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Vulnerability

Vulnerability is the only authentic state. Being vulnerable means being open for wounding, but also for pleasure. Being open to wounds of life means also being open to the bounty and beauty. Don’t mask or deny your vulnerability; quake and shake in your boots with it. The new goodness that is coming to you in the form of people, situations and things can only come to you when you’re vulnerable, i.e. open

Stephen Russel.

Being vulnerable can suck.

I’ve spent the majority of my life being guarded and unavailable for authenticity. During recovery I’ve learned to tolerate it in small batches. My batches are bigger now that I’ve found safe people to be authentic with. Not everyone is in a situation to be vulnerable. It can be dangerous. I’m not sure what the path is, I think it is uniquely different for each one of us. I know for me I was finding some safe people to try it out with. I found my first experience with a group I joined hosted by a church. I do not have a habit of going inside a church, but for some reason I did. It was a class and it involved groups it was outside my comfort zone, but I enrolled. We learned about how to belong, and I needed that after spending a few years on my own, meaning shut up in an apartment, avoiding people in general.

Safe People:

So I think there is this wisdom of the importance of vulnerability, but it should come with a caution label. You have to find safe people. How, right? There are safe people out there. Look for people with these qualities;

  • they practice boundaries
  • they don’t gas light,
  • they can talk about emotions,
  • they do not try to fix you,
  • they can sit with you through tough and painful emotions.
  • They respect your boundaries. Encouragement and pushing is very different.

Where: 

Honestly, people in addiction and recovery groups have been my safe people. They have provided a place where I have found safe vulnerability for the first time. I do not have addictions, I have chronic mental health issues, but not a classic addiction, regardless, fate landed me there with great groups of people. I learned how to be a safe person there. I tried out this thing called authenticity. As a result I made a few good friends as a result, how to be one too. There are groups for mental illnesses, and I’m sure there are good ones, I just never found any. The majority of it was people talking about symptoms and how life sucked. I think group therapy can provide some safe opportunities. I’m sure there are good groups out there somewhere.

How:

It’s not the same for everyone, but this was my approach. After I felt like I had a few good experiences I took my vulnerability out into the community. I volunteered and interacted with people struggling more than myself. I allowed myself to interact and connect with people. I would have not done that prior. Then I co taught some art groups. I’m not a teacher, an artist but not a teacher. So when a friend asked I wanted to say no right away. I had previously told myself that I was going to say more “yeses” that year, so I said yes. The groups went really well and because I was vulnerable I was able to experience some pride and a  deeper connection with my friend. 

Now I’m working. After being away for 5 years I have all kinds of insecurities from interacting with others to my skills as a psychologist. Each day I try to be authentic, and it is terrifying. The effort is working out because my confidence is building little by little. I’m making authentic connections with coworkers and the people I serve. Before the last big episode I lived in a constant state of fear. The antidote to my fear is being open, and allowing myself to experience vulnerability.

It didn’t happen overnight, it took 5 years of experiences to get me to a  place where I can tolerate vulnerability:

  • Where I’m ok not knowing what to do or say
  • Being kind with myself when I’ve made mistakes,
  • admitting I do not know,
  • asking for help,
  • sitting without knowing what tomorrow will bring.
  • reaching out to close friends when I need company sitting with an overwhelming feeling
  • and for me seeking out a power greater than myself

My best advice for starting or deepening your journey with vulnerability is to seek some spiritual guidance, find safe people and be willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable. The benefits outweigh the discomfort

  • Deeper relationships
  • Skills to navigate difficult emotions
  • Closer relationship with your higher power
  • Ability to take risks for building a better, more positive future.

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