If you’re disabled, you might find Brene Brown’s research hilariously obvious

Braving-the-Wilderness

It’s 2018 and I’m trying to get my shit on lockdown and only read things that aren’t a waste of time. The trouble is that you gotta spend time to know that you’ve wasted it–so I started the year reading Brene Brown’s new book, Braving The Wilderness, because she’s done good work on vulnerability in the past, and honestly, the wilderness sounds cool in contrast to my stuffy apt which constantly smells of cat piss.

Brown gets praised for offering self-help supported by her own research, and taking self-help into a place it doesn’t usually explore: vulnerability. She states multiple times, in every book of hers,(see IThe Gifts of Imperfection and Daring Greatly) that she is a professional researcher who has dedicated her life to said understanding of vulnerability. The funny/ironic part of this is is that she isn’t really vulnerable…not in the way that I define it. She’s privileged. She’s able-bodied, white, with a supportive husband and children. She has a team of people to bounce her ideas off of, who keep her in check and force her to grow as a person. These circumstances allow her vulnerability that is largely self-chosen and boundaried, which is… the opposite of the vulnerability that I know, as a disabled person.–the kind of vulnerability that is not chosen or researched but lived.

Some of the semi-obvious ideas that Brene discusses as if there isn’t an entire population of ppl who have lived and learned from lifetimes of vulnerability are:

  • Being vulnerable is rough but can be rewarding if you have good friends
  • Honest living is courageous and lying is easier. (actually Brene, for some of us, honest living isn’t a choice, but a matter of circumstance, because we are physically limited and thus, tangibly vulnerable)
  • Shared vulnerability is powerful (yes. There’s a reason all my friends are freaks like me. This seems so fucking obvious to me, but sure)
  • Being true to yourself is worth it. (She could’ve asked any of us if we’re true to ourselves and most of us would say yes, but not by choice, rather because society doesn’t accept us. Being true to self is all a lot of us have, duh)

After reading Braving, I’ve concluded that Brene could’ve saved herself a shitload of time and probably some research dollars, by asking disabled people how we’ve come this far. But, she didn’t. and the quality of her book suffers. She relies on a lot of the research she conducted but rarely states who her samples were and uses frequent personal anecdotes to make her arguments., which can be hard to extract from.

It’s disappointing because vulnerability research, in the form of easily digestible books such as this one, are desperately needed, but we need to start by asking people who experience lifelong vulnerabilities. Start at the margins, not at the heart of privilege.

On that negative note, Brown does make an important point about the unintuitive positive impacts of collective pain. She states that it’s just as important as collective joy, and I found that interesting enough to order Option B, which is a book on grief. If you wanna waste time sifting through it with me, it’s on Amazon for 18 bucks used. Don’t worry, this is not a paid endorsement.

option b

I swear.

 

If you know of something worth reading, let me know. Save me from my own shitty taste.

 

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The Inside Scoop on Helping

The other day I wrote a blurb called The Price of Helping. Unexpectedly, a lot of people found it relateable, and as is such, I want to unpack it further. Here’s post 2 of 1,378 on this topic.

Why We Won’t Ask

A lot of academia on vulnerability talks about pride being a major block in our ability to ask for help/ reach out/connect (which, in Brene Brown’s research, are all very interwined, though I’d beg to differ this point). Pop culture is saturated in the idea that pride is what keeps us from admitting our weaknesses to ourselves, and holds us back from connecting, professing love etc etc. Here’s the thing though: Most of the time, pride is not the problem.  At least, not the whole one. Below is one  of the things I  think explain  some of our reluctancy to ask for  help, in more detail.

The Close Connections Between Laziness, Learned Helplessness, and Legitimate Disability.

These three are bed buddies when it comes to asking for help. They’re all over each other whenever a person thinks, “Shit, I might need help with [filing my taxes], [speaking a new language], [getting a boyfriend], [finding a job]” Immediately questions about whether or not you can actually do any of these things start tumbling around. You think: “Maybe I could do my own taxes, if I actually put in the effort, but maybe I’m too lazy. Or maybe I’m actually not smart enough. Ah, it makes me feel like death just thinking about it.” These are things everyone worries about, disability or not, and it speaks to the layered nature of the reasons we don’t ask for help–we wonder where our abilities intersect with our personalities , and where we’re just fooling ourselves.

Throw disability on the table and you’ve added another layer, the layer of stereotyping and other bullshit. When it comes to disability–physical, psychological or invisible– you’ve got a mothership of a stereotype that says disabled people give up on their lives. This is properly termed under “Learned helplessness” which more specifically refers to that moment in time when you could probably do something if you tried hard enough, but for whatever reason have opted out of doing so. Specific to disability, it defaults to disabled people deciding they can’t do much of anything, and as a result, said disableds live a quiet existence full of Nothing Much.  The dilemma is similar to everyone’s dilemma around asking for help, in that it’s hard to say where our abilities end and our bad attitudes begin, but gets more complex when you throw in the dash of judgement that comes with disability. Here’s an example:

Everyday, I shower in the interest of cleanliness. Every day it’s a bitch to do so and I wish being dirty was a realistic option. Everyday my attendant (carer, person who laughs at my jokes out of politeness and helps me live another day) watches me struggle, drunk with sleep and disability, moving from chair to tub to scrubadub chair. Some days, I want nothing more than the teensiest of help moving my crazy spazzy temper-throwing legs over the lip of the tub, and sometimes I ask for help. Depending on who’s helping me, the help will either be given or not. Some will look at me firmly and say, “You can do it.” Others will gleefully oblige, laughing at my zombie-state, and move my legs for me. Point is this: My disability is fluid (as disabilities are), there are good days and bad. Sometimes my spasms are worse if I’m angry, upset or highly emotional. Sometimes I’m just asleep. And sometimes, I’m a lazy motherfucker.

But every time, I’m reluctant to ask for help. I’m reluctant because of the judgement that fuels an “I know you can do this.” Because maybe if I ask, you might think I’m falling into a slump, as wheelies do.You might think I’m gaining weight (heaven forbid), you might judge me as a faker who makes their disability out to be worse than it is, and then I’d be considered disabled aaand “crazy”. All this considered, sometimes it’s just not worth the ask.

From where I am, it’s crucial that we examine the ways in which we judge ability, disabled or not, when looking to gage legitimate need. Think twice about what you think you know about the person asking for your aid, and why you feel the need to decide what is acceptable to help with.Chances are, if the person has willed the courage to ask, they are very much in need.