Why Do I Need Vulnerability?
by David Piltz, MA, MFT
Brene Brown’s Ted Talk titled, The power of vulnerability (2010), creates a frame to consider the intersection between intimacy and vulnerability in relationships. Our patterns of interactions in relationships are powered and driven by our emotional content. In many cases the underlying root of that emotional content is locked away nicely in the subconscious and shrouded in lack of emotional self-awareness. Emotional Intelligence supposes that as self-aware conscious beings, humans are the only creatures that can have feelings about their feelings. For example, when someone says they are angry that anger emotion is powered by for example feelings of shame or embarrassment. So, relationships are patterns of emotional interactions between individuals in which sometimes we may know the underlying emotion and sometimes we do not. Let’s continue to explore how our relationships are the interactions of emotions.
Connecting to another individual means to affect and effect both individual’s emotions. This affect and effect we experience creates meaning in our lives. This meaning provides guidance or purpose in how we set goals and measure success. For some connection with others is purely based on receiving something in return, like connecting with a boss and co-workers to complete assignments and receive compensation. For others connecting with others deepens emotions of feeling needed or loved and creates happiness and satisfaction. So, connecting with others not only creates meaning for our lives in what and how we do things but it also creates a deeper emotional bond that directly triggers and taps into our deep subconscious emotional content. The quality and authentic-ness of our connections depends on how vulnerable we are with ourselves and others. Being vulnerable with ourselves means we are working on increasing our self-awareness and learn about our subconscious emotional content and thus learning to accept all of us, the good and the ugly. In this connection process, vulnerability is essential to be able to differentiate ourselves from others but also to have our needs of safety, security, love and feeling worthy met.
Unfortunately, we tend to have a sense that instead of being enough we live a life of not being enough. When we feel we are not enough, we experience shame. We feel shameful about our bodies, our personalities, our home, our family, the type of car we have, etc. because we feel and experience life in terms of lacking. Operating from a framework of lacking, we carry the shame of not being enough into our relationships thus creating a no-win situation when we find someone we want to be with and fall in love with. With this frame of lack, we can never believe that we are worthy enough to be loved and to love. Instead we believe we are less than worthy of love and experience our relationships in ways that we are never loved the way we need to be loved and often do not provide love to others as they need to be loved. This sense of lack of worthiness creates challenges with feeling fully loved and a sense of belonging. However, when we can be vulnerable with ourselves and increase our self-awareness thus increasing our emotional comfort we are more than capable of feeling worthy and living a life of worthiness.
Since our default is to feel worthless and our defense of that feeling is to not be vulnerable, we can never create a genuine and authentic connection with someone else in which we fully feel like we are seen by the others. To be seen by another is to feel at an emotional level that someone else gets us. Get’s all of us, the good, the bad, the ugly. Being seen means we can be ourselves without worry about repercussion and the only way that can happen is if we are vulnerable. Choosing a path of increasing your self-awareness, increases your capability of being vulnerable. When your capacity to be vulnerable increases, creating heathy intimate relationships happen with little struggle and challenge because you are feeling seen and are seeing others as genuine authentic individuals. Learning to be vulnerable creates skills of seeing others and how to be seen. Taking the time to get to know yourself, un-covering the feeling behind the feeling and learning to know you are enough in all aspects with the potential to grow instead of feeling like there is a lack produces the essential steps to create amazing connections with others. As a therapist, my goal is to assist you with your individualized process of these steps to help you be vulnerable in life and in your relationships.
Brown, B. (2010). The power of vulnerability [Video file]. TEDTalk.