Researcher Brené Brown became an overnight celebrity after she gave a TED Talk about vulnerability and shame that has been viewed over nine million times.
Everything she says about vulnerability and shame can be directly applied to survivors of child sex abuse. As a researcher, she states that it is a scientific fact that connection is the basis for human life and shame unravels connection. That spells problems for us survivors, because our most powerful emotion is shame. She goes on to say that shame makes us feel as though we are not worthy of connection.
Welcome to my world and that of many survivors who are working through a healing process. At times, we can feel unworthy—unworthy of love; unworthy of joy; unworthy of the good things in life. My life looked more like a battlefield than a playground or a park. My perceived strength was really coming from fear, because there was no way I was going to let anyone ever get the upper hand on me again. Show no vulnerability and give no quarter.
Ms. Brown tells us that vulnerability is not weakness, but is in fact strength. It is through the strength to risk vulnerability that we find connection, growth and joy. What that says to me is that I have watched life from behind my protective walls and lived closed off from the beauty that is all around, yet never touched it. That is no doubt why people commented on how serious I always seemed to be. By cutting off my pain I also cut off the good feelings in life.
I began my healing by telling my story to a therapist. In hindsight I realize that took real courage. I began shedding my shame a piece at a time. Once the walls built by my shame started coming down, I began feeling lots of emotions. In letting go of my fear, I found courage to tell my story and risk being imperfect (vulnerable) in the world. I have lived a linear life, only deviating from the line to go around obstacles. My life now is circular. I find amazing connections that come around when they are needed. Life can be so much more than a race down field When we are strong enough to be vulnerable we find that everything is connected and in living those connections is a life of truth, worth and joy. And yes, it includes tears and pain as well, but it is good just to feel after living numb for so long.
My wife and I got a wedding present a million years ago and it was a ceramic turtle with a small tag on it that said “Behold the turtle, he makes progress only when he sticks his neck out.” May you find the strength to risk being vulnerable, tell your story, and in doing so find yourself, and all life has to offer.
Speaker, author and advocate for victims of child sexual abuse Randy Ellison, himself a victim as a teen, says he works on the issue because “we can’t stop the cycle of abuse unless it is not just acknowledged, but talked about, understood and prevented.” Author of the book Boys Don’t Tell: Ending the Silence of Abuse, Ellison is a child sexual abuse victim’s advocate and an activist promoting cultural change on this issue working with local, state and national organizations addressing abuse prevention and awareness.
Ellison is a founding member and former board president of Oregon Abuse Advocates and Survivors in Service, OAASIS. Working with OAASIS he has helped pass groundbreaking legislation in Oregon on child sex abuse. He is also a member of the Oregon Attorney General’s Sexual Assault Task Force.
1in6′s mission also includes serving family members, friends, and partners by providing information and support resources on the web and in the community.
The views expressed above are not necessarily those of the Joyful Heart Foundation or 1in6.