Oprah: Yep. So back to your guideposts for living a wholehearted life. "Cultivating gratitude and joy" is my favorite. This is why you and I are soul mates. Because you understand that gratitude and joy are the way home.

Brené: You know, I made a commitment to never talk about joy for the rest of my career without talking about gratitude. Because in 12 years of research, I have never interviewed a single person with the capacity to really experience joy who does not also actively practice gratitude.

Oprah: I know that is true. I've done no research, except with my audience for 25 years....

Brené: Oh, except for that! But do you know what's tricky? As someone who studies shame and scarcity and fear, if you ask me what's the most terrifying emotion we feel as humans, I would say joy.

Oprah: Why?

Brené: When I'm giving a talk, I often say, "Raise your hand if you've ever stood over your child while he or she is sleeping and thought, 'I love you like I didn't know was possible', and in that split second, you pictured something horrific happening." How many of us have thought, "Work's going well. Good relationship with my partner. Holy crap, something bad's going to happen."

Oprah: Right.

Brené: So what is that? It's when we lose our tolerance for vulnerability. It's when joy becomes foreboding. We think, "I'm not gonna soften into this moment because I'm scared it's going to be taken away." Yesterday I was on the plane getting ready to come here, and we got halfway down the runway and had to turn back. I called Steve and said, "Let me tell you something. I know, because I'm fixin' to meet Oprah, that I'm gonna die."

Oprah: [Laughs.]

Brené: And Steve's like, "Foreboding joy!"

Oprah: Foreboding joy.

Brené: A man once told me, "My whole life, I never got too excited about anything. That way if things didn't work out, I wasn't devastated, and if they did, it was a pleasant surprise." And when this man was in his 60s, his wife of 40 years was killed in a car accident. He told me, "The second I realized she was gone, I knew I should have leaned harder into those moments of joy. Because not doing so did not protect me from what I feel now." It's like we're trying to dress-rehearse tragedy so we can beat vulnerability to the punch.

Oprah: Yes. Yes.

Brené: Here's what I've learned from the joyful people I've interviewed. They have those moments, too—when they look at their children and shudder. But instead of dress-rehearsing tragedy, they practice gratitude. So yesterday I sat on that plane for 20 minutes and thought, I'm grateful. I think I was BS-ing a little. But gratitude is a practice.

Oprah: Absolutely.

Brené: One of the things that happens in a scarcity culture is that we're all so busy chasing the extraordinary that we forget to stop and be grateful for the ordinary.

Next: How shame damages your life


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