological" is the antithesis of owning our story - my story has many pieces.
12.17.2012 | Registered CommenterBrené Brown
Pew polls say that mass shootings, even in schools, do not increase a push for gun control. Just the opposite. More want to be armed and want teachers armed in schools where there are little children (who may then find and use those guns) because it is terrifying for all of us. How do we get past the very real fear that all of us carry in order to find common ground?

Thank you for making space to have this conversation with an eye towards positive engagement and respect for all.
12.17.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarina
I thank you - for putting words to what I haven't been able to articulate. It gets so disheartening to watch people run to their soapboxes in reaction to this awful tragedy. So many times on social media, I remain silent because I don't know what I can say to help interrupt fear responses. And I do think that my silence is in some part, my own fear...
And my silence becomes a piece of agreement- which isn't my intention.
I appreciate the request you are made here, "what are we thinking, what are our stories". This has challenged me to understand with greater clarity my inability to speak and to connect when it's what I am wanting most in these moments.
12.17.2012 | Unregistered CommenterSusi Willis
Thank you for your thoughtful and thought-provoking post. I have relatives who hunt (and who eat what they kill) and who take gun safety very seriously. They don't hunt deer with semi-automatics.

More importantly - my story:

I have mental illness. While I hope that my depression and anxiety would never lead to violence, I don't know. I don't HAVE to know because I have always had health insurance (and disposal income when insurance wasn't enough). Thus, my mental illness has never been untreated. I have benefitted from medication and from talk therapy. Culturally, I have also benefitted from a family where our family history of mental illness was acknowledged and where getting treatment was supported.

I wish all those who have mental illness could get the support I was lucky enough to get,

Praying for all.
12.17.2012 | Unregistered Commenterbrooklynchick
Dear Brene,

I too am from Australia. I have traveled over 50 times to the US and have spent some time living there. It has always fascinated me the differences between Australia and the US, given both were birthed in their Western form in a similar time. As an observer from afar, I have been particularly curious about the culture of violence that most of the world see's is the USA. Not just guns, but war in general. When were these seeds laid down into the collective DNA of the USA? And why? What will it take to expunge them? I believe that to really change a system we must go to the seed of the seed, the root of the root, and also see the seed and the root in light of the larger picture of Universe. Therefore, the journey to a new cultural DNA of the USA involves not just examining why and where the initial seeds of guns and violence were laid down, but also to see the USA through the eyes of the rest of the world.To see self from other. No easy task, but a worthwhile one.

I am also fascinated by the shadow of any light. And the US has so much light. I suspect that the more we know our shadow (involving both an interior perspective but also an exterior - as seen by others- perspective) the more we can turn to the light.

I love your bravery, your commitment, your voice.


Error .... on my recent post Jane from Australia ... the Port Arthur Massacre was 28 April 1996 not 2004.
12.17.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJane
Thank you for this very respectful and logical response. While I support the individual right to have guns to protect themselves or to hunt, neither one of those require a semi-automatic weapon. And while a mentally unstable person can use other weapons, those weapons don't cause the mass destruction that is caused by semi-automatic weapons.

When I heard about the shootings in Newtown, the first thing I thought of was that we have to do a better job of providing mental health help. The people who shoot up schools, malls, and movie theaters are not in their right mind. They are hurting in a way far beyond what most of us can imagine. We have got to find a way to better identify them and then get them help. Just like people born with a heart condition, missing a limb, or brain damage, these individuals can not help the war going on in their head. Mental health is just as important as physical health - yet we don't treat it as such in our society. That, to me, is where the real change needs to happen.

It's time to stop blaming the mother (have you ever noticed fathers never get blamed?) and presenting mental health issues like everyone that has ______ (Fill in the blank) is on the verge of shooting up a school, mall, or other public location. These families need real help. As the self-proclaimed most powerful nation in the world, the fact that we are not providing this help is shameful.

My heart hurts for all involved: the families of those lost, the families of those children who are traumatized, and the first responders who went in a dangerous situation to help and were confronted with a sight worse than anything most of us can imagine. You are all in my prayers and constant thoughts.
12.17.2012 | Unregistered CommenterKellie
Thank you very much Brene for opening this up for discussion and allowing people to share their thoughts, feelings, and stories. By doing so, we're working through our thoughts and feelings and healing from such a tragic event. I, like everyone else, obviously don't have the solution. I have so many thoughts and feelings swirling inside me I can't even put them together coherently, but I'll try.

-Gun control is important but I honestly don't know if it's a realistic possibility. I'm definitely not at all saying that we can't give it a try. We owe it to ourselves and our loved ones to try. I just know that there are soooo many guns that are smuggled into the U.S. Guns are out of control in the U.S.; authorities have no idea how many guns are here, who has them, and where they came from.

-Before anyone can purchase a gun there should be a waiting period, a full background investigation (not just a criminal history check), a psychological exam to make sure someone is capable of responsibly owning a gun, and perhaps even a stress test.

-Fingerprints should be electronically taken and stored by gun shops and the police for every single person who purchases/owns a gun.

-Add technology to guns. The gun only recognizes the owner's fingerprints and will not fire for anyone else.

-I think that the way we treat mental illness needs to be addressed (that right there opens up Pandora's box in regards to health care reform). We need more options, resources, and support for those with mental illness. There also needs to be more resources and support for parents and loved ones of someone who has a mental illness.

-Young children need to be shown and taught how to express their feelings/emotions by their parents and/or teachers.

-Conflict resolution and how to effectively express our feelings/emotions should be taught in kindergarten and every grade after that as far as the doctorate level.

-Parents need more resources. There should be a 24 hour parent hotline. Parents can call anytime they need advice, and speak with a trained/certified professional, or if they just need to know where to find resources in their area.

Even though I understand the individual who committed this terrible crime suffered from a mental illness, I still find myself asking why would someone do that? Why children? How could anyone think that was a good idea? What the heck is wrong with people? There is no simple solution to prevent these types of crimes. It's a multifaceted problem that requires changes in many different areas of our society, but one small step is a step in the right direction.
12.17.2012 | Unregistered CommenterNikki

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