In the words of Brené Brown in her book Braving the Wilderness, she embraces the wilderness as ‘the quest for true belonging and the courage to stand alone’.  These words of wisdom which Brown shares throughout this book came into my life at the exact time I found myself in my own wilderness.

I believe in divine timing and this really was the case when I delved into this wonderment of the human capacity for courage, vulnerability and empathy.  The aspect which is most compelling from the research Brown offers the world is her ability to courageously be honest about the depths of shame and the way it shapes human conditioning.

Brown’s concept of shame and how it plays out in different avenues of life, really resonated with me on a soul level.  It felt like delving into Pandora’s box were everything is brought to the surface and when you dig that deep, you have to rely on hope to help navigate you out, as once you are on this journey, the deeper you dig into your internal world and begin to understand the conditioning and the patterns, you have to take personal responsibility to move through the wilderness and out into the light.

There are no more excuses.  If you want to move forward you need to be honest, have the courage and be kind with yourself as you reform your internal world.  This research for me gave light to something that is played out in all walks of life and can be seen through all ages of time, but now there is a language, which has been built by many academic areas: psychology, spirituality, neuroscience, philosophy and so forth.  But for some reason, Brown words spoke to me on a soul level which helped me accept my transformation process.


The one thing about shame is it is really good and keeping us bound to our fears.  It keeps us in habit patterns which no longer serves us, it keeps us in unhealthy relationships, it keeps us in careers which no longer light our soul.  It generates the psychological brake being firmly on and then we become psychologically, emotionally and spiritually stuck.  When we become stuck we have more playtime with the negative emotions such as anger, frustration, sadness and so forth.

The journey of the wilderness is a return to our true self.  As we wonder the depths of the wilderness, this place of authenticity, we shed the psychological, emotional and spiritual layers of ourselves which are no longer needed.  This wilderness for me was an internal transformation.

It was something innate that on some divine plan of mine, which I in my human form did not know why, but that soul part of me seemed to understand.  The beginning of this wilderness, I found myself in an internal battle where resistance set in.  However once trust was put in place and I gave myself permission to go with the flow of these events that really did at the time feel out of my control, the wilderness journey was more comfortable.  The flow aspect helped me access more positive emotions such as joy, happiness and love.

There was still a deep sense of uncertainty but I let go of the need to know and the need for control.  When I moved into this internal space, the journey for authenticity had more clarity.  It is not that I was necessarily avoiding being my true self before.  There became an awareness that through age priorities change, circumstances change and perspectives change.  I still needed to work on removing limiting belief systems that I had not seen before and I needed to be free of them, but this wilderness for me was more like a mark of change due to my age.

True Belonging

The concept of the wilderness is we return to our true self and as I suggested earlier my true-self in this period of time where I found myself in the wilderness is a few years leading up to my 40th birthday.  I found myself really shedding layers of psychological and emotional baggage which opened me up to a deeper connection to my spirituality.  It is key here to reflect on Brown’s definition of true belonging: (Brown, 2017, p. 40).

True belonging is the spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being part of something and standing alone in the wilderness.  True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.

It is the spiritual practice aspect of Brown’s definition for true belonging that really made sense to me.  As I shed the layers, I had more courage to open up my heart and this opening up of the heart really expands the spiritual side of humankind.  The biggest understanding I found when in my own personal wilderness was it created a spectrum of emotions.  The more fear dominated the more negative I felt, including depression.

The more I trusted the process, the more my faith grew and the more I accepted the quest, the more positive emotions – joy, happiness, gratitude and love entered my inner world.  I came to understand the depression I felt was a form of grief, as in the wilderness you are losing aspects of yourself as you transform and as the process evolved the darkness lifted and the light began to appear.

I think transformation is powerful and Brown’s words of Braving the Wildness helped me stay courageous, connected and empathetic through the process.  This life is one never-ending journey of change and our old-self doesn’t recognise the wilderness as so.  It is not until we become the newer versions, the truer versions of our self that we understand the whole journey.

About the author: Kelly Seaward completed her MSc Applied Positive Psychology course in 2018.  She advocates the teachings within this field of psychology in her own teaching and specialises in mental health and well-being for teachers.  Her mission is to help teacher flourish.

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