I mean, talk about a love-fest of vulnerability. I could listen to these two amazing clinicians every day of the week. The episode was about paradox and it is so, so good!
Esther defines paradox in this way, “Paradox is both/and. It is the ability to straddle contradictory beliefs, attitudes, and feelings at the same time, without having to think that it’s an either/or, this or that.”
I sometimes struggle with dichotomous thinking – which you’ll remember from grad school is black and white thinking or seeing things as all or none.
Brené shares that she struggles with this same thing – particularly when it comes to feeling safe and certain about a decision. She shares that she wants to be absolutely sure of her next move, which has posed a rather difficult challenge for her during the last 19 months of a global pandemic.
Brené talks through her fear of the unknown and stumbles on a powerful learning around minute 48:00 of the episode.
Esther reframes Brene’s desire for certainty with a paradoxical message. Esther says, “Brené, even though you don’t like it, you can tolerate the unknown.”
Esther says that challenging dichotomous thinking is the kind of work that she loves to do. She describes her best work as “taking polarities out of the corners, making them looser, so that they can become more intertwined with each other.”
Esther’s words were powerful for me as well, particularly as I reflect on a difficult time Warren and I went through in our marriage a few years ago.
During that time, I can remember telling my therapist that I wanted certainty in my relationship – I wanted to know, without doubt, that remaining in my marriage was the right decision.
I will never forget what my therapist said to me. She said, “Rachel, the only thing you can be certain of is yourself. As difficult as it is, you can’t find certainty in any other person, in your career, or in anything that might or might not happen in the future.”
I have recited those words, “the only thing I can be certain of is myself” a thousand times over the years. However, sometimes, these words lead to some black and white thinking. I’ve noticed that my fierce reliance on myself can cause me to hold back from depending on other people.
When I listened to Brene’s interview with Esther, I realized that this was an opportunity to incorporate some both/and thinking.
Yes, I can only be entirely certain of myself but, also, I can tolerate the unknown.
Said another way, I can move through life and relationships knowing that hard things may come and that there very likely will be things I do not have control of.
And, that’s ok. I can tolerate not knowing what is ahead and also find comfort in knowing that I can and will navigate whatever life may bring.
OMG – so good, so powerful.
Ever since listening to the episode, I’ve tried to reframe this fierce reliance on myself, with a gentler openness to tolerating the unknown.
How does this land with you today? Do you have a tendency to think in polarities as well?
If so, you are not alone. I’m over here doing this work with you as we create more space for the both/and of life.
Rachel McCrickard, LMFT