“To love at all is to be vulnerable Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in the casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable “ C.S Lewis
Brene Brown famously says, “What makes you vulnerable makes you beautiful”. Perhaps Vulnerability is the last frontier for us truly to break through. The ability to give ourselves to something or someone without fear of our hearts being broken and our souls laid bare.
In later years I’ve maybe learnt this lesson better than most people. At times I’ve been closed off to this world unable to talk about my feelings to those around me but in the last few years after being pushed so far and finding I actually needed to talk to people I find that kind of vulnerability in fact had the opposite effect to what I always feared. What did I fear? Rejection, embarrassment, repulsion at my inner most feelings being open to the world.
But what actually happened? In fact quite the opposite, the more I spoke to people, the more I revealed my inner self, my inner voice, my thoughts and feelings I felt an outpouring of love for me and I felt relieved. Instead of me seeing this as a weakness its actually turned into one of my biggest strengths. My ability to ask for help from my friends in sad and upsetting situations is I think nowadays one of my biggest strengths. It’s allowed me to deal with and process difficult situations presented in my life effectively and in a very timely manner. The support and love I’ve felt has allowed me to heal and start regrowing.
Maybe, its worth at this point defining vulnerability. Back to probably one of the experts on this Brene Brown, she describes it as the core, the heart, the centre of meaningful human experiences. Uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure.
Vulnerability is very much tied up with our emotions. If we feel vulnerability as a weakness then what we seem to fear is actually our emotions themselves. Vulnerability to some people is seen as braveness that they can’t possible reciprocate. But is it really all that brave or courageous. What’s so brave and courageous about telling people how you truly feel? Especially if the reaction brings us such love and empowerment?
Vulnerability also speaks to me of something I’ve mentioned before and that is being in the moment. Not having particular regard for the future or the past, but just purely enjoying the now for what it is. I’m sure it’s a human trait to try and moderate any strong emotion as a way of self-preservation but there is something quite beautiful in letting go.
And perhaps there is a greater place for vulnerability to play in our primary relationships. Perhaps instead of hiding ourselves away we should truly reveal ourselves to our nearest and dearest from day 1. Lets take the dating world, it is full of insecurities, its full of people trying to impress others but maybe it should be a time when we give our potential partners a true choice. Not one that is based on information we want them to hear but rather a holistic picture of us. When something upsets us, maybe instead of pretending it didn’t happen because you don’t want your potential mate to have a negative thought about you, perhaps we should just stop for a second and explain that something has upset us and exactly why it upsets us. Surely by doing this we would build relationships not built on sand, but relationships with proper foundations, ones that can grow taller and longer without fear of toppling because the partners actually understand each other much better.
Why not set aside an hour or two every week and dedicate that time to just being vulnerable with your partner. It could take many formats, maybe it’s an open question sessions where each partner gets to ask alternate questions and the other partner creates a safe space where open communication is encouraged and not jumped on or reacted too. A space where active listening is adopted and we try to actual understand. The questions could be anything, from the silly to the very serious, its often that we get to our serious questions through an initial format that involves jest or segues to something more serious.
Maybe its 30 minutes at the end of everyday, maybe its not done in person, maybe it’s done by text or email. A lot of research shows that we are able to sometimes communicate better these ways because due to the detachment from the person we are willing to say things we never would in person. Those 30 minutes each day could be used to go back over recent situations and tell your partner how things made you feel and why you feel like that.
I’m not suggesting doing this is easy for a second. But as humans the more we do something we more we get used to it and the more comfortable something actually feels. Can you remember the time you first told your partner you loved them? How much anticipation builds up before you say it for the first time. But after its been said once how easy does it come to our lips when you see them? I suppose the point is it has to start somewhere. Undoubtedly, it could in fact be quite confronting especially if its not something that’s comes naturally over our lifetimes or something we were taught in our childhood. But what is there to be afraid of? That our partners may reject us? Isn’t it more likely months or years down the line when they finally start to develop a full picture of us that we get rejected at that point?
The word vulnerable has often been used in a negative context; just a check of the dictionary reveals the following definitions:
- Susceptible to physical harm or damage
- Susceptible to emotional injury
- Susceptible to attack
- Open to censure or criticism
Perhaps its time we redefined this word and what it means to us?