Book cover

Braving The Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone

To be honest, the title threw me, the second one more effectively describes what this book is really about. Author Brene Brown is no stranger to self-help books and happens to be good friends with the queen of self-help, Oprah, and a regular guest on her show.

The book’s main thrust is of our need to belong, how it was lost and ways to find it again. Given the increasing numbers of Americans suffering from loneliness, this topic is extremely important for all of us to look at more closely.

Brown is a qualitative grounded theory researcher. It’s a pretty vague job description and allows her to mush together many different forms of research and gear it to her own goal. In this particular book, her focus was on “... trying to understand what we call the main concern of study participants. When it comes to belonging ... What are people trying to achieve? What are they worried about? They want to be a part of something— to experience real connection with others — but not at the cost of their authenticity, freedom, or power.”

One of the main issues so many she interviewed expressed was that of being “spiritually disconnected”, a diminishing sense of shared humanity. What seems to bind us together now is shared fear and disdain, not common humanity, shared trust, respect or love.

Emerging from their responses, four elements of what Brown describes as “true belonging”:

1. People are hard to hate close up. Move in.

2. Speak truth to BS. Be civil.

3. Hold hands. With strangers.

4. Strong back. Soft front. Wild heart.

Early on I was a little concerned as to exactly what was intended by spirituality. In no way is this meant as anything remotely related to any particular religion.

Brown is careful to define it as recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power greater than all of us, and our connection to that power and to one another is grounded in love and compassion, a cornerstone of some, but not all religions.

Once it became clear that this was a universal all-encompassing concept that we all, as humans, crave — to belong — it was simply a matter of defining how we became so separated from one another.

“In the case of the United States, our three greatest fault lines — cracks that have grown and deepened due to willful neglect and a collective lack of courage — are race, gender, and class.”

The “cracks” that have driven a wedge into the basic reason we are experiencing such a major shift away from belonging is something we are all very familiar with. From Black Lives Matter to all the bathroom issues to the One-Percenters, we are overwhelmed with messages and constant reminders of our vast differences.

The majority of the book focuses on an expansion of the four elements mentioned earlier and is well worth exploring. However, it could have been edited into a much shorter read as several of the anecdotes loll into lecture-mode and had me skimming. The bottom line is something we all know to be true and the main reason there is a collective, soul-deep desire to belong.

“We are wired for connection. But the key is that, in any given moment of it, it has to be real.”

As in person, not online. Imagine that. Hang-up and hang-out. ... Re-join offline living. ... Show up, in person

Jay Gilbertson is the Wisconsin author of The Madeline Island Series. His website is www.jaygilbertson.com; “Like” him on Facebook, too. Feel free to contact Jay at jay@jaygilbertson.com

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Dunn County News editor

Barbara Lyon is the editor of The Dunn County News in Menomonie, WI.

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