By Erin Moline, MA, LPC, Life Purpose Topic Expert Contributor
To me, “vulnerable” is wonderful word. It means openness, freedom, and the opportunity to love and be loved. But for others, it is what they are trying to get away from: They feel that they are too vulnerable. In actuality, the opposite is true. They feel unsafe because they are too defended, too guarded. True vulnerability comes only with acceptance of self. And with that, fear drops away.
By becoming vulnerable to life, we discover its meaning. Not the meaning of life in an objective sense, but rather its meaning and purpose for each one of us, as individual souls. Whether that is the truth of a given moment, or an expanded sense of purpose and destiny in our professional or personal lives, we can discover it only if we learn to listen to our own hearts in an unguarded and open way.
Our Own Vulnerability
To be happy and content in life, we must give in and learn to listen to ourselves deeply. We must accept our vulnerabilities, open ourselves to them, and embrace them! Why? Because only then do we feel the safety net that is always there; that mysterious presence that is beauty, love, kindness, and truth. When we don’t move into the mystery of vulnerability, it is like we are clinging to a tightrope after having fallen off, peering into the dark, afraid that there is no net. We find the net by letting go, by falling into the unknown.
This surrender does not have to be, as many think, a large display of emotion, because it is at its heart something internal, something private. Our closest, longest, and most intimate relationship is the one we have with ourselves. So while we might first experience vulnerability with someone else, it is at its heart something we must do with ourselves, by ourselves. It is not enough to be accepted by someone else: We must accept ourselve.
Allowing Others to Be Vulnerable
By becoming vulnerable to yourself, you move toward being vulnerable in your reltionship and, just as importantly, being able to accept the vulnerability of those you love. This can be some of the hardest work we do: allowing the people we depend on to have their own vulnerabilities, their own weaknesses, their own struggles.
When vulnerability is not allowed in a relationship, it separates people, no matter how much they love each other. A person may love someone, but he or she may also want that person to be something he or she is not, or to just plain stop having the pain or struggle that he or she does. This dynamic can create a vicious cycle of resentment and frustraton in one person, and a sense of confinement, judgment, and claustrophobia in the other.
Maybe this sounds simple to you, or perhaps complicated and confusing. It all begins with whatever moment you are in. And it takes baby steps. If you are interested in exploring more, note the time and do this five-step practice for the next five minutes:
- Take three deep breaths. In through the nose, out through the mouth. Soften your shoulders, your forehead, your eyes.
- Become vulnerable to everything happening in this moment. All the feelings, all the thoughts. Accept and allow everything. Soften toward every part of yourself. Breathe.
- Soften all resistance to what is here. Feel the energy of your body, emotions, and mind. Feel whatever pain you may be having. Don’t label or think about it, just sense it fully. Don’t push anything away. Breathe.
- Allow the waterfall that is the experience of each passing moment to wash over you. Just for this moment, accept fully and forgive yourself for all the failings and faults, all the regrets and mistakes that are marching through your mind. Let go of the fight and allow yourself to be just as you are right now. Breathe.
- Now return to the top and continue the practice. Close your eyes as you are able, repeating the steps and continuing to soften and breathe.
© Copyright 2012 by Erin Moline, LPC, therapist in Portland, OR.
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