Tag Archives: Brene Brown

Project Mayhem & Shame Club

So this post started out as a text conversation between Daisy and myself.  We were talking about shame and I joked that the first rule of shame club is know your triggers as advocated by shame researcher and expert Brene Brown and discussed in this post here.

So this got me thinking about Fight Club, and the premise of Project Mayhem, a film that I loved both for the idea and the acting cast.  What’s not to like with Brad Pitt, Edward Norton and Helena Bonham Carter and I discussed this film in the very early days of my sober journey in a post called bottle fatigue.

I think there is a connection between shame and fight club.  As described on Wikithe violence of the fight clubs serves not to promote or glorify physical combat, but for participants to experience feeling in a society where they are otherwise numb‘ and Pitt said, “Fight Club is a metaphor for the need to push through the walls we put around ourselves and just go for it“.  For me this resonates with the journey to free ourselves from shame and live authentically and wholeheartedly.

Project Mayhem & Shame Club
You’re not the contents of your glass

So I’m going to co-opt the rules of Fight Club and rewrite them for Shame Club, which in the same way that Project Mayhem was anti-materialist and anti-corporate, is actually anti-shame.

1st RULE: You TALK about SHAME.
2nd RULE: Know your triggers.
3rd RULE: Reach out to someone you trust.
4th RULE: Only two in a shame share.
5th RULE: One shame share at a time.
6th RULE: Share your story – no holding back, no blame.
7th RULE: Shame shares will go on as long as they have to.
8th RULE: If this is your first night at SHAME CLUB, you HAVE to share.

I love the anarchic idea of subverting the stiff upper lip and keep up with the Jones’ mentality and replacing it with authenticity, vulnerability and compassion.  Project mayhem becomes about how we feel not what we own (or in our case drink)  just as Tyler Durden envisioned it! 🙂

Which leaves just time for one gratuitous image of Brad Pitt in Fight Club 😉

fight club soap

Shadow comforts and feeding our spirits

So continuing on from yesterday’s post talking about Brene Brown‘s awesome book Daring Greatly we now turn to how we take care of ourselves when we realise we are numbing whether with booze or any other substance or behaviour.


Brene cites Jennifer Louden who has named our numbing devices ‘shadow comforts’.  In her book, The Life Organizer, Louden writes “Shadow comforts can take any form.  It’s not what you do; it’s why you do it that makes the difference.”  Brene argues that when we’re struggling with anxiety, disconnection, vulnerability, feeling alone and  helpless, the substances and behaviours – be it booze or food or work or endless hours online, feel like comfort but the reality is they cast long shadows over our lives.

She extends the invitation to think about the intention behind our choices and this really resonates with me and the work I’ve been doing during meditation on Headspace.  Andy asks us to reflect and focus on our intentions before each daily meditation and as I’ve been doing this for over 6 months now it is becoming part of my daily awareness.

Brene continues:

“There aren’t any checklists or norms to help you identify shadow comforts or other destructive numbing behaviour.  This requires self-examination and reflection.  But ultimately these are questions that transcend what we know and how we feel – they’re about our spirit.  Are my choices comforting and nourishing my spirit, or are they temporary reprieves from vulnerability and difficult emotions ultimately diminishing my spirit?  Are my choices leading to my Wholeheartedness, or do they leave me feeling empty and searching?

And that’s where I am.  I don’t drink anymore and the recent exercise in sugar free has been instructive.  Anything we do can be used to nourish or deplete we just need to be aware of the underlying driver.

I don’t struggle with the shame of drinking now but I do still struggle with the shame of hiding the fact that I’m in recovery.  I’m proud that I stopped but our culture stigmatises those who are daring greatly in recovery.  This is the next change that is needed and I have my intentions firmly focused on that 😉

Daring Greatly and shedding shame

So over the Easter break I read Brene Brown‘s Daring Greatly.  I felt a little guilty that it had taken me so long to get to read it as I had read her earlier books quickly and voraciously.  Maybe I needed to be ready to read it and I wasn’t until now?  Who knows but WOW.  This book was as applicable in recovery as it was when I was drinking which is when I read her first two – I was looking for an answer then but still had the glass in my hand! 😉


For me the focus has to be her work on the subject of the vulnerability shield of numbing.  Yep I had an A* in numbing and escaping myself.  In fact when I think back I’ve been trying to escape myself almost as long as I can remember.  As Rachel said recently quoting Caroline Knapp ‘same dance, different shoes’.  In childhood it was escape into books, films, sweets and chocolate.  In the teenage years it was friendships, boys and booze.  In young adulthood it was boys, sex, booze, drugs, overspending and debt and food again.  As an adult I added in over-working and ongoing study and then along came the internet!  Perfectionism was always present – perfect house, job, marriage, children, life ……..   When one substance or behaviour stopped working – I switched to another or had them all running simultaneously so I never had to come up for air or have to deal with being ‘me’.  As Brene says ‘We’re desperate to feel less or more of something – to make something go away or to have more of something else.’

So I read this chapter carefully and with great thought and reflection.  I’m going to share some of the key bits but really recommend you read the book in its entirety.  She postulates that anxiety and disconnection are also drivers of numbing in addition to trying to avoid our vulnerability and shame.  Her data described a range of experiences that included depression, loneliness, isolation, disengagement and emptiness.  And this paragraph really resonated with me:

Shame enters for those of us who experience anxiety because not only are we feeling fearful, out of control, and incapable of managing our increasingly demanding lives, but eventually our anxiety is compounded, and made unbearable by our belief that if we were just smarter, stronger or better, we’d be able to handle everything.  Numbing here becomes a way to take the edge off of both instability and inadequacy.

I read this and it was like a fire alarm going off in my head.  Ding ding ding ding ding!!

Brene continues:

For me, vulnerability led to anxiety, which led to shame, which led to disconnection, which led to Bud Light.  For many of us, the literal chemical anesthetizing of emotions is just a pleasant, albeit dangerous, side effect of behaviours that are more about fitting in, finding connection and managing anxiety.

Yep I hear you Brene …..

So her research findings from those who lived Wholeheartedly:

  1. Learning how to actually feel feelings
  2. Staying mindful about numbing behaviours (they struggled too)
  3. Learning how to lean into the discomfort of hard emotions

As regards anxiety she was quite clear that there were different types of anxiety and levels of intensity, that which was hardwired and best addressed with medication and therapy, and that which was environmental – the ‘crazy busy’ overextended and overstressed.

The solution to the environmental ones are about setting boundaries and limits to lower our anxiety and the research participants related this to worthiness with boundaries.  We have to believe we are enough to say ‘Enough’.

For me this was saying ‘Enough’ to alcohol and so I am closer to living wholeheartedly and tomorrow I’ll talk about the other shadow comforts that remain …..

PS Can I welcome a new face to my neck of the sober blogging world: https://1mum3kids0booze.wordpress.com/2015/05/31/day-148/

Go say hello 🙂

Drinking shame and our responses

So as you know I’ve been following Tami Simon’s Sounds True Self-Acceptance Project which I would really recommend!  This entire series has been so good in helping me resolve some of my lingering shame around my drinking and has helped lift my self-esteem and sense of self-worth and is completely free!


As part of this Brene Brown does a superb talk on developing shame resilience and during it she looks more closely at how we respond to shaming experiences.  In all of her lectures I’ve seen I’d never heard this before so thought it would be worth sharing here.

She describes us having three ways of responding to shame.  We:

  • move away
  • move towards
  • move against

So to move away means to hide or avoid.  This one really struck me.  When we get sick of making an arse of ourselves in public because of our drinking, we isolate.  We still have shame but it becomes a very private shame – which is perhaps worse and harder to get out of for us.  It is so corrosive to our self-worth.

To move towards means we go into people pleasing.  You know when you crawl around someone because you sense you did something wrong and you need to make amends.   You effectively creep or suck up to them.  Yep been there done that.

And then move against means you turn your shame outwards as a weapon.  Eeek done this too!  As my drinking got worse I found myself becoming more and more cynical and bitchy and cruel not just to myself inside my head but to others around me.  I wore my shame almost like a shield.

When we move against, doing any kind of self-compassion or meditative practice became impossible because I would laugh it off and belittle it as ‘woo woo’ and then drink later to cover my self-hatred for behaving and feeling like that.  I was just a massive ball of bravado with a small child crying in the middle of me who didn’t know how to get out.  Who didn’t know how to make it stop and was very afraid.

So Brene wisely says we need to build shame resilience.  For me step 1 of this was taking the leap of faith and stopping drinking.

Her 4 step guide is:

  1. Recognise your shame and your triggers.  How does it feel in your body as you will have a physical response as it is essentially a trauma response.
  2. Practice critical awareness and reality check self messages and expectations
  3. Reach out and tell your story
  4. Make amends

For Brene she says when she experiences shame she has to get away from other people and give herself 15 minutes to regroup.  In that time she doesn’t type, text or talk.  This is because this is when we are likely to act out our shame and move against whoever is around us.

I found all of this deeply reassuring and helpful as it put words to my past experience and tools to deal with it moving forward.  Did you know that I love Brene Brown’s work? 😉

What do you think?  Does any of this resonate for you too?

Edited to add: awoke to the sad and tragic news that Charles Kennedy had died.  RIP Charles and this is by far the best that I have read so far today.


Counter-intuitive actions

shame spiral

“We must share our shame” Brene Brown I so love you and what you say!! So much so I had to sneak in this extra post from you on Oprah about counter-intuitive actions because stopping drinking feels counter-intuitive at the beginning and yet it is the smartest thing for ourselves many of us can do …..

This interview is for us ladies and gents – the drinkers in the audience.  Listen to what she says and try to act on it next time you have a flush of shame whether it’s about drinking, or anything else that shames you, for that matter.

I will be 🙂

Plus the Friday sober jukebox fired up late this week!

I love Carter USM and for me this song is so apt as feeling this good without booze felt like an impossible dream.  If you are wondering if you can do this and if it is worth it believe me IT IS! Keep going, don’t give up giving up.

In the words of the song:

To dream the impossible dream,
To fight the unbeatable foe,
To bear with unbearable sorrow
To run where the brave dare not go;

And I know, if I’ll only be true
To this glorious Quest,
That my heart will lie peaceful and calm
When I’m laid to my rest.

Happy Saturday sober warrior 🙂

Brene Brown on Blame


Another cracking RSA Short featuring the voice of Brene Brown looking at blame 🙂

I am definitely a blamer.  I’m reminded of that expression that ‘when you point your finger at someone else there are three fingers pointing back at you’  ……

blame finger

But why should we give it up? In this witty sequel to our most watched RSA Short, inspirational thinker Brené Brown considers why we blame others, how it sabotages our relationships, and why we desperately need to move beyond this toxic behaviour.

God this is an enormous issue even for me now.  I may have got beyond much of my shame but growing up blame was the biggest motivator in our house.  It was someone, other than the person who was responsible for it, who felt the finger of blame.

I have become very conscious of blame talk in our house and yes it is something that kid’s do a lot if they think they are in trouble!!  That said it has been role-modeled to them by us too so we have to hold ourselves accountable for our part.

And it’s interesting that I get into that very rigid all or nothing black and white thinking when I think about this subject and I’ve just had to delete 2 other uses of the word always in this post.  I become defensive even talking about blame!!

As a born people-pleaser cough co-dependent I was used to taking responsibility and felt like the resident scape-goat much of the time.  Equally when angered, and because of this martyr complex, I would throw blame around and at others with wild abandon.

None of this is very pretty stuff which is why it’s so important to talk about it.  We’ve been working on this issue in this household for a while but it still creeps in when our emotional lids are flipped

I feel like shame and blame have to be worked on together as one leads to the other and therefore the way out of feeling badly about ourselves involves empathy and compassion shown towards both of these feelings and behaviours of ourselves.  What do you think?

Brené Brown: 3 Things You Can Do to Stop a Shame Spiral

shame spiral ecard

It’s been a while since I featured any Brene Brown and her work is so integral to the drinking and recovery journey that I thought it was long over due so you’re getting a double dose today and tomorrow! If you haven’t read my post on drinking guilt and its big brother shame you can do that here.  It continues to be my most read post even though I wrote it 14 months ago so thank you! 🙂

Brene on Oprah – there are LOTS more clips on Youtube and every time I disappear into that rabbit hole I’m gone for hours and you could be too!  Go look 🙂

The take-aways from this clip on how to stop a shame spiral:

  1. Know your shame triggers and reality check them
  2. Talk to yourself like you talk to someone you love
  3. Reach out to someone you trust
  4. Tell your story

If shame is still a huge gremlin for you then I can really recommend reading Brene’s books or watching her interviews on Youtube or now even better – she also has a course on Udemy!!  I was so delighted to be told about this course by NoMoreSally and it is on my wish list for my next sober treat.  So Brene and I are fellow Udemy instructors 😉 LOL lets face it that’s the closest I’m going to get 😀

So if you would like to do some more work on healing your shame then go here:


And tomorrow we do blame, something that is still very much a work in progress for me ……

Pride comes before a fall

I really don’t get this about myself.  So I felt some pride because I got through a shitty time and didn’t drink and the voice still starts up anyway.  You know, the ‘too big for your own boots’ and ‘pride comes before a fall’ stuff.  It makes me want to scream because I feel like I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t.

Where does this come from?  Is it just me who swings from feeling they are as worthless as something you just trod in to feeling like they are behaving like a cocky gobby upstart in the time it takes to blink?  Is this wolfie words from different angles?  I know Brene Brown talks about it as ‘foreboding joy’ and I blogged about it here.

I know it is related to practicing gratitude and I try to do that on a daily basis with my email gratitude buddy.  I know it’s because I come from a thinking pattern of shame, scarcity and fear and I rationally logically get that but when will my soul & heart catch up with my head?  I know it is related to vulnerability and the fear that it is going to be taken away.  But it is in my control damn it.  I control whether I pick up that first drink.  So why oh f**king why am I giving myself a hard time for doing well?  I emailed Belle recently saying that wolfie had donned steel toe-capped Doc Martin’s and was giving the inside of my skull a good kicking as that is what it felt like.  I said that the cacophony of self-sabotage had reached DEFCON 1 and I just wanted to check out and ‘get out of my head’.

And maybe that’s what it’s about.  I am so close to feeling like my shame, scarcity and fear is diminishing and receding that I have to try to destroy it.  Try to take the shine off of it by saying to myself it’s fragile and I’m not good enough to have this.  Trying to put myself back to Day 1 and maintaining the status quo of feeling shitty about myself.

It’s like this is wolfie’s last stand.  That if I can get to 9 months and not crack that a major milestone has been achieved.  If only in my head 😉 ……

92 days to go – hang on, it is 9 months today!!

Empathy not sympathy

Love the RSA video’s. Love Brene Brown. This video is so simple yet so powerful. If you are reading my blog because you are worried about your drinking I understand. My drinking was a problem for me too and now I’m trying to move beyond that place and that feeling. Maybe talking to me might help and If you would like to reach out and make an anonymous comment below I would love to hear it. If that is too public then please email me instead 🙂