After finishing my last blog entitled “The Importance Of Feeling Seen”, I realized something really important. It is easy and perhaps obvious to recognize that “feeling really seen” by others brings us a great deal of joy and satisfaction…. but rarely do we actually allow ourselves this experience. Even in close friendships and romantic relationships we struggle with this issue. In so many situations we hide important aspects of ourselves, as we assume, usually without a shred of evidence, that parts of us are unacceptable to others. Clearly we can only have the experience of being seen if we really put ourselves out there to be seen. What a shame our “hiding “ is, when you think about it, especially if we consider that everyone else is doing exactly the same thing. We relate to each to each other all the time while revealing only a small fraction of who we are. Our true selves are actually “eclipsed” in a way by our own inner “sensor”. Why is this? What can we do about it?
The simple answer as to why most of us “hide” so much of the time has to do with the concept of vulnerability. According to the Merrion Webster dictionary, vulnerability means: 1. “Capable of being physically or emotionally wounded” 2. Open to attack or damage.”
This definition is apt in terms of emotional vulnerability, I think. Who amongst us has not been emotionally wounded by people we have allowed ourselves to trust? We are naturally afraid, and so we protect ourselves against “re wounding” by keeping our tender and vulnerable parts well hidden from others…and even hidden from ourselves sometimes. We actually construct a kind of emotional “armor” around these vulnerable places in our attempt to stay “safe”. Unfortunately this “armor” can also keep us isolated and unavailable to others
The Problem With Emotional Armor
Emotional armor is actually really important to human psychological makeup. It is the truth, after all, that not everyone can be trusted to have our best interests at heart. When we first meet someone, especially, we probably want to stay somewhat guarded. The problem occurs when our tendency to be ever “vigilant” to possible danger becomes “over determined” so that we are closed up and emotionally unavailable all of the time. What can be done in this instance?
Taking A Risk
The only way to break through our own resistance to “opening up”, the way I see it, is to just take the risk…”just do it”… even if only in a small way. This can be a “test” of your unconscious, or maybe conscious, hypothesis that “letting people” take a peek inside is a dangerous thing. See what happens when you do it. You may be quite surprised. You may assume you are going to be hurt by others, only to find that quite the opposite occurs.
Admission Of Vulnerability Is a Sign Of Personal Strength, Not Weakness
My hypothesis is that admitting vulnerability is actually a sign of strength and not a sign of weakness. I think there is a cultural “myth out there that tells us not to admit to
vulnerability lest we be considered “weak”. Who are we kidding? The human condition is one of constant vulnerability in all realms of our lives. Living in denial of this reality only makes us susceptible to it, I think, because we are shocked beyond belief when the inevitable disasters of our lives actually occur. This doesn’t mean I think we should live in a constant state of fear of all potential dangers…far from it. I think it’s more about acceptance that things will happen over which we have no control so why not just give up the struggle? We just have to live with this reality, without letting it paralyze us. I think admitting vulnerability in personal relationships is exactly the same as admitting it in all parts of our lives. Yes, we are human. Yes, we have been hurt and we have hurt others. It has happened before and will probably happen again. And yet, we still long to be connected. We still need it. We need to take the risk.
Admission Of Vulnerability As a Prerequisite To Intimacy
The trick of becoming truly intimate with another person lies, I believe in the “give and take” of sharing your personal stories. As one person begins to reveal the vulnerabilities inherent in his/her stories the other feels the permission and the safety to do exactly the same thing. Next thing you know, you are both fully engaged in sharing the real experience of being human and finding the mutual empathy of that shared human experience. In my previous blog I refer to this experience as feeling “mirrored”. There is nothing like it…and no other way to have the shared empathy you need for true intimacy. If this is not the right person for the sharing…don’t worry…you will figure it out soon enough. Just pay attention. Open your heart to the “heart click” that is the sign of true intimacy. You will know it when you feel it.
It feels a little like…dare I say it? falling in love.