Dr. Brené Brown discusses isolation and vulnerability

Brené Brown speaks to a sold-out audience in Macky Auditorium. Nov. 8, 2017 (Hanna Galimanis/CU Independent)

We are facing a spiritual crisis of disconnection that in order to overcome, we must be willing to be vulnerable and reach out to those different from us, said Dr. Brené Brown.

Brown, a scholar and social worker famous for her viral TED Talk and multiple books about the science of vulnerability, gave a sold-out lecture at CU’s Macky Auditorium Wednesday night. The talk was hosted by the Distinguished Speakers Board and promoted Brown’s latest book, Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone.

Brown explained that she began working on this book after realizing how disconnected and polarized people were from each other. She described our current age as one of “high loneliness,” borrowing a term from Bluegrass music. She stated that Americans are more ideologically and politically divided than ever before and the lack of community was deeply damaging to people’s well-being.

“Loneliness is a threat to our survival,” Brown said.

She said that the current political climate and the increasing fear of terrorism has caused people to turn on each other. People are driven by the questions “what am I supposed to be afraid of today” and “who’s fault is it?” Her book focuses on four principles to combat disconnection, including “people are hard to like close up — move in” and “speak truth to bullshit — be civil.”

She spoke about how dehumanization is the malicious form of disconnection and urged the audience not to dehumanize people on the opposite end of the political spectrum of them.

She also discussed dehumanization in the context of racism, voicing support for the Black Lives Matter movement as the most important movement combating dehumanization today. She called for more nuance in conversations around police violence and protests, saying that any rhetoric that paints an either/or view of police or veterans versus activists is inherently flawed.

A resident of Houston, Brown described Hurricane Harvey as “devastating” and shared photos of her street covered in multiple feet of water. However, she said that in the midst of the disaster she witnessed a vision of genuine human connection as people helped each other, regardless of ideological beliefs.

Partway through the lecture, a woman suffered a medical event. The talk was halted for about 10 minutes while she was assisted by medical personnel and an ambulance was called. Brown calmed the audience down, asking everyone to stay in their seats unless they were medical professionals and to pray or send good wishes to the woman. The audience clapped as paramedics wheeled the woman out of the auditorium. A member of the CU Police Department confirmed that the woman was not in serious medical danger and will recover.

Brown described this as the hardest book tour of her career, and said that it is the first tour where people have walked out of her lectures. She said that she will continue to speak because she believes that her work is important and that self-worth isn’t something to be found externally.

“You can’t walk through the world looking for confirmation that you’re not enough, because you will always find it,” Brown said. “We don’t negotiate our belonging or our self-worth.”

Sold-out audience in Macky Auditorium waits for Brené Brown to speak. Nov. 8, 2017(Hanna Galimanis/CU Independent

Contact Senior News Editor Carina Julig at carina.julig@colorado.edu.

Carina Julig

Carina Julig is the senior news editor at the CU Independent. A SoCal native, she is a sophomore at CU majoring in journalism and political science and minoring in space. Follow her on twitter at @CarinaJulig.

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