I received this quotation in an email this morning from my daughter.  It came to her through a work related source.  The first time I read it I thought, “OK, I can understand this.”  I even sent it on to a friend who is super invested in understanding the complexities of the human shame reaction.

Then I went on to do other things for an hour or so, and this piece nagged at my mind so I went back to read it again.  Here is what my daughter forwarded to me:


All About Connections – April 5, 2013

By the time you’re a social worker for 10 years, what you realize is that connection is why we’re here. It’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives. This is what it’s all about…. The ability to feel connected, is — neurobiologically, that’s how we’re wired — it’s why we’re here.” This comment comes from Brene Brown in her TedTalk,”The Power of Vulnerability“. Here is a bit more from her remarks:

So I thought, you know what, I’m going to start with connection. Well, you know that situation where you get an evaluation from your boss, and she tells you 37 things you do really awesome, and one thing — an ‘opportunity for growth?’ And all you can think about is that opportunity for growth, right? Well, apparently this is the way my work went as well, because, when you ask people about love, they tell you abo ut heartbreak. When you ask people about belonging, they’ll tell you their most excruciating experiences of being excluded. And when you ask people about connection, the stories they told me were about disconnection.

So very quickly… I ran into this unnamed thing that absolutely unraveled connection in a way that I didn’t understand or had never seen…. And it turned out to be shame. And shame is really easily understood as the fear of disconnection: Is there something about me that, if other people know it or see it, that I won’t be worthy of connection? The things I can tell you about it: it’s universal; we all have it. The only people who don’t experience shame have no capacity for human empathy or connection. No one wants to talk about it, and the less you talk about it the more you have it. What underpinned this shame, this “I’m not good enough,” which we all know that feeling: ‘I’m not thin enough, rich enough, beautiful enough, smart enough, promoted enough.’ The thing that underpinned this was excruciating vulnerability, this idea of, in order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen, really seen….

“…Let me tell you what we think about children. They’re hardwired for struggle when they get here.  [ME:  NO NO NO NO!!  THIS IS SO NOT CORRECT!  WHY SO NEGATIVE?]  And when you hold those perfect little babies in your hand, our job is not to say, ‘Look at her, she’s perfect. My job is just to keep her perfect — make sure she makes the tennis team by fifth grade and Yale by seventh grade.’  That’s not our job. Our job is to look and say, ‘You know what? You’re imperfect, and you’re wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.’ That’s our job. Show me a generation of kids raised like that, and we’ll end the problems I think that we see today.”


OK, that being said….  Now, I admit I am not going to watch the piece I included an active link to that is evidently the source for the above.  I wouldn’t waste my time doing so.  I am responding only to my take of the words forwarded to me. 

I don’t agree.  In fact, I believe the opposite!

Humans are hardwired for struggle if they HAVE to be.  That kind of hardwiring, in my thinking, comes to us ONLY through degrees of unsafe and insecure early attachment when our primary infant caregivers (especially) do not make sure we are well and happy whenever possible (in appropriate ways).

The human opioid systems are well in place within our body before we are born.  This is our FEEL GOOD SYSTEM.  We are designed to FEEL GOOD — NOT BAD!  Our natural opioid systems take care of us just fine if they are not interfered with – and unsafe and insecure early infant attachment relationships interfere BIG TIME!

Humans are designed to be healthy and happy – NOT TO STRUGGLE.  Struggle comes from the very imperfect world we live in — that will change very soon!  Once we decide we want a better world, we will have one.

Meanwhile, each infant born (with a few unfortunate exceptions) is designed to live in a loving, peaceful, cooperative, “connected” world.  We are designed when things go optimally in our earliest development to grow to be (on the physiological level most importantly) FLEXIBLE beings who can adequately and appropriately deal with CHANGE.

Life does include struggle – but being hardwired to flexibly handle changes – even traumatic ones later on in life – is not the same thing in my mind as being “wired for struggle.”  Why take the NEGATIVE position that denies us our birthright to be happy, well – and yes, connected?  We are a social species.  Of course we are wired for connection.  It’s called community.  It’s called attachment.

Only when early relationship trauma changes the way our body develops do we become “hardwired for struggle.”  That is not our natural state.  We are designed to be healthy, happy and socially connected harmonious beings – if we are given what we need during our infancy and childhood to develop optimally.  When early trauma changes development one of the key areas of change is the set point of equilibrium in our body – that is supposed to be set under optimal early conditions – for peaceful calm.

This article is talking about early trauma survivorship and what it does to CHANGE the body from optimal development – and the speaker does not even seem to know it!

SEE these two VERY important online articles by Dr. Allan N. Schore:


Attachment and the regulation of the right brain*

And see this one by Dr. Martin H. Teicher:


And this:

*Notes on Teicher

And this also by Dr. Martin H. Teicher:

Abuse and Sensitive Periods

And this by Dima:

Brain and Development affected after Child Abuse


An online search using these terms in combination will yield some fascinating related facts:

–  placental opioid-enhancing factor

–  placenta opioid

–  natural opioids breast milk

–  opioids placenta breastfeeding

–  Scholarly articles for opioids human attachment

–  The brain opioid theory of social attachment:  a review of the evidence – by A.J. Machin1) & R.I.M. Dunbar


The following posts are just a few on this blog that are related to our internal opioid system – and include information about what goes wrong when there is trauma in an infant’s first attachment relationships that changes how this system operates:














*Endocannabinoids, Digestion, Food Intake, Energy Balance

*Endocannabinoid Protection and Regulation

*Endocannabinoid System, Fear and Anxiety

*Endocannabinoids – Fertility, pregnancy, lactation, infants and children




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  1. I need to give a reference to one of my bullet points in my previous comment:

    The article that inspired me to ask the question in my post a few minutes ago:

    – Is Brown’s anger level and public blasts helpful to shamed people?…

    …can be accessed from a recently post Brown did on her blog. You can find the blog by searching her name. The post is titled, “Public Shaming is a Better Example of “If it feels good-do it” Than Teen Pregnancy.” It was posted on her blog on March 20,2013.

    Please do not misunderstand. I am in agreement with Brown about the advertising being shaming, hurtful and totally unhelpful. My problem is with Brown’s double message to her audience.

    Brown empathizes with those who feel shame in her books and interviews. She has a prescription to help you end shame….but here in this post, what I hear is that it is OK to shame others if they are doing something wrong. It is OK to blast out at others if they are responsible for shaming advertising or do something that is in your judgment wrong. To me, it sounds like shaming the people responsible for the shaming advertising…and that Brown is perfectly comfortable shaming others.

    Feels like a double message to me. Confusing.

    Seems like someone working to empathize with people who feel shame and reduce or eliminate shame from the culture (as if that could be done), would not go about shaming others???

    And I am making an assumption that screaming at people in a blog post is shaming others, it might not be. Just thinking of times I’ve been yelled at verbally or in written communication, it has been shaming at times.

    The message I hear her saying is, “Empathically, I am helping you with your problems with shame, do this to make it feel better and then….it is perfectly OK to shame other people if they do something wrong.”

    There are a lot of comments on that post. I read many of them. There are a number of people who are challenging her, especially on the new word definitions she makes up.

    Judging by what she said on Oprah, negative comments hurt her. I totally disconnected when I read the post I mentioned above, because she is doing to others exactly what she said was so hurtful to her over on the recent Oprah interview. So many double messages from what I see coming out from this.

    so this is about enough from me for one day. Linda, thank you for the space to air this out. I look forward to knowing both of you. Thank you.

    • Hello, Terri. I believe Sandy is currently traveling — so might be a little delay before he gets to read what you wrote. I am fine with such conversation on the blog here — just so you know.

      I also understand that 99% (my guess) of commenters do not use real names. Of course, all of this is personal choice to everyone — but you are more than welcome here!

      Just a word — I buy very few books, very low income, so when I do buy one it’s because I HOPE it will prove most useful. I am OFTEN disappointed! The books/shipping costs are not cheap!


      The Silent Past and the Invisible Present: Memory, Trauma, and Representation in Psychotherapy (Relational Perspectives… by Paul Renn and Judith Guss Teicholz (Jan 22, 2012)


      I didn’t get past the 4th page!!!! DOUBT is what I detect most quickly! Anything that anyone in the “self-help” related fields writes that introduces so much of a single shred, the tiniest HINT of self-doubt into the reader is — well, now that this is MY blog — I will say — of the EVIL bent.

      I don’t care how important they think their writing is, or how evolved and informed (blah blah) an author believes they are — even if their attitude and wrong and misleading info is due to a mistake — either they are accountable/responsible or they are not.

      This book essentially proposes that under no circumstances are memories OF childhood to be considered 100% valid. According to Dr. Renn, it is correct to say a memory is ABOUT childhood but not FROM childhood.

      blah blah


      OK, then there’s this one:

      Your Secret Self: Illuminating the Mysteries of the Twelfth House by Tracy Marks (Mar 1, 2010)

      Well, obviously a writer is free to say anything. I was not tricked or coerced into buyng this — but it is a waste of my time. I would say at least 75% of this book is unwaveringly negative! WHY? Horrible.


      then there was this one:

      Understanding the Borderline Mother: Helping Her Children Transcend the Intense, Unpredictable, and Volatile Relationship — Christine Ann Lawson (Author) mine is the 2000 edition —

      Of all the many thousands of pages posted on Stop the Storm blog my post on this book is the ONLY one I removed. Talk about HATE mail! I spoke my truth – take a look (or not, better yet) beginning on page 168 — where this writer stated:

      It is only a matter of time before the borderline’s no-good daughter becomes a borderline mother herself.”

      Yes, I stand by my initial posted reaction to this statement: It is evil. This does not make the PERSON who stated it evil. The “action” of writing that statement is evil. I would never recommend this book to anyone under any circumstances! Now, if the diehard Lawson fans find this comment section — be assured I will immediately delete any comment they post. I will not argue.


      enough said on my end. I think madness encircles the globe and many people are incapable of telling the difference between the truth and a lie. But, then, many of us can make this distinction at a speed faster than the movement of light.

      • I wish to correct myself here. I breezed thru the email info my daughter sent me too fast and on first take let those words slide by “as if” they were good and true. But as those words sat somewhere outside my conscious focus of thoughts they nearly IMMEDIATELY began to make me literally feel sick inside.

        That is the power toxic words and ideas have in my world — to HOPEFULLY make me pay immediate attention to the “virus” I have allowed to enter “my system.” It was my too-quick, sloppy take on what I read that hooked me — I own that. But, then, I have been at this process of sorting truth from fiction when it comes to trauma and abuse survivorship for a LONG time. I COULD have paid more attention — no shame!

    • Posts on this blog related to what WE need to know — and have a hard time finding re: our healing:















  2. Terri, I share your concerns about some parts of Brene Brown’s take on the subject of shame…and I’m interested in hearing in more detail why you think she’s putting out damaging materials…

    I have mixed feelings about her ‘message.’ As someone who’s been trying to understand the subject of shame since discovering Gershen Kaufman’s great book: “Shame: The Power of Caring” in 1985, and realizing that someone had finally named my affliction, I welcome almost any attention brought to the subject.

    Shame has been so neglected and misunderstood for so long, in not just the general culture but also in the worlds of psychology and psychotherapy, sometimes I’m just happy to see it get some attention, even if I don’t always fully agree with the perspective being put forth.

    I’ve watched both of Brene Brown’s TED talk presentations. After her most recent one started getting a lot of attention, I noticed that TED allows anyone who wants to the opportunity of starting a discussion about any given talk. As an experiment, I began one on the TED page, and for a few weeks it attracted some attention.

    My goal was to try to deepen the discussion, because as much as I like seeing almost anyone out there bringing attention to the subject, I don’t find Brene Brown’s work to be nearly as deep or complete as people like Gershen Kaufman, Donald Nathanson, and others, most of whom who began to learn about shame from the work of Silvan Tomkins, the developer of Affect Theory (I’d bet big money that you’ve never heard of Tomkins – his work hasn’t been .
    accorded anywhere near the attention it deserves).

    I found that most of the people who participated on the page I started seemed to be confused by what I was trying to convey. Many seemed to be of the belief that they had once felt shame but had ‘overcome’ it’s negative effects on their life – and insisted that they no longer felt shame at all –

    So I especially disagree with Brown’s assertions that shame is something we should try to rid ourselves of – she has a complicated argument that guilt is healthier than shame, and that while shame may have been evolutionarily useful for humans long ago, it no longer serves us, etc.

    I’m certainly in favor of healing from the kinds of excessive shame that so many of us have been subjected to. But the only people I know who never feel shame are sociopaths. I think shame is inevitable and ubiquitous in human life. It’s certainly a potential in every single human interaction

    My response to that is: good luck with the project of ‘ridding’ yourself of shame. I believe it is as deeply hard-wired into humans as our attachment system is. From my POV, Brown makes a contribution by addressing shame at all, but then adds confused ideas about shame to the conversation. She’s very
    ‘media-genic,’ and so brings shame me into the spotlight, which is good…but then proceeds to make proclamations about the nature of shame that I believe are incorrect…which is not so good.

    Well, I’ve rambled on quite a bit here – and could talk about this for hours and days; and will be happy to have an ongoing discussion. But I’d also really like to know more specifically what your concerns are…

    • Ah, Sandy, thank you very much for this invitation to discuss Brene Brown, shame and related. I will LOVE to have this conversation and surely be benefitted greatly. I have gone to the TED page that you set up to have a conversation about this. Your comments impressed me greatly. You are learned on this subject both experientially and book knowledge. In addition, you are most respectful of fellow humans and where they are on this journey.

      Yes, of course I will want to give you more background so you know where I am coming from and some of my experience. I am not certain Linda’s blog is the appropriate place for a long conversation if it went to that. We would need to ask her.

      And something very important to me is my reluctance to share on a public forum. I’ve been hurt badly by folks because of stigma. I’m looking for a job and do not want a discussion like this in public. Isn’t that sad? I know. Email would be fine. Or a public forum using a pseudo name which feels dishonest to me. (Shamed and hurting people don’t deserve to have someone lie to them, even if it is something like changing my name to protect me.) So, I probably would speak more vaguely if we stay here for the discussion.

      Finally, I have a deadline to get a project done here. So I can’t get into this very deep for a few days.

      I’ve just tried to answer your inquiry about why I feel Brown is putting out damaging materials. For me, it isn’t a short answer question. Here are a some points:

      – I need to qualify that I am angry about being lured into buying 2 of Brown’s books recently, so my discussion is more emotionally critical of what she is putting out rather than an intellectual evaluation.

      – I bought Brown’s first book and found it personally and worldly meaningful. She opened the conversation. It seemed promising to me. I was better after having read it. I felt validated. I felt I was not so alone with this. I love how she researches, interviewing people and putting the work together.

      – Now I feel she is exploiting the subject, making lighter of shame than it is and worse making light of how you can just make it vanish, and now exploiting her audience, those that are greatly elevating her lifestyle and retirement account by buying her books, etc. And misleading people. I think she is abusing her academic reputation to make what she “thinks” have more merit than it does. She puts way too much emphasis on herself. I sense the ego being the size of TEXAS, which says a lot. I’ve lived there.

      – Is Brown’s anger level and public blasts helpful to shamed people?

      -Double messages. “Please buy my books and learn all about your shame, learn what I “think” will fix you right up and then feel perfectly fine to go out and shame other people when they do something “wrong” in your judgment” Oh, I have a big discussion about that with a good example of the double message.

      – She has created and readily spits out new definitions for words. Repeatedly, in interviews and in her books, she tells how she defines many words. I’ve looked them up in the dictionary. Her definition does not match the dictionary definition. And others are challenging her on that.

      So what, you say. Well, to me, if you change the definition of words, don’t you invite confusion? So, what do the abusers do, they use confusion to avert attention from their abusive behavior and to gain access to abuse you. I’m not at all implying Brown is an abuser. I’m saying that people who have shame are already predisposed to unclear communication. We already have to work hard to not be confused. There can be a certain disorientation that goes along with it too. So changing the meanings of words and using them often in your writing and speech sets it up for shamed people to feel more shame when they can’t understand what is being said. I just think to be more helpful to the people she is purportedly helping, it would be more effective to use common definition of words to reduce more potential confusion.

      – I see bait and switch…a.k.a. fraud. I don’t think it started out that way. I think the marketers did that. I think she is now participating more than she did in the beginning. I could speak on this in several long conversations. I need to leave it as a bullet point here.

      – The 10 Guideposts that she made up sound good, virtuous and desirable. But they don’t go together very well. That is not so problematic until people try to live like that and find they can’t. The 10 Guideposts are really are quite idealized and impossible to obtain. Sets readers up for failure…then the victim is blamed. “Oh, so you couldn’t get it from my first book, (blame and shame on you) It’s OK, I’ve just written another book just for you. You will be able to get this new way to live if you go get my newest book.” Oh and there will be others, other authors, other books on the same subjects flood the bookstores. Classic book marketing behavior. The sad thing is it works.

      Again, I think Brown was sincere in the beginning. Now I think it is all over the board and not all that helpful to people, and even damaging because people spend their money on this, invest their hopes in it, give it a lot of time and end up being about in the same place they were, maybe with a little less feeling of worth. If what is being suggested worked and people could do this work on their own, then that would be fine. When it is lofty and impossible, we’re left not feeling quite as good about ourselves because we didn’t get the promised pay off. Or people go into denial and claim to have results that they actually don’t have. Lies usually make people feel guilty last time I checked. Hearing others say they got it, their lives changed, in turn makes the people who didn’t get it feel even worse.

      – I don’t think you can just decide you aren’t going to have shame anymore or that you are going to get it off you, follow Brown’s prescribed 10 Guideposts and be all fixed up.

      – I have many more thoughts on the subject.

      Thank you again for this invitation to have this discussion! I look forward to other conversations.

      Good day!

  3. Linda, This post was what got me reading your blog more regularly and later making comments. I applaud you!

    CHEERS! for providing real academic research about the topic at hand. More CHEERS! for speaking out about Brene Brown’s comments. I look forward to when more people challenge how wrong she is about some things and how she twists the definitions of words and research to fit into the snake oil she and her marketers are selling. I see how damaging what she is putting out is and how hurtful what she “thinks” about shame, trauma, etc is to humanity, in particular to those of us who live with it Every. Day.

    I find it quite interesting that over on her blog, in the right hand column, under “On My Nightstand,” she lists this as one of the books she is reading, “The Power of Starting Something Stupid; How to Crush Fear, Make Dreams Happen, and Live Without Regret” by Richie Norton.

    Because this is not my blog, I’ll stop with saying thank you for challenge this line of thinking. Brene Brown has started something stupid and worse something harmful in my opinion. CHEERS for challenging it. Good you could move on. Her stuff does seem to be ‘snagging’ a lot of folks.

    Thank you for the opportunity to comment.

    • Hey Terri — I requested blog commenter Sandy Mitchell to reply on this if he has time – he is a shame study genius!!

      My work is so focused right now I could feel embarassed at how out-of-the-loop I am with “other takes” by other people on things — feeling rather uneducated!!

      I appreciate thoughtful comments, never a worry for anything you wish to say here – just so you know!!!

      Meanwhile, writing this book — it does take focus — good to lift my head up and look around once in a while!!

      • Thanks Linda for permission to speak and appreciation for my voice. It matters. This one hit a nerve. And you are not uneducated if you have missed the Brene Brown hype. Her work seemed to start off well, it felt promising to me. Now ego and marketers seem to be in the way, Oprah and all. She’s even being challenged on her own blog in the comments section I noticed in a post she made in late March. I’m on this because I was sucked in a little, my gut was telling me something was wrong. Took me the purchase of a couple of books and reading the comments on that post to get me off the track. I am now just cleaning up my residual feelings. Moving on from that.

        Stay on your important work, that book. I get it entirely. Totally supportive, just letting you know, I’m around, reading and listening.

  4. Hi Linda,
    Thank you … with this entry you’ve reminded me that the innocent place inside myself that remained untouched by all trauma was Inner Sanctum. And as humans I believe we are made to ADAPT not struggle.

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