Stand midst of a currently “spiritually disconnected”

Stand Alone Brene Brown’s latest release, Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone, redefines the meaning of true belonging and explores this topic through her self conducted studies and analysis of personal experiences.  The social scientist and research professor has previously written about similar concepts including vulnerability, the importance of imperfections, leadership, and belonging throughout her five other New York Times best seller books and numerous TED talks.    Brown discusses the importance and difficulty of finding what she calls “true belonging” while in the midst of a currently “spiritually disconnected” and chaotic world.  She begins the book and supports many of her concepts with stories from her past, making this book not only an accessible account of breakthroughs in social science but also an inspirational collection of vignettes.  She repeatedly connects small events like not making her high school cheer team as well as more distressing experiences such as her parents messy divorce as being equally damaging to the idea of belonging.  These events shaped her warped point of view about what it means to belong, making her perceive belonging as feeling content by finding a place within a larger group, a place you feel at home without having to change.  Later on she was challenged by the same women who she has considered to have “shaped the world with their courage and creativity,” especially the words of the famed Maya Angelou.  Through extensive qualitative research, consisting of recording thousands of people’s stories and then drawing patterns from them, Brown formed a new definition of belonging which she calls “true belonging.”  She describes true belonging as  belonging to yourself and believing in yourself so deeply you find happiness being a part of outside groups but also having the strength to stand alone when your beliefs are questioned.  A key aspect of Brown’s novel that she hasn’t touched on in previous books is the role of politics and social media on humanity’s  ideas of self worth and loneliness.  Stating that the world is a peak of disarray, Brown explains how citizens are dividing amongst themselves which instead are promoting an idea of interconnectedness and higher rates of belonging, instead has created an epidemic of loneliness.   Humans have an innate need for face to face communication that the new wave of screen “connection” is slowly killing off.  She describes how these seemingly like-minded groups or “factions” as Dr. Brown calls them are actually being formed out of shared fear and hate instead of  love and common interests.   A continuous back and forth between trying to make her research accessible, storytelling, and tiptoeing the difficult topic of politics all while trying to create advice and solutions leads to a very muddled storyline.  While Braving the Wilderness contains many important themes and research, a lack of new findings resulted in an abundant amount of repetition.  This book felt like an add on to one of her previous books, Rising Strong, warranting a few extra chapters but not entire novel.  Brown’s attempts to make material interesting, relatable, and accessible to a wide ranging audience is sometimes at the expense of her research.  Throughout the entire book the author references her studies and research but never fully goes into detail about any of these interviews or experiences, drawing generalizations and conclusions without providing readers with any quantitative results. My final criticism of Brown’s latest novel is that many of her problems she uses as examples about her ideas of belonging and research are primarily the problems of a privileged middle class white woman.  I enjoy that Brown ties her research to her past but I think it is crucial to acknowledge that this book doesn’t take into consideration possible changes and challenges across cultural and socio-economic boundaries, making it very onenote and at times unrelatable for certain audiences.  As somebody who has a pretty expansive knowledge about concepts such as belonging and building a sense of self, I found this read rather boring and conceptually rudimentary.  However, I believe others who may be new to these subjects or are struggling to find a place and with their sense of self would find this book to be very helpful and inspiring.  Brown’s book Braving the WIlderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone fulfills her desire to educate a wider audience about discoveries in social science but enthusiasts in this topic may want to try another one of her novels.