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A Review of Brené Brown’s “Rising Strong” by Heather Stuart

A Review of Brené Brown’s “Rising Strong” by Heather Stuart

Book: Rising Strong : The Reckoning, The Rumble, The Revolution (Random House, 2015)

By: Brené Brown

Reviewed By: Heather Stuart

What I liked about the book:

I listened to the audiobook version of Rising Strong, as I think that Brown’s writing style lends very well to this format. What I really enjoy about Brené Brown is her ability to speak to her audience honestly and with a narrative voice that makes you feel like she is talking with you over coffee. Rising Strong is full of personal anecdotes and insights on the difficult and vital task of picking oneself up after a painful setback.

As is always the case with Brown’s writing, the book contains lots of great take-aways (e.g. the handy acronym BRAVING), and reminders that she has plenty of her own vulnerability triggers. For Brown to admit how humiliated she felt after mispronouncing the name of a public figure while giving a talk demonstrates a level of courage and openness often lacking in people who achieve a certain level of notoriety. She also speaks candidly about her own ability to escalate arguments with her partner instead of managing her anger and bidding for connection.

What I didn’t like about the book:

While I appreciate much of what Brown discusses in Rising Strong, I also got caught up on a couple of snags. The first one is that she runs the risk of becoming name-droppy in a way that is grating. When the Pixar studio became an integral part of one of Brown’s examples of getting through difficult experiences, I had to roll my eyes. By and large I think that it’s an incredibly positive thing that Brown’s ideas have resonated with such diverse audiences, however, she runs the risk (in my humble opinion!) of pandering to the wealthy and famous.

Secondly, and more importantly from a therapeutic perspective, Brown’s examples of coming through difficult circumstances and experiences are more limited than I would have expected. As Brown herself claims towards the end of her book, people who have experienced serious trauma will likely seek more intense and specific support than the book offers. People who have experienced serious setbacks can certainly use much of the bedrock of ideas in Rising Strong (again, “BRAVING” comes to mind), but I would caution that Brown’s illustrations of her concepts might feel far too inconsequential to some readers.

Some favourite quotes:

“The opposite of recognizing that we’re feeling something is denying our emotions. The opposite of being curious is disengaging. When we deny our stories and disengage from tough emotions, they don’t go away; instead, they own us, they define us. Our job is not to deny the story, but to defy the ending—to rise strong, recognize our story, and rumble with the truth until we get to a place where we think, Yes. This is what happened. This is my truth. And I will choose how this story ends.”

“There are too many people today who instead of feeling hurt are acting out their hurt; instead of acknowledging pain, they’re inflicting pain on others. Rather than risking feeling disappointed, they’re choosing to live disappointed. Emotional stoicism is not badassery. Blustery posturing is not badassery. Swagger is not badassery. Perfection is about the furthest thing in the world from badassery…People who wade into discomfort and vulnerability and tell the truth about their stories are the real badasses.”

“Just because someone isn’t willing or able to love us, it doesn’t mean that we are unlovable.”