Vulnerability – Is it really such a bad thing?
I’ve recently been pondering on the word ‘vulnerability’ and its meaning as well as my personal relationship with it. In the past I have always assumed it to be a negative experience and to be avoided at all cost. Feeling vulnerable for me meant feeling exposed, unsure of myself in situations, unguarded and open to attack. Just recalling this makes me want to withdraw and run for cover and hide. I suspect that this may be a similar experience for many.
But what if there is a flip side to this coin? What if some of our past experiences have tainted our perception or understanding of what vulnerability can be if we don’t fear it? What if its meaning has become so twisted and distorted through our past experiences and the beliefs we hold that we shy away from it?
As I’ve explored this topic I can feel how my past experiences have influenced and coloured my understanding of this word, and that my avoidance of feeling vulnerable has affected other areas of my life such as, how I relate to other people and the choices I make.
In the past I can see how I have shied away from situations where I may be left open to feeling vulnerable. Although this has been an unconscious defence on my part, on some level it was a choice I had made in my reaction to life; I had never given myself the space for any true depth of enquiry to become aware of this reaction.
Previous situations of where I have felt vulnerable is when I have felt under threat of being verbally or physically attacked, or just lacking in confidence and feeling unsure of myself or what is expected of me, a fear of being laughed at or judged in some way – these are all examples of where I have felt exposed and vulnerable to being hurt.
My defence strategy has been to create a guard as a form of protection. This guard (my reaction) has been to withdraw, hide, harden my body and hold back from speaking up when I needed to. It gave me the false perception of security and it had been underpinning all my choices and running consistently in the background. Subconsciously I had been on constant alert, prepared and on guard, ready to flee at any moment – equivalent to the fight or flight response.
The magnitude of this reaction in me and to my body is huge when I come to consider the impact and the knock on effects more deeply.
The crushing effects of this have been limiting to say the least i.e. measuring how much of the real me I will share with others, affecting every exchange and relationship I have had, and holding back my potential to bring all of my skills and qualities for fear of being judged in some way. These are small examples but the ripple effects on my life are far reaching.
It’s only since coming to the work of Universal Medicine and the healing modalities and courses they offer, that I have become open to the possibility of acknowledging that I have lived in a state of reaction to the world.
Feeling vulnerable to my ‘hurts’ (which are simply my unresolved issues around life not being the way I think it should be and taking things personally) has meant I have established a way of being in the world where I am on constant alert which puts my nervous system in a permanent state of anxiety and has reflected in my overall health and sense of well-being.
It’s only recently that I have allowed myself to consider the possibility of dropping my self-imposed guard of protection and allow myself to surrender to feeling vulnerable with people. When I do this I can feel how choosing to live life this way is the total opposite to what I have been choosing, and it feels so liberating and life affirming.
This is an ongoing exploration, and one that requires me to be honest about what I am feeling in every situation. Noticing when I’m feeling anxious or uncomfortable and consciously choosing to feel that and yet stay open and transparent in front of others. Exploring what it feels like to simply be me warts and all. I realise just how fearful I have been of making mistakes and getting things wrong, so it is an ongoing practice to surrender to accepting myself. Through that letting go I can feel a deeper appreciation for myself as I continue to discard those very limiting beliefs I’ve been holding onto.
Gradually my willingness to feel what it is to be vulnerable and respond rather than react is changing my experiences and my relationships. Responding rather than reacting feels very freeing, it gives me a feeling of steadiness as opposed to the anxiety and shrinking feeling I get when I find myself going into the old behaviour.
My awareness of this means I can now make the conscious choice to remain open and transparent, and be willing to feel what is around me, regardless of the old hurts that may arise.
This is a new way of approaching life for me and very much a work in progress, but what I get to feel so far is that beyond the fear is a surrender which can be felt by others. And in turn, this is changing my interactions with people as I can feel them responding with an openness in return. The change has been extraordinary to feel on many levels as it continues to unfold. When I allow myself to feel vulnerable I feel how it takes my interactions with others to a deeper and more honest level; it’s not always easy but there are moments when I share with someone how I feel about them instead of keeping it to myself, and I see how they open up too.
And so, I can now feel how being open to feeling vulnerable is an absolute blessing and how my fear of vulnerability and the guard of protection has stopped me from feeling and being aware of so much more. Now that I am gradually dropping the fears, I am feeling the treasures of what true vulnerability can bring.