Dr. Brene Brown’s 2010 TED Talk on “The Power of Vulnerability” has gotten nearly 12.5 million views online. And it’s no wonder: Brown delivers insights into human connection, vulnerability, authenticity, and shame with humor and deeply personal stories that avoid the kind of platitudes and sugarcoating that self-help skeptics love to hate. Now, a clever new animation from RSA shorts, animated by Bristol-based Katy Davis (AKA Gobblynne), brings Brown’s wise words to life with cartoons of a sad fox, an empathetic bear, and a judgmental reindeer.
“Empathy fuels connection. Sympathy drives disconnection,” Brown explains in her talk. When the sympathetic but disconnected reindeer peeks into the fox’s dark hole, he tries to use a magic wand to add a silver lining to the fox’s cloud, effectively saying, “could be worse!” Brown explains how taking this kind of lecturing stance toward another’s suffering distances us from that person’s emotional experience, and fails to establish the kind of connection that leads to healing.
“I always think of empathy as this kind of sacred space,” Brown says. “When someone’s in a deep hole, and they shout out from the bottom and say ‘hey, I’m stuck, it’s dark, I’m overwhelmed,’ we look and climb down, and say, ‘I know what it’s like down here, and you’re not alone,’” Brene says in her talk. In the animation, Davis’s cuddly bear climbs into the fox’s hole of pain to keep her company. He doesn’t try to offer any mind-blowing advice, but instead gives her a hug and lets her know that he understands how she feels.