Dr. Brené Brown is a professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, and a researcher who has spent years studying, writing, and speaking about vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame. The video below of her 2010 TEDx Houston talk, The Power of Vulnerability, is one of the top five most viewed TED talks in the world, with over 19 million viewers. If you haven't seen it, or haven't seen it lately, it may be the most inspiring and best spent 20 minutes of your day.
Brené's latest book, Rising Strong, is scheduled for release this week. In describing Rising Strong, she writes, “If we are brave enough, often enough, we will fall. This is a book about what it takes to get back up.”
When people first make the decision to enter therapy, they often feel and say things like, "I thought I could figure this out myself, but I can't" or "I swallowed my pride and called to schedule an appointment." These statements reflect an underlying sense of shame and weakness that people feel about needing or asking for professional help. This is understandable given that people often seek out therapy when they are feeling at their most stuck, most lost, or most disconnected from the people and activities they love and the person they want to be.
But as a therapist, from the other side of the couch as it were, I have a very different response the people I am privileged to work with in psychotherapy. I am amazed by their courage in facing fears and challenges, by their wisdom in understanding that they don't have to do it alone, and by the hopefulness inherent in reaching out for help. Making the decision to enter therapy reflects the determination to make a change, and the hope that one's relationships and future can be better.
Margarita Tartakovsky recently interviewed psychologists and other mental health professionals to shed light on Why Seeing a Therapist Makes You Strong, Not Weak.
Seeking professional help is a courageous, compassionate and smart decision. Seeking help takes self-awareness, work and commitment. It means confronting challenges and working to overcome them — whether you’re seeking help because you have a mental illness or you’re feeling stuck. Aren’t these the very signs of strength?
Read more of Margarita's article on PsychCentral here.
Many who struggle with social anxiety can tell you that anxiety creates a vicious cycle. The mere thought of interacting with others and imagining how others might negatively judge or evaluate them creates often overwhelming anxiety. If they enter a social interaction in this anxious state they may find themselves more likely to have difficulty joining conversation or interacting comfortably with others. This may bring about uncomfortable social interactions and real or perceived negative evaluations by others, which serves to confirm their fears and may lead them to withdraw from this and future social interactions.
While a reported 7% of the population struggles with social anxiety, the anxiety and fear of judgement often prevents people from reaching out for help. This is particularly a shame as social anxiety responds well to a variety of therapeutic interventions.
But new research by Jennifer Trew and Lynn Alden published in the journal Motivation and Emotion suggests that acts of kindness may effectively break the cycle of social anxiety. In this study, socially anxious participants focused on their own active positive role in a social interaction (performing an act of kindness) and on the other as someone in need, rather than on how they imagined others might respond to or judge them. This led to positive reinforcement in the interaction during which others responded positively to the participants with gratitude, which in turn challenged the participants' negative expectations for this and future social interactions. The participants who engaged in positive social interactions related to their acts of kindness were significantly less likely to avoid social interactions in the weeks that followed. It's a win-win!
Read more about Trew and Alden's study here.
Learn more about social anxiety and social phobia here.
About the Author
Clinical psychologist Dr. Kristy Novinski contributes insights, book and film reviews, discussions of pop culture, and exploration of news and research in the field of psychology.