Full Transcript

Oprah Winfrey:

Number four, on living a wholehearted life and being a wholehearted person is my favorite. I think the way to course-correct everything, that’s why you and I are soulmates. Yes. That’s why we are, because you understand that the cultivation of gratitude and joy is the way home. Whoa, whoa. And people have to know that it is something, and you say this, you say this in here and you say it in the Gifts of Perfection, that you have to work at it.

Dr. Brené Brown:

Yeah, I was so off base about this before I did this. Oh my God, this is so huge. I made a commitment to everybody I knew. I said, “I will never talk about joy for the rest of my career without talking about gratitude.” Because for 12 years of research, I have never interviewed a single person who talks about the capacity to really experience and soften into joy who does not actively practice gratitude.

Oprah Winfrey:

You are absolutely right about that.

Dr. Brené Brown:

Period.

Oprah Winfrey:

See, I have done no research, except with my audience for 25 years.

Dr. Brené Brown:

Yeah, except for the 30 years of research you’ve done, except for that little-

Oprah Winfrey:

But I’ve done no, obviously, critical research. But I know that is true. As you say that, a part of me, it just resonates. And I know that is true. There is no joy without gratitude.

Dr. Brené Brown:

No. And you know what’s tricky?

Oprah Winfrey:

What?

Dr. Brené Brown:

As someone who studies shame and scarcity and fear, I will tell you that if you ask me what’s the most terrifying, difficult emotion that we experience as humans, I would say joy.

Oprah Winfrey:

You would say that the most terrifying is joy?

Dr. Brené Brown:

No question.

Oprah Winfrey:

Why?

Dr. Brené Brown:

I often ask parents, I say… I’ll have 5,000 parents or something in an audience. And I’ll say, “Raise your hand if you’ve ever stood over your child while he or she was sleeping and thought to yourself, I love you like I didn’t know was possible.” And then in that split second, picture something horrific happened to yourself.

Oprah Winfrey:

What if something happened to you, yes, yeah.

Dr. Brené Brown:

How many of you have ever sat up and said, “Wow, work’s going good. Good relationship with my partner?”

Oprah Winfrey:

Yeah.

Dr. Brené Brown:

Parents seem to be doing okay. Holy crap. Something bad’s going to happen.

Oprah Winfrey:

What’s going to happen, yes.

Dr. Brené Brown:

Right. So what is that? You know what that is?

Oprah Winfrey:

What is that?

Dr. Brené Brown:

When we lose our tolerance for vulnerability, joy becomes foreboding. I’m not going to feel you. I’m not going to soften into this moment of joy because-

Oprah Winfrey:

Because I’m scared.

Dr. Brené Brown:

I’m scared it’s going to be taken away. The other shoe’s going to drop.

Oprah Winfrey:

So say that again. When we lose our tolerance for vulnerability… You said in the book, but I didn’t get it this deep. Go ahead.

Dr. Brené Brown:

When we lose our tolerance to be vulnerable, joy becomes foreboding. And so what we do in moments of joyfulness is we try to beat vulnerability to the punch. Yesterday, I’m on the plane, I’m getting ready to leave. I’m taking pictures and tweeting them out of I’m in the cockpit, Super Soul Sunday, Oprah or bust, baby. I’m taking pictures. The plane gets down the runway and has to come back because something’s wrong. I was like, “I knew it.” I called Steve. I said, “Let me just tell you something I know because I’m fixing to meet Oprah that I’m going to die, and at my funeral, you better say she was going to be on Super Soul Sunday.”

Oprah Winfrey:

Oh my goodness.

Dr. Brené Brown:

And Steve’s like, “Foreboding joy, foreboding joy.”

Oprah Winfrey:

Foreboding joy.

Dr. Brené Brown:

Right. I interviewed a man who told me my whole life, I never got too excited, too joyful about anything. I just stayed right in the middle. That way, if things didn’t work out, I wasn’t devastated. And if they did work out, it was a pleasant surprise.

Oprah Winfrey:

Oh my goodness.

Dr. Brené Brown:

In his sixties, he was in a car accident. His wife of 40 years was killed.

Oprah Winfrey:

Wow.

Dr. Brené Brown:

And he said, “The second I realized that she was gone, the first thing I thought was, I should have leaned harder into those moments of joy because that did not protect me from what I feel right now.” We’re trying to dress rehearse tragedy so we can beat vulnerability to the punch.

Oprah Winfrey:

Yes, yes, yes, yes.

Dr. Brené Brown:

So you know what happens? This is what the joyful people do. This is what I learned from them. In those moments, they’re getting ready to come here, or they’re looking at their children or their partner or something great, they get that shudder too. But you know what they do? They don’t say, “Ooh, there’s that shudder of terror about feeling joyful. I’m going to dress rehearse tragedy.” They say, “I’m going to practice gratitude.” So I just sat on that plane on the runway for 20 minutes going, “I’m grateful. I’m grateful.” And I think I was BSing a little bit. I was faking. I am grateful, but gratitude is a practice. It is tangible. You can see it. It’s not an attitude of gratitude.

Oprah Winfrey:

Absolutely. It is a practice. And what I found is that when you actively practice gratitude, where you concentrate on not just thinking about it, but write things down, you go through the day looking for it.

Dr. Brené Brown:

There’s no question.

Oprah Winfrey:

You go through the day looking for it.

Dr. Brené Brown:

Isn’t it amazing? It’s like magic.

Oprah Winfrey:

It is.

Dr. Brené Brown:

And you know what I think we appreciate? The little things.

Oprah Winfrey:

Yes.

Dr. Brené Brown:

I think one of the things that happens in a culture of scarcity is we’re all chasing the extraordinary and we forget. When I interviewed people who went through horrific things, I’m talking about the loss of children, genocide, violence, trauma, and I talked to them about what’s the hardest loss, they never talked about the extraordinary things. They said, “I miss the ordinary moments. I miss hearing the screen door slam and knowing my husband’s home from work. I miss hearing my kids fighting in the backyard. I miss the way that my wife set the table.” And those are the moments that are in front of all of us every day that we could stop and say, “God, I’m grateful for this.” So I’ll just say right now, I’m so grateful for this.

Oprah Winfrey:

Me too.

Dr. Brené Brown:

No, I am. I’m so grateful for it.


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