Vulnerability: The Blessing And The Curse of Intimacy
We’re caught in the trap of desiring intimacy but resisting vulnerability with all kinds of mind games and psychological protection. In the end we think it is easier to learn the skill of vulnerability…
We’ve been told that vulnerability is a scary, dangerous place. In fact, vulnerability is simply deep openness. It’s beautiful. In fact, it’s how we actually create intimacy. Without it we can share each other’s company, do things together and share common interests. But without it we stay on the surface of each other, and of ourselves. We repeat- vulnerability is the deep level of openness and availability that will make your relationship work. Being vulnerable means we’ve let our psyche’s emotional walls down, allowing ourselves to be seen- both by others and by ourselves. It can happen in moments of joy, such as at the birth of your child, being fully loved by another, being given a moment of grace when you feel most undeserving, as much as in moments of fear. In fact, it’s in the openness and space created by vulnerability that love can enter, we have to make space for it. Love can enter by itself and magically create a connection yet if you’re willing to make vulnerability a practice you will experience a much higher level of Big Love in your relationship, and in your life.
Vulnerability is always scary but any danger comes from our lack of understanding and inability in dealing with it. When we think of vulnerability we’re conditioned to think of something being wrong, that we’re literally in danger. Vulnerability has warning signs around it saying ‘don’t go there, don’t go there’. From here we make the logical choice to try and defend ourselves or attack that which is making us feel vulnerable. When we do this we miss out on the love, connection, healing and self-understanding that lies on the other side of our vulnerability.
The key in Vulnerability
Is if you can make the paradoxical choice to make your vulnerability ok and welcome it in our need to defend ourselves drops away.
When we make vulnerability ok, choosing to feel it, allow it, even welcome it in, we are in a very powerful place.
We’ve been taught that vulnerability is about exposing or opening ourselves up to another person, or to something outside of ourselves. We call this vulnerability without. In vulnerability without our focus is on opening ourselves outwards where we leave ourselves vulnerable to attack or rejection, especially if we are looking for something from the person we’re opening to. It is emotionally risky because in doing so we expose the mask of our most unfamiliar, helpless and wounded self.
From here we either:
- Contract in our feelings, creating an experience of intense emotional and even physical pain
- Go into a story to justify our fear or woundedness, whether it is true or not
- Become desperate for the person we’re exposed to to validate or comfort us
- Pick up on any potential threat in what our partner says or does and react, whether the threat is real, or our projection
- Go on the offensive, attacking the other to stay safe in ourselves
- Close down as soon as possible and put our defences back up
Many a relationship has been destroyed by attacks that come from the discomfort of this kind of vulnerability.
on the other hand is opening in to ourselves, holding on to ourselves rather than to another. It is about literally opening inwards rather than opening out. This vulnerability within ourselves becomes a place of strength, going beyond our weakness to where we no longer feel the need to hide or protect ourselves. We find we are not weak and helpless but vast and powerful. We’re less dependent on our partner’s response. We’re totally emotionally open and available to ourselves and to our partners, even to love itself. We surrender to ourselves, our mind sinks into our heart. We’re freer and more connected to our essence.
We don’t say these things lightly
When we say vulnerability within ourselves leads us into experiences of more love than we ever dreamed possible we’re very serious. As a society we are becoming more physically comfortable, smarter and more in control of our ego selves and our world. We have an ever increasing number of ways to escape feeling discomfort. The byproduct of this shift is more loneliness and depression and missing out on the gifts Big Love can bring. We’re creating more external success but our question is, does this replace the value of Big Love itself? Experiencing Big Love, love beyond description is one of the benefits of facing our vulnerability.
If we stop buying into the fear stories of vulnerability we find it is a feeling like ‘come and get me world, do your worst because here I am, with no more walls and nothing more that can hurt me!’
What makes vulnerability uncomfortable is merely our resistance to it. The more willingly we embrace the power of vulnerability within the easier and more rewarding intimacy becomes.
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change” Brene Brown
Understand that if you only experience pain and not freedom in your vulnerability you have probably remained contracted in your feelings rather than fully dropping though them into the essence of you that lives underneath your pain and your story.
Holding on to yourself
is choosing to stay present with yourself and your feeling body whilst you show up, no matter what you feel. In this way intimate communicating becomes an act of self acceptance, validation and love, a way of maintaining your sense of self and becoming intimate and available in your relationship at the same time. This is the magic of intimacy.
In his wonderful book Passionate Marriage David Schnarch, Phd states that “Intimacy hinges on validating yourself rather than trusting your partner to make you feel safe.”
Making vulnerability OK and practicing taking your vulnerability within takes both courage and practice. Choose respectful places to practice your vulnerability in, places where you can hold onto yourself if it is unseen or rejected. Ask permission of the person you’re sharing with if they’re open to your sharing. You can start outside your relationship if with your partner feels too big, or start with subjects with manageable levels of vulnerability for both of you.
When you are next sitting down with your partner (or a friend), practice your ABC, look them in the eye and notice what comes to you as something about yourself that would be challenging for you to share. Ask their permission first and choose to share it, using ‘I’ language. Share whatever it is without looking for any particular response. The importance is not what you are sharing but the opening you’re creating in yourself by sharing it. Hold onto yourself and validate yourself for going there. Don’t need your partner to do it for you, if they do see it as a beautiful bonus.
The magic in all of this is that because you are taking this risk in showing with your walls down and your partner is more than likely to feel drawn towards you rather than to reject us as you fear, for your exposure of your essence creates attraction. And if they do happen to reject you, you are ok because you are connected fully to yourself so there is no abandonment and little pain.
Go to any personal development workshop and you will most likely be invited to speak in ‘I’ language. This happens for good reason. Our culture has a habit of saying ‘you’ when we really mean ‘I’ or ‘me’ that subtly disconnects us from feeling our own experience fully. Saying “I” also lets the other person hear us more easily as we are clearly talking about our own experience.
Make it a habit to practice ‘I’ language when talking about your own experience.
Your partner’s response: Remember your partner’s response is about them not you, just as your response is about you not them.
What we are responsible for is about us. Remembering this makes it easier to hold to ourselves when sharing.
Supporting someone in being vulnerable: If someone asks you to hear them share something vulnerable there is much you can do to support them:
Bring all of who you are into the moment:
Clear your mind
Connect with your body
Breathe into your heart
Gently focus your eyes on them
Be in silence
Don’t try to understand them at an intellectual level, let their words penetrate you, feel their heart
Feel what is behind their words
Meet them in who they are being
Share what their sharing may have touched in you, which is a beautiful way of validating their offering.
“The way you become divine is to become wholly human”. Bishop Shelby Spong
If you would like to learn how to practice vulnerability within join us for one of our upcoming events here