Vulnerability is the way through the threshold of pain and suffering into connection and intimacy, what humans are hardwired for. Connection occurs when people feel authentically seen, heard, and valued. A sense of belonging, meaning, and purpose are the fruits of connection to others, to self, and to something much larger than one’s ego (Brown, 2012a, p. 146). However, intimacy can only truly occur by presenting one’s truest, most authentic self, including the more challenging emotional states that most people are afraid to share like shame, fear, sadness, and grief. It is only through deep self-acceptance that one can experience a true sense of intimacy and belonging.
Women’s Voices, Shame, and the Patriarchy
Voice is how human beings connect, it is the expression of one’s authentic self, and without being heard one does not learn the capacity to hear oneself. It is an ethical imperative, in other words, a vital necessity for people to be able to share their own story and speak for themselves. To have voice is antithetical to the silencing of toxic shame. “To have a voice is to be human. To have something to say is to be a person. But speaking depends on listening and being heard; it is an intensely relational act” (Gilligan, 1982, p. xvi). From this perspective, to not be heard, to be emotionally abandoned, is dehumanizing, robbing one of personhood.
Through the work of Carol Gilligan (1982), an American feminist, ethicist, and psychologist, one finds a connection between a woman’s individual shame and loss of voice and the neglect and silencing of the feminine voice in the field of psychology. More specifically, Gilligan observed that the dominant and largely unconscious model and measurement of mental health in the field of psychology is based on male psychological development. It neglects adequate understanding of female psychological development, viewing it from a male perspective. Gilligan, in her research, began to define what voice means from a feminine perspective placing it in the context of connection.