Vulnerability has been in the forefront of my consciousness lately. Last week, I read an incredibly powerful post on this subject by Samantha Hall. The power and wisdom from embracing her struggles with vulnerability is truly palpable in that piece.
Aside from reading about vulnerability, I’ve been feeling it in real life. Waves of fears have paid me visits in my waking and slumbering hours. By facing each wave without running away, its power over me dissipates—and I feel stronger and more wholly grounded in my truth. I’m well aware of my self-protective instincts urging me to withdraw my heart to safer grounds. Yet, I’m committed to recognizing that this fear-inducing situation is seeking to help me break old patterns and to open me up to loving even more deeply than ever before. More importantly, I know I’ll never stand a chance of experiencing what my heart truly desires, unless I’m willing to stick it out with the discomfort of being open to the possibility of getting hurt (again).
That seems to be one of the most awesome paradoxes of the human experience, i.e., the less we resist one end of the emotional continuum, the more it brings out the other end in us—and catalyzes our return to who we really are, before we learned to be afraid and shrink from our power and our truth. In this case, the more we embrace being vulnerable, the stronger we are, and the more solidly we stand in our truth, which is love.
What is Vulnerability?
Of what exactly is it that we’re afraid? To what do we feel vulnerable? From what are we trying to protect our heart? Having our heart broken? Certainly. Rejection? Sure. Abandonment? Check. Physical and/or emotional abuse? Unfortunately true. Perhaps some or all of the above and then more.
I believe our vulnerability is seeded in our learned fear that we’re flawed or broken somehow and ultimately undeserving of love without conditions. That’s why we seek validation from others. When they reject, abandon or hurt us in any way, it confirms our fear of brokenness and being undeserving of love. That’s why we get caught in the impossible conflict between searching for love to negate our fear and running from what we seek due to feeling inherently undeserving of it. In short, it’s a no-win proposition.
The other night, I started reading Dr. Robert Holden’s latest book, Loveability: Knowing How to Love and Be Loved. In many ways, to be comfortable with being vulnerable is to return to the untouched, unencumbered innocence of being a baby. Per Dr. Holden (pg. 14):
Babies…have no masks, no personas, no armor, and no dark glasses. … They aren’t putting on a face for the world to see. … They aren’t trying to be loveable; they just are.
When we were babies, we were just perfect, unadulterated beings of love, completely free to be our naked, vulnerable selves. We hadn’t learned the need to protect ourselves, yet. That need came later in life when we had acquired experiences that taught us to be afraid and to veer further and further away from our true nature of love, forgetting that we’re lovable without conditions.
Being Vulnerable = Dropping Defenses
A good number of years ago, a therapist told me something that was way too advanced for where I was in my emotional development at the time. She called attention to my tendency to use my well-developed analytical mind to protect my heart. When in an emotional situation, my mind would present a set of nearly bullet-proof arguments for why it was untenable, followed by the only logical conclusion, i.e., I must leave. To end this destructive pattern, I needed to recognize the obscured reality that I was really freaked out. I needed to be willing to tolerate the discomfort of being vulnerable to allow any development to have a fair chance to unfold, negotiating differences in wants, needs and positions accordingly.
Leaning on my mental capacity to regulate matters of the heart was my woefully ineffective defense against feeling vulnerable. You may be able to relate to that, or you may have your own defensive strategy for hiding your vulnerability, e.g., noticing all the flaws and shortcomings in others to justify why they aren’t right for you, hiding behind busyness and other objectively legitimate reasons (very commonly work-related) why you can’t be more available, etc. Whatever your specific defensive mask is, resolve to become aware of it and make a conscious decision to drop it.
Being Vulnerable = Remembering Love
Love is what we are born with. Fear is what we learn. The spiritual journey is the unlearning of fear and prejudices and the acceptance of love back in our hearts. Love is the essential reality and our purpose on earth. To be consciously aware of it, to experience love in ourselves and others, is the meaning of life. ~Marianne Williamson
As the above Williamson quote captures so well, love is our true nature, while fear is learned. To be vulnerable is to unlearn fear and return to love, to remember that we are lovable by our very nature. By cultivating our remembrance of this truth, it empowers us to stand up for our wants and needs without fear of being abandoned, rejected or harmed—and to know that even if that happens, it doesn’t change the truth that we are lovable without conditions.
When we remember that we are lovable by nature, we can be open to seeing others in the same light. As a result, it’s easier to access the compassion and understanding in our heart to allow others the space to be in their own process, so that they, too, can remember their own truth. All this serves to expand our own heart to experience love more deeply, richly, meaningfully and authentically.
In sum, I believe that vulnerability is a call to return to love and to remember that we’re lovable by nature. Therefore, to be vulnerable is to unlearn any fear of being unlovable and to unleash our full capacity to love and be loved. I also agree with Williamson, that love is our reality and our purpose for experiencing being human. So, I say a huge “yes” to embracing vulnerability because I say a huge “yes” to love!
What about you? What’s your take on vulnerability? What advice do you have for managing vulnerability? Would love for you to share your thoughts and insights in the comment box below.
Chinese character for love: http://cdnet.myxer.com/tn/c/1556274/big/?t=20090129115431
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