Well-Being

Web Therapy

“Author and vulnerability researcher” Brene Brown

“Author and vulnerability researcher” Brene Brown

YEARS AGO, A FRIEND’S article for The Washington Post called the D.C. area “Therapyland,”  because of the abundance of local options.  Nevertheless, when my high school friend Marjory who lives in Montana visits her in-laws here a few times a year, she brings me cutting-edge mind/body alternatives from a different source, YouTube.

Hot from Marjory’s June trip comes the YouTube physical therapy phenom Eric Goodman with his Foundation Training, which soothed her husband’s bad back pain for the first time in years.  Marjory’s own latest enthusiasm was for Brene (pronounced like Renee) Brown, self-described “author and vulnerability researcher,” whom I had heard about in passing from local friends but never investigated.  [Disclaimer: I almost never watch YouTube or TED talks even when close friends send links, because I’m usually toggling between over-due work or hard-core procrastination on Words With Friends.)

Thinking physical fixes are usually quicker, I started with Foundation Training.  I chose Goodman’s longest one for better comparison to the Brene Brown videos, which are all about 20 minutes. The 11:59 Foundation Training, at last count with 414,153 views, however, was far too advanced, so back to the 4:41 length “Better Posture in 4 Minutes.”  The best aspects are that it’s short and free; the worst, that it’s still difficult.  Then there’s “Prone Decompression” at 4:16, which at first looks easier because you’re lying down, is also short and free, but is almost impossible for me to do.  Of course, turns out that if you really want Goodman’s system to work, you are encouraged to purchase the video, for $60, and to devote time every day to the exercises.  So no quick fix.  Also, checking with a local movement therapist, I learned that having a professional help you do the exercises correctly makes an enormous difference.

On to the mental and emotional, for which I chose Brene Brown’s talk, “The Power of Vulnerability,” at 20:50, with 2,329, 830 views to date.  Although she has done her share of edgy emotional experiences from past-life regressions to EST, my friend Marjory said of Brown, “I feel like we’re all so armored and defended and that being vulnerable is truly a place of power.”

Despite the length of her talks, Brene Brown is enjoyable to watch because she moves quickly through topics, speaks matter of factly and keeps returning to her years as a researcher as the source of her ideas. Some ideas that struck me: people who feel worthy have a strong sense of love and belonging; and the rest of us try to combat not feeling worthy enough by pleasing and performing for others.  She had one “trick” I liked called the “spinning ring:” when she’s asked to do something like bake dozens of cookies for her child’s class party, she spins the ring on her finger to take time for reflection before answering.  The reflecting mostly concerns how resentful she will feel if she says yes, a resentment that will heat up around midnight when she is still baking those cookies.

Of course, as with Goodman, to really learn from Brown’s ideas requires a much greater commitment.  My D.C. friend Serena, who took the 12-week online course ($129) which includes weekly art projects, felt that “some of her insights have been incredibly valuable for me.”  Among the take-aways: to distinguish between when I am comforting myself and when I am merely numbing myself – which, Brown points out, we do with mindless activities like eating.  Another: to avoid shame, which comes from feeling that we are flawed, and is driven by a desire to look good for others, instead look for a place where we truly belong and are accepted for who we are.

Although I haven’t signed up for long-term versions of either, I do appreciate knowing Goodman and Brown are there when I need them, just a few clicks away.  And I look forward to Marjory’s upcoming visits for catching future waves of online gurus.

–Mary Carpenter

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