I’ve had vulnerability on the brain.
This past month, I’ve had the opportunity to be part of several groups. Each had its own particular level of vulnerability and it’s been interesting to watch what kinds of things vulnerability evokes.
I was a participant in one of these groups and a facilitator in another one. In both of these groups, people were asked to do things they had little or no experience doing. If you haven’t tried something new in a while, I’d like to strongly suggest that you do. There are few things that bring out our feelings of inadequacies like learning something new.
“Now why on earth would I want to feel inadequate?” you may be asking.
Because we are.
Obviously we are not inadequate in every area. But regardless of how proficient we may be in some areas, we are certainly inadequate in many others.
Standing in the light of our inadequacies, we often experience a deep sense of shame. This shame seems to be linked to an underlying fear that if we are in adequate, we might not be counted, included or loved.
Perhaps there is an adaptive, survival strategy at work here. We don’t have tough hides or sharp fangs or claws. We have no literal venom. We don’t climb well or swim well and we’re not particularly fast runners. Our survival is based primarily on our great big cortex and our social cooperation. On a very basic level, we need to be accepted by the pack.
But in these groups, I watched what happened as people allowed their vulnerability to show.
Sometimes there were attempts to “fix” someone else’s vulnerability, reframing their situation to help them feel more adequate. Other times, however, there was the ability to hold a space of compassionate presence for the other person. This ability to hold a compassionate space is made possible by a belief that if the person can look at and explore his vulnerability in a supportive environment, the person can be whole, even in the presence of their inadequacy.
The other thing that happened, however, is that in both of these groups at least one other person approached the person who shared their feelings of inadequacy and confessed their own. This did not create a “misery-loves-company” atmosphere.
Quite the opposite. It created a sense of real togetherness. Not a feeling of acceptance based on one’s strengths, but an actual connection based on our humanness and our wholeness; our light and dark sides, our strengths and weaknesses.
With Valentine’s Day approaching, we spend lots of time focused on exclusive, special love. Let’s expand this to an inclusive, encompassing love that includes our whole selves.
© 2014 Susan Marshall