Last year, I started a book club. Yes, I know, very un-interesting of me. However, I had been inspired to start this club due to Brene Brown’s book “Braving the Wilderness” that I read about a month before the first meeting was held. The idea was also a way for me to try to meet new friends, since I work an an independent practitioner with no day to day coworkers. The book club was dubbed The Personal Development Book Club in my community and has had a nice core group of women for a little over a year now. Braving the Wilderness poses the challenge to people to truly be themselves, hold on to their beliefs, even if they are not in the majority opinion in the crowd they happen to find themselves in. This can mean finding yourself in a hostile environment, or finding yourself left completely alone and ostracized from your community based on your expressed beliefs. The fear of this happening also keeps the status quo nice and strong, which in turn keeps many people quiet and complacent instead of speaking up.
I had recently found myself holding different beliefs from those around me – I am an East Coast Liberal (woot woot) who grew up in a pretty diverse neighborhood and City (New York) with little affluence or buffering from the harsh reality of poverty and crime. My friends were White, Jewish, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Black, Dominican and Puerto Rican, Cuban, you name it. I have seen how social programs, multi cultural public schools and curriculums, scholarships, gun buy-back programs and access to cultural experiences can bring a child out of the cycle of poverty and make a dream a reality. However, when I moved to Colorado, I found a much less diverse population, less diversity in political opinions and a more traditionally “conservative” viewpoint. I stood out when I spoke up.
I am perfectly comfortable with this, I am diplomatic to be sure, but I don’t back down if someone gets offended and tells me I’m wrong. I also don’t go looking for a fight; I simply “speak truth to bullshit,” as Brene puts it. If you think immigrants are crossing the border to come to live in your house, I will ask how many times this has happened to you or your loved ones. I already know the answer.
What I wanted to do with my book club, is to help others sort through the moments in life they have felt on their own and empower people to embrace their role and comfort in The Wilderness. I knew that in order to accomplish this, we all needed support from one another and some analysis of those defining moments to try to change. A person can read all the self help books in the world and never be a different person. They could quote all the authors they wanted and never be a different person. Having others to listen to you, speak truth to your bullshit, give you honest feedback and a plan for the next opportunity, is priceless. In the group, I am the only therapist, but it is not group therapy. A therapist can also do these things in a mental health setting. People willing and able to try make the difference.
In short, I highly recommend this book. It is well written and research based. Brene Brown doesn’t just throw out a word like “belonging” or even “love” without creating a questionnaire, holding a focus group, coding and analyzing data and then presenting a formal definition. As far as self help books go, that is also priceless. Many books also use real data to support their assertions, but not all. Every month we post the date and book to the neighborhood and hope for a few new faces. The book club read a different book and got together to discuss the concepts and how they can be applied to life. I will usually print out some questions I find online, sometimes from the authors themselves and sometimes from other book club sites. And as book clubs go, there is plenty of talk about our lives, eating and sipping wine, and forming lifelong attachments.