I came across this quote today and I wanted to share it. We have for so long been told sharing our vulnerability with others is a sign of weakness, but many of us would prefer to do just about anything than share something really vulnerable. One of my firefighter clients once told me he'd literally rather go into a burning building than tell his partner how scared he feels inside when they fight!
Being vulnerable is not only a sign of being brave and authentic, but it's also a necessary part of creating real intimacy and security. Vulnerability fuels connection. Sharing something real and tender is a big part of how we build and sustain close bonds. As those of you in EFT therapy know, we get out of the negative cycle by sharing our vulnerable feelings of loneliness, inadequacy and fear vs. our protective, invulnerable anger.
This principle works in any close relationship. If I share something vulnerable with you, and you respond with care and understanding, I learn that you can be safe for me, which makes me more likely to open up to you in the future. I also learn that my sharing this part of me with you doesn't make you reject me, which helps change how I view this tender part of me. "You know the real me and you still seem to like me? Neat." Also, my sharing invites you to share something personal about yourself with me. This creates an atmosphere of safety, acceptance, and closeness between us, a positive cycle where the more you share, the more I share, and we keep feeling safer and closer.
One of my clients sent me this awesome New Yorker cartoon awhile back. Not only is it hysterical, but it's a great way of encapsulating the messages so many of us got growing up—feelings are not welcome in our family.
Another great video from Dr. Brene Brown reviews the costs of avoiding vulnerability. When we're afraid to be vulnerable:
- "Joy becomes foreboding—something good happens and we become compelled to beat vulnerability to the punch." - "Disappointment becomes a lifestyle…it's easier to live disappointed than to feel disappointed."
And, of course, we numb out. But as Brene reminds us, "you cannot selectively numb emotion." Numbing our pain and fear also means numbing the joy, love, safety, happiness, pride, and closeness that we could be feeling…and without that, we lose all the good things that can help us hang on through the hard times, all the things that make life meaningful.
Dr. Brene Brown is a researcher who studies vulnerability…who hates vulnerability. Like a lot of us, Dr. Brown struggles with shame, self-judgment, and a sense of weakness when discussing her perceived failings and vulnerable emotions. Her storytelling prowess, hard-won authenticity, and self-deprecating humor make her a powerful advocate for treasuring the parts of ourselves we most want to hide.
These two devastatingly funny, heartfelt TED talks do a wonderful job of explaining how critical vulnerability is to our relationships with our selves and being authentic and how vulnerability and emotional risk is ultimately the thing that creates connection and safety with others.