Archives for posts with tag: The Happiness Project


I’m reading Brené Brown. I recently finished The Gift Of Imperfection and immediately ordered all the rest.  So now I’m on I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t) .  Guess what?

She’s right!!!! It isn’t just me!!! Spoiler alert – the glow of that realization only lasts so long.  I’m glad I’m not alone. I’m glad I’m so abnormal and dysfunctional I’m completely normal.  Doesn’t change a dang thing about the process though… Still gotta walk the walk, talk the talk and get moving. Sigh. Note: Always read the fine print which says something like “I never said it would be easy, but it will be worth it.”  Oh Fine!

Shame. It’s something we’ve all experienced numerous times in our lives. And it’s something most of us would really rather not talk about it seems. So I’m grateful that Brené Brown has removed the stigma from the topic.  She defines shame as,

the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection. I don’t believe shame is helpful or productive.

While discussing Shame Screens, those screens we put up to protect ourselves when we feel that burn of shame creeping into us, – which another spoiler alert –  don’t work by the way (to be honest, I’d already figured that one out… ) Brené references the work of Dr. Shelley Uram, a Harvard-trained psychiatrist.

“But Dr. Uram points out that we tend not to recognize the small, quiet traumas that often trigger the same brain-survival reaction. After studying Dr. Uram’s work I believe it’s possible that many of our early shame experiences, especially with parents and caregivers, were stored in our brains as traumas.  This is why we often have such painful bodily reactions when we feel criticized, ridiculed, rejected and shamed. Dr. Uram explains that the brain does not differentiate between overt or big trauma and cover or small, quiet trauma – it just registers the event as “a threat that we can’t control.”

In her work on “remembering the wound” versus “becoming the wound,” Dr. Uram explains that most of the time when we recall a memory, we are conscious that we are in the present, recalling something from the past.  However, when we experience something in the present that triggers and old trauma memory, we reexperience the sense of the original trauma. So, rather than remembering the wound, we become the wound.  This makes sense when we think of how we are often returned to a place of smallness and helplessness when we feel shame.” page 89  I Thought It Was Just Me – Brené Brown

That was a little mind blowing for me. And it made perfect sense.

My first thoughts were about empathy and compassion. Maybe there  really is no scale for trauma at all. Trauma just is – regardless of what caused it, or how “big” or “small” we may think our own or someone else’s trials and tribulations are, the size of the emotion we feel, the reaction we have – are the same.  That’s it. It’s the great equalizer for me.


wait for it….

Changed my perspective and perception.

Yup it did. Here’s the thing, it made life a whole lot simpler. No analyzing or measuring required.  We’re equal.  We are in it together. It hurts. It’s painful. Its frustrating.

And that’s the catalyst for me to build my resilience. There are tools to do it. As Harriet Lerner, author of The Dance of Anger reminds us, “Shame is a profoundly debilitating emotion. It drives our fears of not being good enough.” And here’s the kicker, we are good enough. So let’s start moving toward believing it and living it. I’m worth it. So are you.

Rise on.

©2017 JFries/Rise Like Air

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In her book “The Happiness Project”, Gretchen Rubin says

it takes at least five positive marital actions to offset one critical or destructive action so one way to strengthen a marriage is to make sure that the positive far outweighs the negative.”

Personally, I think that is true for all encounters, not just marital relationships. The quote stuck in my mind and I had reason to recall it again not long ago when I came across a news video segment titled “People Outraged About Bikers Jumping Over Homeless.” I’d seen the thumbnail for 3 days on the news page before I actually broke down and clicked it in a moment of weakness. I knew it had to end badly. I’d been resisting for a number of reasons not the least of which included I’m tired of the overuse of descriptive words like outraged. Everyone’s outraged about something or someone. I mean there was no way this was going to end well. It didn’t.

The outrage came both from the video and the fact that a store called OSS had posted it to their FB page and even after negative feedback refused to take the link down. Ok, played out pretty much as I’d expected. Yep, it frustrated me, took my happy down a notch, reminded me that we might all have the potential to be wonderful people but we all can screw up and make choices that don’t end up with that result. There’s always hope though right? Wasn’t really feeling it at that moment though.

That was the blow to the gut, but I didn’t see that upper cut come outta no where. I swear. What landed me on my keister was the responses condoning the actions. No, not just condoning or taking the “who cares” attitude, but the posts that showed absolutely no respect for the fact that these are people. Absolute disdain; no empathy, compassion or dignity offered. The negativity and hatred and arrogance spewed really amazed and disgusted me. The number of people who justified their position with flawed reasoning like, “instead of complaining why don’t you go out and help the homeless yourself!” Having taken the 2 minutes to watch the news video did exactly what I thought it would, I looked at my glass and the glass that had been half full that morning stood exactly as it had then, but now it was half empty.

I tried to shake it off but I had a hard time keeping the feelings of disappointment and hopelessness from creeping in. I worked, I distracted myself, I smiled and it kept bubbling up.  The blog “Gotta Find A Home” had showed me that homelessness was so much more complex than the trite opinions I’d read on the FB posts. I tried writing about it but I felt preachy.  I was angry, I felt guilty.  Then I remembered the quote from “The Happiness Project”; 5 things to offset 1.

It was time to debrief.

And it worked. While I didn’t forget about the situation (obviously) I was able to own my own baggage and let OSS and the bikers own theirs. Are they horrible, evil mean spirited people? Obviously.  Well, probably not really. At least not most of the time. And if they are? Maybe this experience will serve as a catalyst for a future change for the better for them. Maybe for me, or even maybe for you. Or maybe, for all of us. Who knows? So what have I been reminded of?

  • Be extra conscious about what I choose to say and do and how it may be interpreted.
  • I can’t make choices for other people but I can choose how I react to them.
  • Focus on the difference I can make, not the difference someone else isn’t making.

I take it back. Maybe it did end well after all.

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©2014 J Fries/Rise Like Air

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