On this episode of Unlocking Us
It’s Part 2 of the three-part Sisters Book Club series, where Ashley and Barrett turn the tables on Brené and interview her about her new book, Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience. In this episode, the sisters dive into the specific findings on some of the 87 emotions and experiences covered in the book. They also ask Brené the podcast rapid-fire questions—including her top five songs. Plus, they include some brand-new rapid-fire questions she doesn’t expect. Join us as they talk about how powerful it is to have vocabulary that’s as expansive as our experiences.
Listen to the episode
In Atlas of the Heart, Brown takes us on a journey through eighty-seven of the emotions and experiences that define what it means to be human. As she maps the necessary skills and an actionable framework for meaningful connection, she gives us the language and tools to access a universe of new choices and second chances—a universe where we can share and steward the stories of our bravest and most heartbreaking moments with one another in a way that builds connection.
Over the past two decades, Brown’s extensive research into the experiences that make us who we are has shaped the cultural conversation and helped define what it means to be courageous with our lives. Atlas of the Heart draws on this research, as well as on Brown’s singular skills as a storyteller, to show us how accurately naming an experience doesn’t give the experience more power, it gives us the power of understanding, meaning, and choice.
Brené, Ashley, and Barrett on Atlas of the Heart: A Sisters Book Club, Part 1 of 3 podcast episode on Unlocking Us
Brené with Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski on Burnout and How to Complete the Stress Cycle podcast episode on Unlocking Us
Brené and Marc Brackett, Ph.D., on Permission to Feel podcast episode on Unlocking Us
Barrett Guillen: Hi everyone, I’m Barrett Guillen.
Ashley Brown Ruiz: And I’m Ashley Brown Ruiz.
BG/ABR (together): And this is Unlocking Us.
ABR: And this is Unlocking Us.
ABR: Welcome to Part Two of the three-part Sisters Book Club on Brené’s new book, Atlas of The Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience. I’m Ashley.
BG: And I’m Barrett. I’m sure you guys remember us, but in case you don’t, I’m the Chief of Staff at Brené Brown Education and Research Group.
ABR: And I’m Ashley, a clinical licensed social worker and the senior director of The Daring Way. And we’re also Brené’s little sisters and twins, and we’re here to put on a concert and sing a few songs.
BG: That’s what Ashley wants to do.
ABR: Just playing. So last week was really fun. We actually turned the tables a little bit and interviewed Brené about her new book, Atlas of The Heart. It was really fun and cool, but I have to say, it was harder than I thought it was going to be.
BG: It was so much harder. I don’t think I realized how Brené really leads the conversation and we just had to follow and then, in this, we’re definitely leading.
ABR: We are. We did a great job.
BG: We did do a great job, but there were definitely some times where I was like fanning myself, red face…
BG: But it was really fun. We also talked about how biology, biography, behavior, and backstory shape our emotions and experiences. It’s just really amazing how having vocabulary around emotions and experiences, not only helps us understand them, but can actually shape them.
ABR: Yeah, that was really cool. And it was cool to be able to hear how Brené got to some of these things and to just really learn what stood out for her, what were some aha moments. And I love in this week’s episode, we actually dig into the 87 emotions and experiences of the book. So if y’all could see my book, y’all would laugh because there are so many flags and sticky notes and stickers, because I just had so many questions or just wanted to talk to Brené and Barrett about what I read and what questions I had. And then at the end of today’s episode, we also get to do rapid fire with Brené, and she tells us about her favorite songs. And so second part. It’s really fun.
BG: Yeah. And some unexpected rapid fire questions that she didn’t know were coming, we were really nice, but yes.
BG: And guys, in Part Three of the three-part series, we’re asking all of Brené’s newsletter subscribers to submit any questions they have. Reminder, we won’t be able to get to all of them, but we’re going to get to as many as we can. Y’all, if you’re part of the newsletter, submit your questions and we’ll be answering them for our next episode.
ABR: It’s going to be fun.
BG: It’s going to be really fun.
BG: We always read the official bio of the guest. And since Brené is our guest this week…
BG: Here Brené’s official bio.
ABR: A long long time ago. No.
BG: Dr. Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston, where she holds the Huffington foundation Endowed Chair at the Graduate College of Social Work. Brené is also a visiting professor in management at the University of Texas at Austin-McCombs School of Business. She has spent the past two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame and empathy. She’s the author of five number one New York Times best sellers, and is the host of the weekly Spotify original podcasts…
BG: Unlocking Us and Dare To Lead. Brené’s books have been translated into more than 30 languages, and her titles include Dare To Lead, Braving The Wilderness, Rising Strong, Daring Greatly and The Gifts Of Imperfection. Most recently, Brené collaborated with Tarana Burke to co-edit, You Are Your Best Thing: Vulnerability, Sham, Resilience and the Black Experience, and now, we have Atlas of The Heart.
ABR: That’s right. Her TED Talk on The Power of Vulnerability is one of the top five most few TED Talks in the world with over 50 million views. She is also the first researcher to have a filmed lecture on Netflix, The Call to Couragespecial debuted on the streaming service in April 2019. That was a fun trip.
BG: That was fun.
ABR: Brené lives in Houston, Texas with her husband, Steve, and they have two kids, Ellen and Charlie.
BG: And a dog named Lucy.
ABR: Yeah, Weird Lucy.
BG: Let’s jump in.
BG: Okay guys, we’re back for Episode Two of The Book Club. Don’t forget, for Episode Three, we’re going to be answering your questions. But more to come on that. Now, we’re back with?
BG: And we’re interviewing?
Brené Brown: Brené.
BG: And I am
All (in unison): Barrett.
BB: Wow, she sounds like, “Hey, you guys and gals, dudes and dudettes.”
ABR: Oh Grease!
ABR: On the dance floor.
BG: Oh my God.
BB: That’s what you sound like. Very suave. Que Rico.
BG: One day, maybe we could talk about my practice ESPN commentary.
BB: Yeah? Is that like a dream?
BG: No. We did that, whatever you send us on our brand tour in Atlanta.
BB: Oh yeah.
BG: Where we went to the college football Hall of Fame. They have like an ESPN desk and we all took turns commentating and I did well.
ABR: I think Murdoch has one too.
BB: Oh my God.
BG: I have one of our Murdoch and I have one of me.
BB: I bet you were really good.
BG: Yeah, it was fun. I like it.
ABR: Oh speaking of sports, did you see that your Liverpool coach got a yellow card today for arguing on the sidelines?
BB: I’m sure he was right.
BG: As you walk. I’m just kidding. [chuckle]
BB: No. Let’s do it.
BG: Through the valley of the shadow of death.
ABR: No. Geez.
BG: Okay, so last episode, we talked about the book, Brené shared some insights on her writing on the research, and now we’re going to dig into the nitty-gritty of some of these emotions and experiences. So the first one that we want to talk about, Brené is stress and overwhelm.
BB: Oh yeah. I have no idea. They’ve been prepping without me, so I’m…
BG: She knows none of the questions. It’s like a real interview up in here.
BB: Okay. Stress and Overwhelm.
ABR: So it comes from Chapter One, “Places We Go When Things Are Uncertain or Too Much.” And this is a real book club guys, we’re going to turn in our books…
ABR: Pages four to six.
BG: Pages four to six.
BB: The first rule of book club, there is no book club. Okay.
BG: Can you elaborate? Say more.
BG: I don’t know what you’re talking about.
BB: Oh, you don’t?
ABR: She missed the movie.
BB: Oh, The Fight Club?
ABR: She didn’t get the memo.
BB: The first rule of the fight club, there is no fight club?
BG: Oh no. I’m not a great movie watcher.
BB: Okay, well, I would never see that movie because it’s way too violent, but I do know the cultural references.
BG: I’ll learn.
BB: Just that one. So stressed and overwhelmed. I think the thing that I learned the most about these words are, when we use… I say I’m overwhelmed all the time do y’all?
BB: And again, from the first podcast we did, language doesn’t just communicate emotion, it shapes emotion. It triggers all kinds of reactions in our body. So when we say we’re overwhelmed, it’s really telling our body, “Things are happening too fast, we can’t handle them. Shut down. Shut down.” So one of the things I’ve noticed is, now that I understand the difference between stress and overwhelm, I’m very careful to think to myself, “Am I stressed or am I at the extreme end of stress which is overwhelm.” Or “Am I overwhelmed?” And one of the things that the literature was really clear about is that the only cure for overwhelm is really nothingness. And so I think you’ve seen me Barret, since I wrote the book, I’ll say, “You know what? I’m overwhelmed.” And I walk out of here and I go straight to the parking lot. And I just walk circles in the parking lot for 10 or 15 minutes and then I can come back and try to reset.
BB: I tell a story in the book how waiting tables for Pappas. So it’s a Houston-based family-owned group, so Pappadeaux, Pappasito’s, am I forgetting any of them?
AR/BG (together): Papadeaux.
ABR: Pappasito’s, Pappas Burger.
BB: Pappas Steakhouse. Yeah.
ABR: Pappas everything now. But is there a barbecue?
BB (singing): Ba ba ba, ba Barabra Ann
BB: Oh yeah. She’s back at Grease. Yeah. No.
BG: Pappas Barbecue.
BB: Yeah, I know. It was so good. So I worked for Pappas for maybe six years, I think, through undergrad and partly in graduate school. And one of the things that I have compared in the book, I’ve used the analogy of being in the weeds or being blown at work. And so when you’re in a restaurant situation and things are really crazy, I might run into the kitchen and be like, “Oh my God y’all I’m the weeds. Ashley, I need you to take tea to tables two, four, and seven. Barret, can you take bread to tables one and three? And while you’re out there, can you check to see if table nine has put their card out for me to run their tab?” That’s in the weeds. And I think that’s stressed. Here’s the definition, the research definition of stress. “We feel stressed when we evaluate environmental demand as beyond our ability to cope successfully. This includes elements of unpredictability, uncontrollability, and feeling kind of overloaded.” So we can manage daily stressors. Now, at Pappas and maybe other places, I don’t know. If you walked into the kitchen and you just said, “Jesus, I’m blown,” it’d be a really different situation. Like someone would just come up and grab where you write all your tickets, your pad.
BB: Someone would go up to the host’s team and say, “What tables does she have?” Because they would believe that they couldn’t even count on you.
BB: To say, “Here are my table numbers.” Like blown is just like…
BG: You don’t even know what you need.
BB: I don’t even know. I don’t even know what’s happening. I can’t formulate a list that’s comprehensive enough for you to even get me out of this. I’m so overwhelmed. Yeah, and then the rule was, at least with the kitchen managers I had, was you either have to go into the cooler, you have to go outside, you have to go sit in your car, but you can’t do anything for 10 or 15 minutes, then you can come back and kind of reset and start. And it was actually… I have to give it to those folks because as the research shows, the nothingness is the only way to really reset after overwhelm. My favorite definition of overwhelm, here’s the researched one that, “Overwhelm means an extreme level of stress and emotional and or cognitive intensity to the point of feeling unable to function.” So I think the big difference is we can function in stress, we really can’t function in overwhelm. But Jon Kabat-Zinn has my favorite really deeply resonating definition of overwhelm. He writes that, “Overwhelm is the all too common feeling that our lives are somehow unfolding faster than the human nervous system and psyche are able to manage.”
BB: So, now that we know from the first podcast we did together for Atlas, now that we know that emotion doesn’t just convey what we’re feeling, it shapes it. It’s not, if you make the chocolate chip cookies in a bowl, the bowl can change the taste of the cookie, that’s language. So now, I really do not use the word overwhelm unless I’m prepared to walk out and do nothing for 10 or 15 minutes.
ABR: Or to convey like, “I’m done.”
BB: Yeah. And If I’m done, I know I have to do nothing. So if I’m like, “Oh shit, and I’m overwhelmed,” that’s not overwhelmed. So don’t say it because you’re really telling your body to start kind of shutting down.
BG: I interchange these words all the time.
BG: And this was one of the biggest… Well, there were quite a few aha moments for me in the book. But this one specifically… And it’s crazy because we use in the weeds and blown at work. We’ve used it for a long time.
BB: We have.
BG: But I was even using that wrong. And so reading this book, it’s interesting because even now, if someone that’s reporting up to me or something is blown, now I know how to handle it. They can’t tell you.
BB: No. And if you see that things are not functioning…
BB: Balls are dropping, balls are dropping. And as balls drop, they get more behind and aren’t able to reset and pick them up. A lot of times, as leaders and sometimes even as parents, were just like, “Suck it up. What can I help with?” as opposed to, “I’m taking everything off your plate.”
BB: For a day, for an hour. And so I’ve been really talking to Charlie about the difference between stress and overwhelm. And just tell him, when you’re actually overwhelmed, we need to stop. Looking back on the history of BBEARG, which is our company, Brené Brown Education and Research Group, how many shitty decisions have we made when overwhelmed?
BG: Quite a few.
BB: Yeah. because we should say, “Do nothing, decide nothing, say nothing. Nothing.”
BG: This one really resonated with me.
ABR: Yeah, and me too.
BB: Can’t I just say this too?
BB: When I was looking at the… When I was reading the book for the first time, it’s really weird because when I give a talk, I sometimes don’t remember what I said because I just… I don’t know. It’s just a weird energy and I’m blacked out after it’s over. Sometimes I’m like, “Wow!” You’re like, “Yeah. You said the F-word three times, and… Yeah.
BB: So just get ready for Twitter.
BB: But when I was re-reading this, and let me read this for you. I’m going to just start from this beginning. I’m on page 7. Jon Kabat-Zinn describes overwhelmed as the all too common feeling, “That our lives are somehow unfolding faster than the human nervous system and psyche are able to manage well.” Then I write, “This really resonates with me. It’s all unfolding faster than my nervous system can manage.” When I read that Kabat-Zinn suggests that mindful play or no agenda, non-doing time is the cure for overwhelm, it made sense to me why when we were blown at the restaurant, we weren’t asked to help problem-solve the situation. We were just asked to engage in non-doing.” I didn’t know that the managers at Pappas had done a Lit review on overwhelm.
BB: But I’m sure that their experience taught the managers that doing nothing was really the only way for people to successfully come back and be able to go back on the floor. And it’s a high pace, hard place to work sometimes. But then I’m seeing mindful play, no agenda, non-doing. And so I really actually think this is pickleball.
BG: Oh God, yeah.
BB: This is pickleball for me, is mindful play. Because I actually played this morning and I maybe played five games, six games, and the first four or five games I played really well. But then, as it got closer to needing to watch time, get home shower, like “What the hell are Ashley and Barrett going to ask me?”
BB: I missed five or six really shots that I don’t normally miss. Because it wasn’t mindful play. I wasn’t in the present and you just can’t do well in that sport. I don’t know that you can do well in any sport. So mindful play, I think is something that really helps me. So probably up until what? A year ago? If we as an organization were overwhelmed, the first thing I would start to cancel is things like pickleball. And now I just refuse. You’ve got deliverables and big media partners are waiting for things, and I got pickleball in the morning, because I can’t… It’s my way out of… Not only is it my way out of overwhelm, I think about the Nagasaki Sister podcast about burnout. It helps me complete my stress cycles. Yeah.
BG: It’s so helpful.
ABR: Okay. So I’m taking us on our next journey through resentment.
BB: Oh Jesus.
ABR: I’ll read here in “The Places We Go When We Compare.”
BB: What page are you on?
ABR: Page 30.
ABR: Well, this whole little chapter kicked my ass. But I really appreciate it when you were talking to Mark Bracket on Unlocking Us, and he said that actually, resentment was part of envy and your reply was, “Oh holy shit.” So I was just wondering, what did you take away from this part? What did you learn? And bigger picture, were there other, “Oh holy shit” moments in this book while you were writing them?
BB: Yeah, there were so many. This was life-changing for me. Resentment is something that… God, it is just… I don’t know if I’m wired for it. I think we saw a lot of it growing up, do y’all?
ABR: Oh yeah.
BB: Ashley, you’re making a poo poo bad cheese face.
BB: That’s the face that… I love the stinky cheese, and that’s the face that Steve makes as he sprints from bread to the deli counter through the gourmet cheese area in the Central Market.
ABR: I just totally went into… My thought process was like, “Oh yeah, I saw that a lot.” And then, I seriously, my process went like this, “God, Mom really never set boundaries with Dad, so she was completely angry with him all the time. I wonder what that was about. Shit it was envy.” And then you asked that question and I lost that thought process.
BB: Oh my God.
BG: It’s so real up in here.
BB: Yeah, it’s like, “Welcome to the fam.”
BG: That’s right.
BB: So when we did the enneagram. So we all went on an enneagram… What do you want to call that? An enneagram…
BG: Rabbit hole?
ABR: I don’t know. I remember one night we were on the phone for hours talking about how our behaviors were versus if we were integrated or what our behaviors were in the history of why we are that number.
BB: Yeah. And so the enneagram, I think one the things we like about it is that it has kind of traits and cautions, but it also has kind of your worst self for that number and your best self.
BG: It’s for sure the 100%, “You don’t know me-a-gram.”
BB: You do not know me.
BB: A-gram. Yes. And so I remember the first thing everyone does when they do the Enneagram test as they go online and look at all the memes, right?
BB: Yeah, and they’re just…
BG: They still piss me off.
BB: Yes, but you can’t even say anything because they just read you for total shit.
BG: They’re so true.
BB: It’s so terrible. They’re like… because I was going to say, I know they’re hard to read the memes, but no one has it harder than the number ones. Because the number one memes are so bad. And then I saw a meme that said, “Ode to poor number one. Say their memes are the very worst.”
ABR: I like living over here in mamsy pamsy land with number sixes. Can’t get their shit together because they’re scared of everything. [chuckle]
BB: I mean, I saw this… I mean, I saw this… [laughter] Let’s just pause for a second and take y’all on a little brief side trip down the shitty-a-gram because… [laughter] Okay, first of all, I see this meme for number ones on the enneagram, which I’m totally a number one… Because of the painful truths that were revealed in our first podcast, okay! [laughter]
ABR: Why it was so hard to write this book. [laughter]
BB: Yes! [laughter] I was hyper-vigilant in taking care and controlling this environment as best I could. But so the first thing I see is on… There’s a little robot guy, it’s like two little robot people, and the little robot comes up and says, “Hello, number one, how are you? I’m glad we’re meeting here today.” And number one said, “I’m glad we’re meeting here today. Why did you take the freeway? The back way is so much quicker and safer.” [chuckle] And then the other person goes, “I’m not sure.” “Yes, you wasted a lot of time taking that, and that is not the best color on you. You should get that shirt in blue.” I was like… [laughter] “Fuck you.”
BB: But then the meme that really ties to this is… There was this meme on Instagram where it was a bird… I know you’re laughing at me, not with me, Ashley. You’re spitting out your drink. Now she’s wiping her mouth. That’s how much she’s laughing at me… That there was this bird and its wings were down tight against its body, and its head was lifting up, and it was just like flying through the air, like… And it said “Number one on the enneagram, fueled by nothing but rage and resentment.” [laughter]
BB: And I was like, “I’m not that bird.” But I am…
BG: You don’t know me.
BB: You don’t know me. But I am kind of that bird and I just thought, “Man, I really struggle with this resentment.” So I’m doing this podcast with Marc Brackett, and we’re getting ready to go on and start recording, and before start recording I said, “Hey, can I just ask you a personal question? Not a personal question, but a question personally for me.” And he said, “Sure.” And I said, “Resentment is part of the anger family, right?” Because we all know from the very first podcast we did on the book that anger was our allowable emotion to feel growing up. And he goes, “No, no, no. Uh-uh. Resentment’s not a function of that family, the anger family. Resentment is from the envy family.”
BB: I could barely make it through the podcast. I was like, “What does that mean?” And so I would get resentful when I’m like working 60 hours a week, and then I see someone taking a day off or on vacation or… And then what I realized is, I’m not mad because you’re resting, I’m mad because I’m bone-tired and I want to rest, but unlike you, I pretend like I don’t need to. I’m not furious that you’re okay with something that’s really good and imperfect, I’m furious because I want to be okay with it, but I let my perfectionism drive me into the ground. Like, your lack of work is not making me resentful, my lack of rest is making me resentful.
BB: So now when I feel resentment creeping up… I always… I really try to say the first thing is, what do you need that you’re not asking for? How are you not taking care of yourself right now? You know? And so, mm, boo.
ABR: Yeah, that one kicked my ass a little.
BG: Yeah, that one’s hard to put into practice, for sure.
ABR: I feel though like knowing that it’s part of envy makes it better. And I don’t know if it’s easier to practice, but it is definitely a different lens that you’re looking through.
BB: Yeah, because it is… For me, like if I’m resentful towards Steve, or that I’m not critically assessing him, it’s internally focused on what’s going on with me. And I think resentment is normally about what this other person’s lacking instead of what we’re lacking.
BB: Ugh, it’s hard.
ABR: It is hard.
BB: You don’t get to go again, Ashley.
ABR: I am up next, if you look at the list…
BB: Well, I don’t have the list. Y’all are keeping it from me.
BG: Oh, no, I’m up next.
BG: We’re going over to disappointment and expectations.
BB: Oh, shit.
ABR: Dun, dun, dun. You’re welcome. [laughter]
BG: We can go over to page 43.
BB: What is that little duck from… What show? “This is serious.” [laughter]
ABR: I don’t know. But I like it.
BG: No, I don’t know either.
BB: Okay. [chuckle]
BB: Is that a Backyardigan? No, it’s the pets where there was the duck and the…
BG: Oh, yeah, with the boat.
BG: It’s not cartoon but not real.
ABR: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
BB: Yeah, yeah, yeah, and there were hamsters or gerbils or something…
BG: Yes, oh my gosh, what was that?
BB: “This is serious.”
ABR: The same time as the Backyardigans, I think.
BB: Yeah, yeah. Okay.
ABR: What page, Barrett?
BG: We are on page 43.
BG: Disappointment and expectation.
ABR: Oh, I’ve got a lot of markies on this page, a lot of stickers.
BB: Yeah, so the tons of definitions of disappointment, but the one that emerged from our data was disappointment is unmet expectations. The more significant the expectations, the more significant the disappointment.
ABR: This bolded sentence down here in the bottom paragraph that says, “When we develop expectations, we paint a picture in our head of how things are going to be and how they’re going to look.”
BB: Mm-hmm, let me just keep reading. “Sometimes we go as far as to imagine how they’re going to feel, taste, and smell. That picture we paint in our minds holds great value for us. We set expectations based on not only how we fit into that picture, but also on what those around us are doing in that picture. This means that our expectations are often set on outcomes totally beyond our control, like what other people think, what they feel, how they’re going to react. The movie in our mind is wonderful, but no one else knows their parts, their lines, and what it means to us.”
BB: It’s so hard. I’m going to just keep going on. “When the picture or movie fails to play out in real life, we feel disappointment, and sometimes that disappointment is severe and brings shame and hurt and anger with it. It’s a setup for us and for the people involved. Disappointment takes a toll on us and our relationships. It requires considerable emotional bandwidth.”
BG: But what it really requires… What I took from this is that it really requires for you to ask for what you need and ask for what you want.
BB: Yes, I mean…
BG: That’s so… Not easy for me.
BB: Yes, examined and expressed expectations. You all know this story, I think we’ve even talked about on the podcast, where Steve and I were newly married, and I woke up in the morning on my birthday and we’ve lived in this old two-bedroom, one-bath, but it was upstairs-downstairs, do you remember that one?
BB: That I remember that we lived in. And I came tumbling down the stairs waiting to see balloons or some kind of… And there’s nothing… And I was in counseling, I was seeing a therapist at the time, and I just got… I was so hateful to him when he got out of the shower, I was just like… I just… I didn’t even speak to him, I was so… And he was like “Happy birthday,” and I was like, “Yeah. Um hum.” I was just so pissed. And I told the therapist, I said “I came from a family that makes a big deal out of birthdays and I cannot believe there were no balloons or no signs or a card out, or decorations” and she’s like “Well, did you ask him? Or tell him what you need? And what would be meaningful to you?” I was like “No, if I have to ask him, then it’s not worth it.” That’s the sign that’s probably killed a million relationships, “If I have to ask, fuck off.” And she goes, “I think if you’re not asking, then you don’t think it’s worth it. You don’t think you’re worth it.”
BG: You do not know me. [laughter]
BG: No sir. [chuckle]
BB: Yeah, yeah, I was like, “What?” It was me, I just remember I said, “If I have to ask, it’s not worth it, I was so smug” and she goes, “I think if you’re not asking, you don’t think you’re worth it.” [chuckle] Let me tell you the rest of the story.
ABR: She didn’t really stay curious there with you, did she?
BB: No. [laughter] You people did me dirty. No. And so I told him that day that it really hurt my feelings and that birthdays were a big deal, and presents were a big deal. And the next morning, I had a little thing on the table for my birthday, and he had bought me a skirt at Express that I really, really loved, but we were so broke. I was in graduate school, he was in medical school. Broke. He had pawned his guitar for it.
BG: Oh my gosh.
BB: I wore that skirt every day.
ABR: And you’re still married to him? [chuckle]
BB: Yes. Yeah, Oh Jeez. He’ll say to me sometimes, “I’m happy to be in your movie, I’ll need to know, I’ll need a copy of the script before we start.”
ABR: Amaya was reading that part and she said, “I’ve heard you say that with your sisters before.”
BG: It’s true.
ABR: It is true.
BB: Yeah. Disappointment, un-examined and un-expressed expectations.
ABR: I loved too how in this book when you define stuff, you bring in stories and you share about how you’ve seen this or how it’s played out in your life before too, I think that’s awesome.
BG: And just to say, on page 42 as an example of the beautiful imagery that we have in our book.
ABR: Oh yes.
BB: I like that it’s kind of really big… We just try to figure out what quote in the chapter or in the section took our breath away a little bit, and then made them into full-page color quote cards.
ABR: Yeah. Alright, well, let’s move on to something that’s a little bit more fun.
BB: I’m ready.
ABR: Okay, we’re going to go to page 73, and we’re going to talk a little bit about amusement because I had so much fun with this one.
BB: What did you learn that was fun?
ABR: So there’s a quote that says, “Is amusement important at work?” and research shows that breaks involving amusement may help replenish depleted cognitive resources and that the replenishment continues through difficult tasks.
ABR: And then so I was thinking “What are examples have amusement? How could we do that? When do I feel amused?” And so it’s just a really cool moment for me, but to also see not only how it plays out in my life and how you can take it into work, or even if you’re at school, like when I thought about teaching kindergarten and how we would do something but then we’d stand up and do a dance or something, because that was built in for younger kids, but then when we get older, it’s really not.
BB: It’s true.
BB: And it’s a really great point. I’m going to go back and read this definition just for the folks listening. “The etymology of amusement is interesting. The word dates from the late 1500s when it meant a pleasurable diversion from work or duty. According to researchers, amusement is connected to humor and includes elements of unexpectedness, incongruity, and playfulness. It’s typically seen as a brief spike in a person’s level of cheerfulness lasting only a few seconds. The definition of amusement that aligns with our research is pleasurable, relaxed, excitation.” Did I say that?
ABR: I would have gone with you on it, I wouldn’t have questioned you…
BB: Let me just say it again. “The definition of amusement that aligns with our research is pleasurable, relaxed, excitement. Amusement differs from happiness, in that happiness is a general sense of pleasure where amusement appeals specifically to one’s sense of humor.” Do you know what I mean? And so I think your kindergarten example is really good. “Here are two things that clearly help distinguish amusement from other positive emotions like contentment, or gratitude, joy. An awareness of incongruity, there’s something unexpected about what causes us to be amused, we weren’t expecting that punch line or that behavior or that timing.” [chuckle] Do you know what I mean?
ABR: I think about that Tik Tok that I sent you.
BB: Oh my God. [laughter]
ABR: Oh, I sent it out to y’all too about where it’s like bark at your dog, it barks back.
BB: And the dog barks back and scares the owner.
BG: Oh that is so funny.
ABR: But I wasn’t expecting that punch line on that one. [chuckle]
BB: Yeah, no… There’s something incongruent, we are kind of surprised. When we feel amusement, we feel playful with those around us, and I could see why that’s really important just in families, at work. I can see why…
BB: It’s easier in kindergarten than when you’re at work and you’re adults, because it’s the incongruent that has caused us to become… Feel awkward and self-conscious and… Do you know what mean?
BG: Yeah, it makes me think of when we’re in the trainings and sometimes when we come back from lunch or breaks and we pretend like we’re going to do this stretching exercise…
ABR: Oh, Yeah.
BG: But we break into the running man.
BG: Oh my gosh.
BB: And we start dancing and people are like…
BG: Some people are all in it and some people are like, no, sir.
ABR: I think even at our office, if we turn the song on and say dance time, maybe half of them would come.
BB: Yeah, because I think in order for something to be amusing to someone based on the definition, it has to be funny. And that’s why I think people say, “I am not amused.”
ABR: Yes. I knew, when I read that in the book, I read it with that tone, like someone was saying it like that just crappy.
BB: Yeah, I, if I’ve caught a frog in that big ditch behind our house growing up, if I caught a frog and then put it under something and Jason opened it and was scared, and then the frog got away, and then he and I are laughing trying to catch it, and mom would be like, I am not amused. Yeah, this is not funny? [laughter] Although she would…
BG: For you.
BB: Yeah, for you.
ABR: So before we move away, what would be a fun example of amusement like at work for a team or something? Is our BBEARG At the Bar, check out questions part of that?
BB: Yeah, I think those…
ABR: I think those are really fun.
BB: Yeah, we do like a company-wide meetings twice a week, and we come up with… Y’all come up with really good check out questions.
ABR: We just randomly assign two people that usually they try to pick some people that don’t work together very often, and so yeah…
BG: I have a really good one. I can’t wait to be called next…
BB: Oh, that’s good.
BG: That’s actually my team, I guess I could ask to be chosen.
BG: Okay, let’s move to page 128. And we talk a lot about boundaries in your work already, but in this book, another beautifully designed page, I wanted to talk about Prentis Hemphill’s definition of boundaries.
BB: They are amazing.
BG: They are amazing.
BB: I mean… Yeah, so Prentis Hemphill writes, boundaries are the distance at which I can love you and me simultaneously.
ABR: My goodness.
BG: It’s so powerful.
BB: Yeah, I think people don’t understand the relationship between boundaries and love, I don’t think people understand that I’m saying no to this, or I’m saying yes to this, or I’m saying this is not okay, and this is okay, out of a deep need for self-love, and I’m choosing something to say and ask for something hard to be able to maintain a relationship with you.
BB: That’s why I think in the parenting research, I was just thinking about this, because we just did that talk, parenting talk recently, that one of the surest ways to undermine connection with our children is to say no, just because we can. Just to say, you can’t do this, or no, or yes, you are going to do this, because I have more power and authority than you, not… That’s why Steve and I are like, we will say yes every time we can, and when we can’t, we’ll explain it, and if you need another explanation, we’ll try to reframe it and explain it and then we’re done, unless you really don’t understand.
BB: But I think boundaries is ultimately very much what Prentis writes, it’s a way that I can continue to love and respect myself, and love and respect you. So if I say, you know what, happy… The holidays are coming. Really want… Can’t wait to see you and the kids. A couple of things I’m going to have to ask. It’s okay for it to be stressful, it’s okay for things to get kind of hard sometimes, it’s not okay to break into a huge fight in front of my kids in the family, it’s not okay to drink too much, those things are not okay. What I’m trying to say is, I’m trying to find a way for us to be together.
BG: I love that.
BB: Yeah, you know… Yeah, it’s also like that parenting advice I got when Ellen was really little, and I don’t remember who told it to me, I think it was a theologian, and she said, “You know those bridges as rickety bridges with the woods kind of of the panels and then the rope sides and they swing over just thousand foot gorge below,” she said, “parenting is like sending your child across that bridge,” parenting with no boundaries is like sending your child across that bridge with no handrails. And we just know from the research that we’ve done with college aged students, that one of the greatest sources of love and security and boundaries that they literally will get competitive with one another, if we do it in a group is, tell me how strict your parents were? Tell me about the rules you had growing up? And they’ll say, “Oh my God, my parents were so strict and I couldn’t do this,” or “Oh my God, you think that’s bad, we couldn’t do this.”
BB: And then we don’t even do those focus groups anymore because of kids who grew up without any boundaries, go into such deep shame, and their translation was “No one was watching or paying attention enough to set a boundary.” So I think we miss the relationship between boundaries and love, but Prentice does not.
BG: No Prentice does not.
ABR: Prentice nailed it.
ABR: I love too… This is another great example in the book about how you circle back to previous books, like in this one you talk about The Gifts, so many times Rising Strong is brought up, I think that’s really cool. Alright, moving along, I want to learn about what new information you came to with humiliation on page 148.
BB: Yeah. I saw this meme on Instagram that said, “Science is not the truth, science is the pursuit of the truth. When scientists changed their mind, they weren’t lying to you, they’ve learned something new,” and that’s how I feel about humiliation. For a long time, I think all of us that studied the self-conscious affects shame, guilt, humiliation, and embarrassment. I think all of us kind of believed that…
BB: We believed, and I think this is still holds up, that the difference between… Let’s just do a primer real quick for everyone listening, so shame and guilt, shame, “I am bad.” Guilt, “I did something bad.” A shame is a focus on self, guilt is a focus on behavior. Shame is very highly correlated with addiction, depression, abuse, violence, aggression. Guilt, inversely. It’s so helpful when we can separate ourselves from our actions, so “I’m not stupid for getting an F, but it was a really stupid decision to not study for that test.” That’s shame and guilt. We still talk about the primary difference between shame and humiliation being the construct of deserving. So, if I’m a teacher and I shame a student and that student’S self-talk is, “God, I didn’t deserve that, that’s the meanest rotten and the most terrible teacher I didn’t deserve it.”
BB: We used to say all the time that humiliation is less dangerous than shame, because as a caregiver, it’s very likely that we’ll hear about it, because they’re not internalizing it like they would shame. If they process that as shame, “God she called me stupid, I am stupid. She’s called me stupid, I am stupid.” The problem is, if we look on 147, this is based on the research, we define humiliation as the intensely painful feeling that we’ve been unjustly degraded, ridiculed, or put down, and that our identity has been demeaned or devalued. And it’s similar to shame because we feel somehow flawed when we’re in that emotion, but again, when we’re humiliated, we don’t believe we deserved it, and the new research, this is coming from Linda Hartling, who’s the Director of a global transdisciplinary group called Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies, they call themselves the nurturers of dignity. Hartling and her colleagues describe humiliation as unjustified mistreatment that violates one’s dignity and diminishes one’s sense of self-worth as a human being.
BB: So, a collection of studies has really challenged my thinking about how detrimental and dangerous humiliation is. So, in 20… I guess 2003, Susan Harter and her colleagues issued a report that examined the media profiles of 10 prominent school shooters between 1996 and 1999. And they reported that in every case, the shooters described how they had been ridiculed, taunted, teased, harassed, and bullied by peers because of appearance or social or athletic behavior, they were spurned by someone in whom they were romantically interested or put down in front of other students by a teacher maybe, or a school administrator, and that all of these type of events led these kids to experience profound humiliation. That report prompted a series of studies by Jeff Elison and Susan Harter that found links for peer rejection, humiliation, depression, and anger with both suicidal and homicidal ideation.
BG: It’s crazy.
BB: Yeah, more important, perhaps their research suggests that bullying alone does not lead to aggression, instead, individuals who are bullied become violent specifically when feelings of humiliation accompany the bullying. I just think this has tremendous implications for how we think about humiliation, and how often humiliation is an attack against a social identity, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation. This makes humiliation dangerous.
BG/ABR (together): Yeah.
BB: And so, I think we’re getting a clearer and clearer sense of the relationship between humiliation and violence.
BG: Yeah, you write about it in the middle of page 149, in the second paragraph.
BB: Do you want to read it?
BG: “This connection between humiliation and aggression/violence explains much of what we’re seeing today amplified by the reach of social media, dehumanizing and humiliating others are becoming increasingly normalized along with violence. Now, rather than humiliating someone in front of a small group of people, we have the power to eviscerate someone in front of a global audience of strangers.”
BB: Yeah, and I just think there is a level of brutality to humiliation that again, because of social media, but also just… I don’t think we’ve seen what we’re seeing today…
BG: No, and it’s trauma.
BB: It’s trauma.
BG: The Humiliation has to be trauma…
BB: Oh, it’s such trauma. It’s so trauma and also it’s confusing because humiliation has become blood sport. So we base a lot of entertainment on humiliation, and…
ABR: I think all the way down to even cancel culture, you make a mistake, you can’t even do anything about it because…
BB: Yeah, I think it just… All of this goes back to maybe what the whole premise of the book is, is that we are human beings, that means that we are a social species, we are neuro biologically hard-wired for connection with each other, and to be in connection with self and others requires vulnerability. It requires language and it requires acknowledging the very vital, if not defining role that emotion plays in our lives.
ABR: What I… just so many things that I appreciate about Atlas, it’s just the continuous learning that I feel like every time you come out with a book, I’m always holding my breath a little bit, because I’m like, “Uh oh, I wonder what it’s going to say?” But also just so full of excitement around the new learning that we get to take with us and this book too… I imagine that it was really fun for you because there’s a lot of research in it, and I know you enjoy that, but just how beautiful it is and just then the concepts that you have started talking about a long time ago and are bringing in new research and stuff to support that, is really cool.
BG: I know you said it was life-changing to write, it was life-changing to read, to give our thank you for the gift of being able to really say how we feel, and the ability to explain it in a way I think that we’ve been confusing ourselves for years.
BB: Yeah. And I think it’s also… I appreciate your kind words and I just… There’d be no book without y’all, so, let me just…
BG: As case studies or as sisters?
ABR: Good call, good point.
BB: No, as co-collaborators. I think… No one writes a book, any kind of book without a bunch of people helping and supporting and doing, and no one writes this book without a shit ton of people, so…
BB: Yeah. And you all are my people.
BG: Thank you.
BG: And we have such an amazing team and we…
BB: The team.
BG: Do such an amazing job. Every single person, all 30 people that work for BBEARG have touched this book in some way, but guys, right turn to rapid fire.
BB: Oh, my god. It’s like… Okay so have you ever seen those TikToks of kids coming down the stairs 100 miles an hour, either sliding on their bellies with their hands in front of like Superman, or sliding backwards like. This is the face that Ashley and Barrett would get at the top of the stairs when my parents would say. “Go” on Christmas morning. Yeah, I’m scared.
ABR: Okay, do you want to do odds and I’ll do evens.
BG: Okay, great.
BG: Fill in the blank for me. Vulnerability is?
BB: Being brave with our lives and our hearts.
ABR: You are called to be very brave, but your fear is real and you can feel it right in your throat, what’s the very first thing you do?
BG: What is something people often get wrong about you?
BB: I don’t know, what is something people often get wrong about me? What do y’all think? I can only think of things like people will say on social media and stuff that hurt my feelings, and I’m like. “That’s not true about me,” but I don’t want to… That’s not…
BG: Yeah, that’s some people who don’t even know you.
ABR: I went to the same place around social media comments that I’ve seen that I just want to be like.
BG: I’m not sure people would know what a silly side you have.
BB: I’m not silly, no.
BG: Yes, you are totally silly.
ABR: Or great dance moves you have.
BB: Yeah, they underestimate my dance moves.
BG: They do.
BB: Let’s all go with that. I think that people. You know what, I think people get wrong about me, people think I’m really… This is hard for me, sometimes I disappoint people who take from my books what they want to take from my books, and they kind of de-humanize me in the process and don’t realize that, just help me on my spiritual journey and shut up about Black Lives Matter or white supremacy or immigration policy, and so sometimes what people don’t understand or what they get wrong about me is I’m a social worker.
AG: That’s right.
BB: So is Ashley, by the way.
BB: But no, and that all my work is both micro and macro.
BB: Yeah, and if we’re not… People get that wrong, people think I’m like a self-help guru kind of person when I’m just not.
BG: Well, what’s your love language?
BB: Acts of service. Unload the dish washer damn it. Put gas in my car. What’s your love language?
BG: Me too.
ABR: I mean you take my car get and gas and wash it for me…
BG: But hold on…
ABR: I’ll love you forever.
BG: Why are you shaking your head like that… Wait, we’re in rapid fire but keep going.
BB: I can just tell you that I have thoughts about that. But go ahead.
BG: That’s for another podcast. What’s the last TV show you binged and loved?
BB: Like the cool answer or the honest answer.
BG: The honest answer.
BB: You all know, I watch a lot of British mystery shows. Shetland.
ABR: Favorite movie.
BB: They couldn’t be more different, but it’s probably a tie for The Color Purple and The Sound of Music.
BG: A concert that you’ll never forget.
BG: Oh, yeah.
ABR: That’s neat.
BB: One of many U2 concerts, yeah.
ABR: Favorite meal.
BB: Golly. It’s like that movie where they die and they go to heaven… And they can eat whatever they want and not feel like…
BB: Don’t feel sick.
BB: Like I would not have to feel sick or gross. Chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes with butter, cream gravy, corn on the cob. Iced tea, lemon meringue pie.
ABR: Nailed it. That sounds so good.
BG: Oh, lemon meringue pie. Is that a nod to… Our friends in Three Pines? Okay keep going.
BB: Bonjour, je m’appelle Armand Gamache.
BG: Is it my turn?
ABR: It is.
BG: What’s on your nightstand?
BB: A heating pad [laughing]… a pickleball heating pad, lip gloss, not lip gloss. But you know like…
BB: Lip balm, a moisturizer, a lamp, a cord for my watch, a cord for my phone, and like 64 books.
ABR: Well speaking of your bedroom.
BB: Oh God. Jesus.
ABR: Do you…
BB: That wasn’t me.
ABR: Do you let Lucy sleep in bed with you when Steve’s out of town?
BB: They’re so excited to ask me this. No, I do not.
ABR: Are you sure?
BB: I’m 100%.
BG: If Lucy could talk.
BB: If Lucy could talk, she’d say. “Hell no, she doesn’t. I sleep in a crate on the floor next to the bed.”
BG: Okay, here’s your next question. Why do you think that you and Chaz always lose to me and Ashley at Euchre.
BB: That’s a bullshit question, I’ll tell you why Chaz and I always lose in Euchre to y’all and first of all, we don’t always lose.
BB: But it’s Chaz.
ABR: It is, It is.
BB: And I’ll tell you why. He cannot go more than two hands without bidding and it doesn’t matter if he’s got jack shit in his hand.
BG: This it is true.
BB: He’s going to… He’ll bid on a nine and a Queen.
ABR: And go alone.
BB: And he’ll go alone.
ABR: A snapshot of an ordinary moment in your life, that gives you true joy.
BB: Sitting on a couch or on the bed… When I’m close enough to Steve, Ellen, and Charlie that I can smell their hair.
BG: Tell me one thing you’re deeply grateful for right now.
BB: My sisters…
BG: Okay, go ahead.
ABR: Five songs.
BG: Oh no. You want to read them.
BB: My five songs from my playlist?
BG: Yeah. Go ahead.
BB: Are they going to make it on Spotify?
BB: Okay, “If I Needed You” by…
BG: Townes Van Zandt.
BB: “Amazing Grace” by…
BG/ABR (together): Willie Nelson.
BB: “Before the Last Teardrop Falls.”
BG/ABR (together): Freddy Fender.
BB: How many dimes did I put in the jukebox at Pig Stand on Broadway in San Antonio with Me-Ma. “Angel from Montgomery,” by Bonnie Raitt and John Prine when they sing it as a duet… Oh my God.
BG: Oh yeah so good.
ABR: So good.
BB: Oh My God, there’s flies in the kitchen [singing]. “Let It Be” by Carol Woods and Timothy Mitchum.
BG: So in one sentence, tell us what these five songs say about you, Brené Brown, author of Atlas Of The Heart.
BB: I think it would say she believes in God and she believes in love.
BG: I love that.
ABR: Me too.
BG: Damn So I have to say, it’s not as easy as it looks being on this side of the microphone…
ABR: I think I nailed it.
BG: That’s so funny.
BB: Thank y’all so much for spending so much time and energy and effort. Helping me love on Atlas a little bit as we put it out into the world… Y’all know, it’s a scary thing.
ABR: It is.
ABR: It is such a great book.
BG: It’s a gift.
ABR: I can’t read it with Amaya because she would read it really fast, and I like to read everything like three or four times, and she’s like “Turn the page…” “No, no, no, I’m still reading…” It’s so good, I could read it over and over.
BB: Thank you. Well, you probably will.
ABR: I know. Yeah.
BB: Thanks y’all.
BG: Thanks y’all.
ABR: Well, that was fun.
BG: It was so fun. I just wish we could ask all the rapid fires to everybody that comes on.
ABR: I know, and I like that they’re the same questions, but I also think it’d be fun to just throw in a couple, but I don’t want anyone to throw in a couple on me.
ABR: I’ll just do it on them.
BG: Exactly. Get ready again to join us next week where Brené and Ashley and I answer your questions that you submit. Guys, we have received so many questions and we just went out with the email blast last week today’s Monday. So I’m trying to figure out when we sent it out, it was on Friday, and we got 700 questions in the first two hours, so we’re really excited to dig in.
ABR: Yeah, you can find Atlas of The Heart: Mapping, Meaningful Connection and The Language of Human Experiencewherever you like to buy books, and we will put a link on our episode page, you can find Brené online on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn @brenebrown.
ABR: Oh, we need TikTok…
BG: Oh, yeah, guys.
ABR: Knock, knock, knock. Guess who’s on TikTok?
BG: We’ll have to make sure we add that here.
ABR: Yeah, and we’ll also put the links up on the episode page so… Y’all can find them there.
BG: Remember every episode of a Unlocking Us and Dare To Lead have episode pages on brenebrown.com where we have resources, downloads, and transcripts. You can sign up for our newsletter there too.
ABR: Dare To Lead podcast is also available only on Spotify every Monday, and it’s free to everyone.
BG: We’re so grateful that you’re here with us, and it was such and a fun experience to turn the tables on Brené and actually interview her. We’ll see you guys next week, right here, only on Spotify until then.
ABR: Thanks, friends.
BG/ABR (together): Stay awkward, brave, and kind.
BB: Unlocking Us is a Spotify original from Parcast, it’s hosted by me, Brené Brown. It’s produced by Max Cutler, Kristen Acevedo, Carleigh Madden, and Tristan McNeil, and by Weird Lucy Productions. Sound design by Tristan McNeil, and music is by the amazing Carrie Rodriguez and the amazing Gina Chavez.
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