If you’re someone who grew up being told that tears are a sign of weakness, or that you should never show fear lest you be exploited, you understand how very difficult it is to communicate complex emotions like jealousy, resentment, or sorrow. You protect these experiences, holding them close to your chest like a dislocated arm in a sling. Just as extending the injured arm would create a risk of further injury, keeping parts of yourself out of intimate relationships prevents emotional hurt and exploitation.
You know how this looks for you.
Maybe you become stoic and isolate yourself. Perhaps you bury yourself in work or your hobbies. If you’re in a fragile state, you might displace your anger and rage against someone innocent, or who’s an easy target. None of these things feel good, and it’s easy to feel ashamed if your actions have pushed people away.
This limiting mindset doesn’t have to be a defining feature, however. Vulnerability can be learned. In fact, anyone can learn how to be vulnerable with themselves.
A Practice to Begin Healing
- To begin, find a quiet place to reflect on these questions in silence. If you prefer, there’s also the option to write down your answers.
- What has been your relationship with vulnerability?
- Reflect on a time that turned out favorably when you made a decision to be vulnerable with someone you trust. It can be anything, even something small. Reflecting on that now, how did it feel to allow this person to witness you in your need? What did it perhaps do for your relationship?
- Keeping that positive experience of vulnerability in mind, is there a part of you that’s been hidden, and that you’re now needing to acknowledge? Consider a difficult emotion, like loneliness, that’s been hard to name, and the impact of just letting it be present without registering it.
- What would it be like to bring your experience to someone you trust? Consider the positive outcome you had in step three, in which you overcame your reluctance around vulnerability and brought your issue forward. If this were once again possible, is there something you would now need to address with someone trustworthy?
- Finally, reflect on what might be gained from this exercise in vulnerability: the ability to let someone else recognize and possibly help you carry a struggle, the opportunity to strengthen the bond of your relationship, the deepening of trust in addressing other vulnerable parts of your life that may show up in the future.
A Guided Meditation to Befriend Vulnerability
Befriending Vulnerability with Dr. Stacee Reicherzer
- To begin, find a comfortable place in your home where you can sit or lie down and just listen to this meditation free of distractions, where you can just be for a few moments. Positioning yourself comfortably, allow yourself to take an in-breath through the nose. Exhaling through the mouth. Another breath in through the nose, and out through the mouth. Just continuing to breathe in this manner.
- In your mind’s eye, allow yourself to really observe that part of you that yearns to be seen, yearns to be noticed, that yearns to be forgiven, that yearns to be loved. And as you encounter this part of you, allow it to really be enhanced. Really notice the qualities of what it would mean to be seen, to be loved, to be healed.
- This is your gift. A gift to give to someone you trust. Reflecting now on this gift: Who in your life deserves to see, to know, to forgive, to love this part of you? Bring their face into your mind’s eye. Noticing the qualities that tell you this person is trustworthy, is deserving of your vulnerability.
- Allow yourself to see, as well, the potential for your own life and sharing this gift with this person. What would it mean to you to bring this part of you into this relationship now? Really notice them loving you. Forgiving you, healing you by witnessing you and your vulnerability.
- As you do so, make a commitment to yourself of what it is that needs to be said and shared with this person who has shown you that they are trustworthy.