Once again, here is a post I started writing months ago and like usual, found myself super inspired to write only to be sidelined and distracted by a handful of other things before I could finish my piece. Although the outward reasons for delay vary with each post, it has become crystal clear that whatever topic I’m initially sparked to write about needs time - though I step through the doorway, though the seed is planted, the content itself requires time to ripen before it finally makes its way onto the page. Without exception, for every Musing to date, eye-opening events pertinent to the topic at hand have presented themselves in the pause asking me to reflect on my life experiences as well as to process new layers of information and so, I’ve come to deeply respect this timing. While I do not consider my blog to be educational, I do consider it to be explorative and experimental. Aligned with my passion for looking beyond the surface of things, it is designed to ask the hard questions - not from a place of judgment or assumption but from a place of sincere curiosity and openness towards potentially unconventional perspectives. Everything I write about stems from my own exploration and experimentation, shared in hopes to provide you with something of value along your journey. Despite our differences, we are all human and are all in this together. We all suffer. We all want to heal, to find peace and resolution within ourselves and in our relationships. With that, I invite you to join me for a new Musing below…
Vulnerability. We see that word everywhere these days. At this point, it has probably been written about, spoken about, workshopped, defined, elaborated upon and encouraged in every possible way. While I’m overly aware that this is not an original topic, it’s a topic that sparks me intensely, and a topic I have contemplated consistently and quite profoundly over the years. Though familiar with the work of some of the vulnerability "greats", such as the amazing Brené Brown, it’s been a long while since I’ve delved into that whole scene and I did no prep or research before writing this so as not to influence the way I present the perspective I’d like to share with you today. Again, I know I’m not reinventing the wheel, and surely even this perspective has been covered by others, but in this post I intend to indulge my passion for looking beyond the surface of things, and to get curious about something that is not always so straightforward.
According to Merriam-Webster, the simple definition of VULNERABLE is to be:
* easily hurt or harmed physically, mentally, or emotionally
* open to attack, harm, or damage
As a definition, I’m sure we can all agree that this sounds anything but pleasant, quite treacherous really, and far from desirable. On the other hand, upon doing an internet search for vulnerability in the context of spirituality and healing, you will often come across something along the lines of the image to the right, which feels warm and fuzzy and most delicious in comparison.
While the aim of vulnerability in a healing and spiritual context is to bring us closer to ourselves and to others - and while it is a truly valid concept with the most powerful potential in and of itself - it is wise to recognize the sharp contrast between the dictionary definition and the definition in the image, and to realize, that despite our best intentions and efforts, vulnerability is multifaceted and amidst the duality of safety and danger, the way we approach it is not always cut and dry.
With that in mind, the objective of my post today is to briefly explore the possibility of how:
2) If we pay attention to what unfolds in the face of the vulnerability we offer up to others, that unfolding will often reveal our true vulnerability, the real wound, the real fear, what is most dangerous to us
Over time I’ve discovered how the concept of vulnerability, despite the best of intentions, can be inadvertently used as a weapon or a shield – how unbeknownst to us, it may be used TO CONTROL, TO MANIPULATE, TO DEFLECT or TO PROTECT. Although the content of what we choose to share with others as vulnerability can be and often is deeply personal, legitimate and authentic, if we pay close attention, what plays out from that sharing can sometimes serve to reveal unexpected and hidden layers of vulnerability underneath.
Essentially, vulnerability dares us to open up to another about what triggers our insecurity and fear in the aim of fostering a sense of trust and intimacy. It hinges on rejection versus acceptance, on what threatens us versus what helps us to feel safe. Although at first glance, and on a conscious level, it would seem obvious that rejection equals danger and acceptance equals safety, the reality is that on a subconscious level, our conditioning and our beliefs can make that much less obvious. While perhaps to the conscious mind the idea of closeness and intimacy is the safest and most beautiful thing in the world, to the subconscious mind it may be absolutely terrifying and something to avoid at all costs. Beyond the scope of our awareness, it is entirely possible that what stirs up feelings of inadequacy and the fear of rejection, that which we consciously perceive as what makes us feel vulnerable and wish to overcome, is the very thing that is subconsciously being used to keep us safe.
That said, this aspect of vulnerability is hard to talk about and no doubt it can be uncomfortable to question what we offer up to others and why. The above example is but one example - the exposure of one’s true vulnerability can manifest in so many ways and only YOU can choose to get honest with yourself, to examine your version of vulnerability in any given context. Though we can spend endless hours observing others and can find much entertainment in looking outside of ourselves, in the end what counts is our capacity to observe our self in the face of what others catalyze in us and to use that as fuel for our own personal healing and growth.
Before I sign off, here are a few questions for further reflection:
* What do you believe makes you most vulnerable in the context of human relationships?
* What have you offered up to others as vulnerability?
* What are the motives and intentions behind what you have offered up to others as vulnerability?
* Looking back at your life and your relationships, have you ever used vulnerability consciously or unconsciously to manipulate or to control (as a weapon) and/or to buffer or to protect (as a shield)?
* Can you see how, despite one’s best intentions, that sharing can be selective or strategic?
* Can you see how one version of vulnerability can serve to hide or to distract from something else?
* In the instance of discovering true vulnerability underlying all defences, are you able to meet that vulnerability with honesty?
* In the instance of discovering true vulnerability underlying all defences, are you able to love and accept yourself?