Vulnerability – is quite possibly the longest four-letter word in the American language.
Just the meaning from the dictionary* is disheartening. The word vulnerable means susceptible to physical or emotional attack or harm.*
Who in their right mind would willingly open his or herself up to physical or emotional attack or harm?
When we look at the word vulnerable at face value, my assumption is that no one would want to be in that position – until we understand in order to have meaningful relationships with others it becomes a necessity to break the surface and truly get to know someone. This will require vulnerability.
In one of the previous posts we discussed Connection. To refresh your memory, here is an excerpt from that post…
“There was a study done at the University of Houston Graduate College** that discovered for those who believe they are worthy of love and belonging, they had a sense of courage, compassion and connection with others. They had the courage to be imperfect; the compassion to be kind to themselves first and then to others, and they were able to connect with others as a result of their authenticity in relationship. Those in the study were willing to let go of who they thought they SHOULD BE, in order to BE WHO THEY REALLY ARE to connect with other people.”
To get to this point, you need to embrace vulnerability. What makes you vulnerable is what makes you approachable and beautiful. **
If you and I decide to close ourselves off to others not allowing them to see our misgivings, faults, and issues we may be able to connect with another human being, however, you may never breach the acquaintance stage of a friendship.
The ones I am closest to are the ones that see me for who I REALLY am, and accept me anyway. It doesn’t mean they agree with me, or feel that I don’t have issues that need to be corrected. It doesn’t mean they will even agree with my choices or even what I believe to be solid truth. As a matter of fact, being vulnerable in relationship infers we open our lives to someone for constructive criticism, accountability and tough love.
Understanding this fact requires a “breakdown of pride.” **
In a talk by Brene Brown** she points out a couple of things about vulnerability.
We numb vulnerability in our lives. We don’t like how it makes us “feel.” The evidence she gives for this fact is – “currently we are the most in debt, obese, addicted and medicated adult cohort in US history”. She says, “you cannot selectively NUMB emotion.
You cannot say, “Here’s the bad stuff; here’s vulnerability, here’s shame, here’s fear, here’s disappointment – I don’t want to feel these. Therefore, I am going to go shopping, eat food, smoke a cigarette, drink and take medicine – to numb the pain of these feelings.”
She points out when we numb our vulnerability, we also numb positive emotions: joy, gratitude and happiness for example. Then we become miserable, looking for purpose and meaning, we feel vulnerable and then we start the dangerous cycle of pressing down shame, fear, and vulnerability.
There is a way to break this cycle. It will take a tough decision.
I understand all too well that being vulnerable is a risk, but when you do find someone or a group of people who have proved trustworthy, it can be incredibly freeing.
…To Be Continued…
What are your thoughts so far on Vulnerability? We will complete this two part blog next week with more thoughts from Researcher Brene Brown and myself.
*Stevenson, Angus and Lindberg, Christine A. (2013). New Oxford American Dictionary, Third Edition. Retrieved August 6, 2014 from http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/vulnerable
**YouTube. (2010, June). Brene Brown: The Power of Vulnerability [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability#t-19066