You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery, and I promise you, something great will come of it – Benjamin Mee (Matt Damon) in ‘We Bought a Zoo’
When was the last time you committed an act of insane courage?
Emotional vulnerability takes a degree of fierce bravery. You might be hurt or criticised. You risk shame and humiliation. When it goes wrong you might feel like you want to run and hide. The events often play over and over in your mind as you try to work out how you could have avoided the pain.
But vulnerability can also help us to feel closer and more connected to others. We often find that when we share our pain, shame just melts away. We take a risk and ‘something great’ comes of it.
I want to suggest though that vulnerability just for the sake of it isn’t helpful. Vulnerability has to be in the service of something. It might be about love, belonging and joy. It might be part of doing extraordinary work or making a difference in the world. But it has to have a purpose.
Although the nature of vulnerability means that it is risky and takes courage, we can make it a little safer if we:
- Make thoughtful choices about who to trust, when and with what aspects of our vulnerability.
- Have clear boundaries and hold people accountable when they cross those boundaries.
- Listen to our needs.
- Respect the needs of others.
- Stay connected to the people we are talking with. Notice their reaction.
- Check assumptions about what they are thinking. They might be quiet because they are horrified but it could also be because they are deeply moved.
- Increase resilience to the painful thoughts and emotions that come along with vulnerability. (You will be surprised to read that Acceptance and Commitment Training is helpful for this!)