“Why do we fall, Mr. Wayne? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.”
An iconic line from an epic trilogy. Christopher Nolan’s Batman rendition is absolutely captivating and inspiring. While reading Brené Brown’s newest book, Rising Strong, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Naturally, I had to watch the series again!
Brené Brown and Christopher Nolan powerfully demonstrate to us that (even though we sometimes wish it weren’t so) it is the falls, the breaks, the fears, the losses, and even the confronting of the unknown that teach us the most about ourselves. The wells, caves, dark places, and prisons provide
an opportunity to rise even stronger than we were before the trial. Carl Jung would suggest that the images and symbols from Batman (caves, bats, the joker, two-face, Bane, etc.) would represent experiences of the psyche: depression, anxiety, fear, and mourning.
Joseph Campbell, to whom Brené Brown attributes some of her Rising Strong concept, aptly observed that “the cave you fear to enter holds the treasure that you seek.” Rising strong is only possible when there has been a difficult fall. We do well to honor the grappling process involved in getting back up.
All lives, like trilogies, have three parts: A beginning, a middle (which is where the “difficult stuff” is), and an end—pretty straightforward. However, we live in a fast-forward, DVR, highlight-reel society. We want to just skip the hard part. We want to get to the ending as fast as we can. We move forward too quickly.
When we skip the middle phase, we are robbed of the most rewarding part of the story: the struggle—the riddling with jokers and two-faces. We miss the building and re-building. If you took the struggle out of the Batman series, you wouldn’t have Batman. I believe Thomas Paine was right, “what we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly.”
Sadly, because we don’t see others’ struggles, we develop a misconception that the heroes we look up to attain their success without going through their own difficulties—even assuming that there is something wrong with us when we go through our own.
Brené Brown said that her purpose in writing this book was to “slow down the falling and rising processes.” I think another side benefit was to illustrate that we ALL go through falls and setbacks of our own. I am grateful for her personal stories in book. She is never above, or outside the process in her writing or presenting.
As she was dissecting this pattern of falling and rising in her research, as well as in her own life, she also asks additional questions to make Nolan’s concept more tangible and applicable. “Okay, I get that there is a purpose in falling, but how do we actually pick ourselves up? What is the process? What steps can I take?
Brené gives several concrete processes in her book as tools to help someone get out of the pit they find themselves in: write out your own three-part heroic story, set appropriate boundaries (what you are “alright with” and “not alright with” in your life), confront and be curious about your emotions, and find a mentor or coach if helpful.
We all love a comeback story. It is redemptive, it is powerful. Sure, we stand in awe of the concept of perfection, but that isn’t real. We relate to and are moved by struggle and fight. The night truly is the darkest before the dawn. Let’s not forget the value of falling down and remember to honor the process of rising stronger than we were before.
I have included one of my favorite clips from The Dark Knight Rises and another ‘why do we fall clip’ that convey the power of this process.