Brown: I hesitate to use a pathologizing label but underneath the so-called narcissistic personality is definitely shame and the paralyzing fear of being ordinary. Often it's hard for people to believe that someone in their life who is critical and rejecting of them is really suffering from their own shame. Both shame and grandiosity come from the same feeling that "If I'm not above the rest, I'm not enough."
Rosenberg : You write that the Leonard Cohen song Anthem -" "There's a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in" -- serves as a reminder to not control everything and try to make everything perfect.
Brown: Yes, not spackle the cracks is how I put it.
Rosenberg: You also discuss spackling the cracks with regard to perfectionism.
Brown: Many people think of perfectionism as striving to be your best but it is not about self-improvement; it's about earning approval and acceptance. Being addicted to perfectionism is actually a process addiction no different from the being addicted to food, or gossip or debt. Sometimes these are called counterfeit comforts.
Rosenberg : In 12-step fellowships like Alcoholics Anonymous part of addiction recovery is sharing our vulnerability and secrets.
Brown: Our secrets definitely keep us addicted which is probably why there are online sites where people can divest themselves of their secrets, anonymously. But, because shame happens between people, there is no substitute for telling on ourselves, so to speak, to someone else and making ourselves vulnerable. Vulnerability is the birthplace of connection and the path to the feeling of worthiness. If it doesn't feel vulnerable, the sharing is probably not constructive.
Rosenberg: Yet you write that not all friends are appropriate for this type of sharing. Examples you give in the book are a friend who gives sympathy but not empathy, a friend who minimizes the emotional import of what is shared because she views you as a pillar of worthiness and a friend who is so uncomfortable with vulnerability, she actually scolds you for letting something shameful happen.