In an era dominated by social media, the urge to compare our lives to others’ is at times irresistible. So is the temptation to post only the good stuff – or at least the stuff that looks good. “Everybody’s living in this fake social media world, but nobody’s taking pictures of themselves crying in the middle of the night or eating a gallon of ice cream,” says Cary Hamilton, owner of Olympia Therapy. “There’s a level of pretense out there that a lot of people are really struggling with.”
Help is at hand in the form of a series of Brene Brown workshops Hamilton will begin offering this fall. Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston, is the author of six bestselling books on shame, vulnerability, courage and empathy. Millions have watched Brown’s TED Talk or seen her Netflix special The Call to Courage. Hamilton was one of the last select groups accepted for specialized training in May provided only to licensed counselors and doctors. “It was for anyone in a helping profession with a license to practice,” she explains.
Once her six-month candidacy phase ends, Hamilton can facilitate small groups, couples, teens, or any other mix of people in three Brene Brown programs: Daring Greatly, Rising Strong and The Gifts of Imperfection. By November she’ll also have completed her training to conduct the BOLD program specifically for teenagers.
Each workshop has a slightly different focus. “Gifts of Imperfection is all about how to live a courageous life, be you,” Hamilton says. “It’s about understanding where your shame is at a foundational level and how to work through the eleven guideposts of wholehearted living.” Daring Greatly is more about showing up, being seen and living bravely, establishing boundaries and learning to be vulnerable, be all in. Rising Strong explores how to fail and how to rise above failure, to rise strong.
Hamilton can do various workshop formats. The first will be a 4-week series of one evening per week for two hours, starting in mid-September. With possibly another group on a Friday evening/half day Saturday intensivee. Regardless of its shape, each workshop will be group-based. “Doing this work in a group is always much more powerful than doing it individually because it holds accountability and consistency,” she notes. “People are actually practicing being vulnerable and having trust. They’re putting themselves out there and showing up, which is what Brene Brown’s work is all about.”
Like Brown’s, Hamilton’s interest in shame and resilience is longstanding. One of her graduate school thesis was on shame and its impact on family systems. At the time, little data or research on the topic existed, in part because shame is so stigmatized in western society. Unbeknownst to her, however, Brown was simultaneously researching the same topic.
“I was doing my thing and then her first book popped up, ‘I Thought It Was Just Me,’” Hamilton recalls. “It explains all of the doctoral thesis work she did on defining what shame is and how it came about. I thought, ‘Yes! Someone actually did what I wanted to do.’” She’s followed Brown’s work ever since, ensuring that her clients clearly understand shame resiliency in their individual work often having them read “Daring Greatly.”
While Hamilton has always integrated shame-based work into her therapy, the training brings an added level of credibility and support. “Now I’ve got a curriculum that actually has the research behind it to say this is worthwhile and to not be afraid to do it,” she says. “Even in the counseling field, shame really isn’t talked about often. We know it exists and it’s systemic, but avoiding it means we’re not addressing what’s at the core of everybody’s challenge.”
Brown and Cary believe that shame is both a universal experience and a useful entry point through which to explore clients’ strengths, identities and struggles. “If we can just address the shame, you don’t need to do the deep therapy work in other areas, because it is often based in the shame,” Hamilton maintains. “It’s huge and we’ve all got it. The number one thing that makes it go away is talking about it. Therefore, let’s all start talking about it so we can live in a healthy way where we’re actually being our true selves.”
Another result of the training: Hamilton can now facilitate Daring Greatly, Rising Strong or Gifts of Imperfection workshops in schools, offices, businesses or wherever else the demand takes her. “It gives me a much bigger reach than just being a therapist,” she says. “That’s really what I wanted.”
It’s too early to tell what impact such work will have on the community as a whole, but Hamilton knows what she’d like to see. “It would be a huge gift to have a community that’s not in defense mode all the time,” she says. “Fear is dominating our society right now and it has us making choices that we wouldn’t be making otherwise. It would be much more productive to be able to say, ‘This is me. I fail, I’ve made mistakes. Here’s what I’ve learned from them and here’s what I’m going to do differently.’ I’m human and there is a different way.”