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  • Writer's pictureLauren Drago

Best Therapy Books: 'Braving the Wilderness' Book Review & Giveaway

Hey! Welcome to my new book review blog series. Every time I read a new therapy or self-help related book I’m going to review it for you here. That way, not only my clients get the insight into what I feel are the best books for changing your life... you get it, too. You'll learn more about what the book is about, what I feel it can help you with, and why I believe its effective. But wait... we can do even better… Every time I review a book, I’ll be GIVING A COPY AWAY! Whaaaa? Yes! Believe it! How fun! This is how much I love spreading the goodness of therapy around. I really do. It gives me more joy than anything.

So, read on, and then take a look at the sweepstakes guidelines. Who knows… the next person curled up in bed reading this book and changing their lives in their jammies could be you!


Bibliotherapy has a long history of being a fabulous supplement to traditional talk-therapy. Bibliotherapy is the act of reading in order to broaden one’s understanding of themselves and/or the subject matter they’re working through in therapy. I regularly use bibliotherapy with my clients. There are so many fabulous books out there that can really change your viewpoint and often provide that extra “aha!” you need to finally make sense of something in a new way.

(yeah, that's my super cool guest-bedspread as the backdrop to this pic)

Today I’m reviewing Brene Brown’s newest book, “Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone.” It is about the process, value and meaning of belonging to yourself and having the courage to truly BE yourself despite all other factors. Dr. Brown is a research professor who has spent the last sixteen years studying and creating theories on human courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy.

Indeed, to be one’s self fully requires an awareness of the power of ALL of those very qualities. The author refers to the state of belonging to yourself as "the wilderness." To arrive in the wilderness, we have navigated the painful process of being absolutely genuine and real against all odds. We have come to a space of loving and knowing ourselves fully and truly. We know that anyone or anything that does not support our selves doesn’t have a place in our wilderness, and that that’s okay. We take seriously the level of kindness we give to ourselves in the form of self-knowledge, healthy boundaries, honor, and safety.

She writes,

“True belonging… is not something we achieve or accomplish with others; its something we carry in our heart. Once we belong thoroughly to ourselves and believe thoroughly in ourselves, true belonging is ours.”

Later in the book, Brene creates a powerful distinction between what it means to "fit in" and truly belong. This distinction will resound with you as you reflect on your own history, sometimes painful, of navigating this very subject. But by understanding the difference between fitting in and true belonging, we also realize that while rejecting "fitting in" is often fraught with loneliness and pain, it is ultimately how we end up enveloping ourselves in who we really are.

Perhaps surprisingly (or not surprisingly) the book is also an incredible guide for how to thrive in today’s controversial and politically fraught world. The author discusses the role of social media, politics, and polarizing rhetoric as it relates to our process of seeking and experiencing belonging. Have you scrolled Facebook lately and experienced any inner and outer tension over a recently relevant hashtag? Have you perused comments from a post in your feed only to read endless personal and political arguments between people who have never met? Yeah, me too. It's a tough space. And it's overwhelming. This book is awesome in that it educates on the dangers inherent in the ways we interact today, and serves as an instruction manual for how to rise beyond what so easily sucks us in.

Brene uses the acronym "BRAVE" to refer to the qualities exercised by those who live in a state of true self-belonging. She does this because belonging to yourself above all other things requires a certain level of self-awareness combined with risk. To live in that wilderness requires choosing one’s integrity and truth over what’s easy or comfortable. She notes,

“True belonging doesn’t require us to change who we are; it requires us to be who we are.”

I experienced an example of BRAVING in my own life just the other week. As I sat in my faith services at the local church in my new town, my ears went up at the words in the homily. They were words I fiercely disagreed with on both personal levels as a human being and professional levels as a therapist. I felt that the choice of words espoused shame, guilt, and doubt, rather than love, comfort, and hope. I considered getting up and walking out. But I knew that to remain required more strength. I knew that, in order for there to be any chance that I continue to be a part of this faith community, I would have to be BRAVE. I would have to stand in the wild. And I needed to know whether I could stand in the wild AND stand in this community at the same time. I was determined to find out.

Brene writes,

“Belonging to ourselves means being called to stand alone – to brave the wilderness of uncertainty, vulnerability, and criticism. And with the world feeling like a political and ideological combat zone, this is remarkably tough.”

I was feeling the weight of those words as I approached the speaker after the service. I asked him (openly, warmly, and assuming good intent) for further dialogue. Now, I am NOT a confrontational person. No siree. But I felt able to approach this man because this book helped me shift my viewpoint from one of discussion as confrontation, to one where discussion is an agent for sharing congruence with one’s self while being genuinely curious about the other's viewpoint. This book also helped me get comfortable with the fact that real discourse about anything requires the ability to be truly open to understanding the other side (there is no right or wrong, simply two different view-points that can be equally shared)... But, as Brene points out, the reality is that this is a tall ask in a world where many people don’t know the first place to begin in exercising this. I experienced that firsthand.

My request for dialogue made him visibly surprised. I could practically read his thoughts, “Who is this woman, standing alone in the face of my deep seeded beliefs backed by centuries of teachings by the people who have gone before me?!” And so I was met with more of the same one-sided, self-convinced argument with zero desire for mutual exploration or understanding that I had heard inside the service. You can guess it, folks, this was extremely disappointing. I left with many feelings that day; but one feeling I did not have was any regret over having been brave enough to exist alone among the larger community in order to stay true to my beliefs and my identity. I'm still waiting to have a larger conversation with some of the leaders in that faith community. And, if it feels open, curious, and non-judgmental, I'll believe that I can belong to myself AND belong to that community at the same time. We'll see. Whatever the result, it will have been worth the vulnerability and courage I had to mustered to pursue finding out.

This book made me think about one of my clients. We’ve recently been working to explore the many instances in their life where being their real selves went poorly. Where it was met with hurtful misunderstanding, and at times, even disgust. How many of us can relate to that? It is a heavy burden to carry. However, there is hope for this experience. The hope lies in using that experience as an asset – as having already braved the crossing into the wild. You've already made a large part of the courageous and brave journey of being yourself. Because, after all, that is the only way to be.

This book can help you if:

  • Today’s climate of polarizing and negative communication has you stressed out

  • You’re struggling, or have struggled, with the lived experience of encountering challenges being yourself or believing your beliefs

  • You want to know the value of being courageous enough to be true to who you are

  • You want to learn the skills required to be an agent of change by example in your family, community, and larger world

Those are just a few ways. You'll find this book helpful in your own ways as you read it and connect with your own personal experience and journey.

What's that? You want to read the book, already!? Okay, okay! Enter the sweepstakes below to be the lucky winner! All you have to do is click below and follow the instructions.

Here's to owning a piece of literature that leaves you with no option but to be exactly who you are!

*only entrants who both like Lauren Drago Therapy on Facebook and have entered the drawing by providing name and email address will be considered. This raffle ends on 11/4/17 and the winner will be notified within 48 hours.

Lauren L. Drago, MSEd, LMHC, LPC is the founder of Lauren Drago Therapy in Old Saybrook, CT and in greater CT, NY & PA. She specializes in working with smart, insightful and capable women to overcome stress, anxiety, loss of identity, self-limiting beliefs, perfectionism, marriage strain, and the pressure of "trying to do it all." Lauren has a passion for helping others to achieve the happy, fulfilling, productive, and meaningful life they deserve by changing how they experience and understand their world. She believes that every woman can and should live out her personal definition of her own best life. Follow Lauren on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Call (860) 339-6515 or email for your free initial 15-minute consultation.

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