Vulnerability & Shame


It’s a cracker of a day here on the Riviera, blue, blue skies and her majesty is high in the sky.  I think sometimes we forget that it’s the same sun that shines on all of us no matter the latitude or longitude we live on.  An awesome planet indeed!

Nature is slowly awakening to her spring warmth.  We have had one of the mildest winters in a very long time.  Perhaps four weeks in all of cold weather where maybe five nights of frost damaged a few small plants, and now I see them slowly come back to life.  It’s a real wonder to watch natures transformation; little buds start to peer up above the clay day by day as they push through taking in the sun and water to nourish their growth.

They smile at us.  Don’t forget to smile back.

What courage these plants demonstrate year after year, despite their vulnerability to weather conditions and sometimes human stupidity, they have nothing to be ashamed of as we witness their resilience, tenacity and a will to survive and dance their dance another time.

We are as vulnerable as the plants are to all kinds of environmental influences: externally and internally.  We have many branches operating in both spheres and all it takes is a word, a thought, a gesture, a deed or an action to evoke sorrow, pain, joy, anger, laughter, sadness, love, hatred etc.  We do it to ourselves, to others and others towards us.  We can have all seasons in one thought or in a lifetime.  As Brené Brown who studies human connections says, some of us  ‘lock and load’ some of our experiences, whilst others let their vulnerabilities be seen.  Vulnerability according to Brené is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.  How breathtaking is that?  When we don’t let out vulnerability be seen, when we wear masks to hide our stories we are no longer truly available to ourselves or to those around us.

There is nothing in our personal story that has not been experienced by others on this planet.  So why hide who we are?  Why hide your experiences?  Why pretend?  Why carry skeletons in the closet?  Why sit in judgment of others when your closet is laden with your own unacknowledged ‘stuff’?  Life is cruel and kind.  Life is difficult and joyous.  We fail and we succeed.  We cry and we laugh.  We are like the plants in all seasons.  We never turn off  ‘til we die.

We are living our own story that charters through very calm, not so calm and rough waters:  “I was a soldier in Afghanistan and I shot other soldiers and civilians, I was abused by the priests when I was a child, my father beat my mother, my father never talked to me as a child, my mother was a drunk, I lived in fear of my father’s anger, my mother never hugged me, my parents abandoned me, my sister was a bully, my brother teased me, my teacher was emotionally cruel to our class and especially to William, I was sexually abused by a family friend, I don’t know how to communicate with my partner or my children, I am too fat, too thin, I have no hair, I have short legs, I am not attractive, I am ugly, I am not tall enough, I am not smart enough, I am not cool enough, I don’t belong to the ‘in’ gang, I am too old, I am too young, I am a loner, I am scared of not achieving, I am afraid the tax man will get me, I was afraid of the bogie man when I was a child, I don’t know how to love myself,  I am mean, I am not truly caring, I am selfish, I am lonely, I am not good in public or in social situations, my background is working class, my background is upper class, my brother is a loser, I am too shy, I am scared of living, I am scared to go for my dreams, what I believed in is no longer true, nobody understands me, I don’t understand myself etc.” 

Chapters and or acts from our real life stories create our vulnerabilities and when we express them we enable others to do the same; “I never knew that about you before, wow, you are so brave to tell me that. So that is why you react like that to Kevin.  Now I understand. Did you know that I was also afraid of my father’s anger and it was not until I was forty years old that I confronted him on it and took back my own power.”  We can smile together and support each other by being vulnerable.  Vulnerable is like the plant that comes up every year despite the frost and the human stupidity and it gets stronger and stronger every year.  We can build real friendships and relationships through this exchange.  Our load lessens, we fell free, the cuffs are off and we are no longer our own prisoner.  When we are aware of our vulnerability we learn about loyalty, trustworthiness, boundaries, honesty, caring, non-judgment, acceptance, courage, creativity, imagination and love of self and your friend/s.

We all have had or still have the gremlin voice telling us “you are not good enough, who do you think you are.”  If we stand up to this voice we can say, “well that might have been the case once upon a time, but no more, I am stepping out on my stage and this time I am bringing all of me, so you can go on a very long holiday because you are no longer welcome in my story.”  If we surrender to the gremlins in our mind, we lock away parts of our story and pretend all is well in our world.  We are afraid of the consequences of someone finding our your ‘stuff’.  We are ashamed of aspects of our story.  We don’t acknowledge or accept who we are.  But if these private and personal worlds stay locked up how can you learn to be empathic and compassionate towards yourself and others.  Keeping yourself under lock and key develops disease in the body and mind, in your voice, in your touch, in your heart, in your mind, in your energy, in how you are with others and yourself.  You radiate this energy to the world around you.  Who are you being?

Who we are being everyday in our own story nourishes or thwarts our self-esteem, self-worth and our confidence.  It takes courage, empathy and compassion to explore, come to know, accept, express and redirect your on-going personal story.  If we all continue to wear masks then the world economies, legislation, governance, social discourse, personal relationships, friendships and our own relationship with ourselves will never find solutions to our challenges.  If each person no matter what role they have in life, from president to the man or woman who sweeps the streets cannot know what it is like to walk in the other persons shoes then they can never understand what it means to be human.

The scripts we write ourselves each day represents who we are.  How real is your script?  How integrated is your story?  Take away the mask and who is there?  How aware are you of your own story and how it affects those around you ?

I strongly suggest that you check out Brené Brown who is a researcher, storyteller and a lot more besides.  She sets our stage for this week’s blog on ‘vulnerability and shame.’

“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”  Brené Brown

“We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection.  Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them – we can only love others as much as we love ourselves.  Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows. Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed and rare.”   Brené Brown  The Gifts of Imperfection:  Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

“And may be that was love. Being so vulnerable and allowing someone else in so far they could hurt you, but they also give you everything.”  Christine Feehan  Water Bound

“I am stronger than words and I am bigger than the box I’m in, and then I see her in the crowd and I fall apart.” David Levithan

“To share your weakness is to make yourself vulnerable; to make yourself vulnerable is to show your strength.”  Criss Jami

“Because he could not afford to fail, he could not afford to trust.”  Joseph Ellis, His Excellency George Washington

“Human beings, whatever their backgrounds, are more open than we think, that their behavior cannot be confidently predicted from their past, that we are all creatures vulnerable to new thoughts, new attitudes.  And while such vulnerability creates all sorts of possibilities, both good and bad, its very existence is exciting. It means that no human being should be written off, no change in thinking deemed impossible.”  Howard Zinn, You can’t be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times.

“But, of course, putting yourself out there takes vulnerability. Vulnerability is hard, and we, as a rule, tend to go for what’s easy; by that logic, closing ourselves off is the easiest thing in the world. We quote the words of others to do our talking for us, send each other links to articles and stories in lieu of actual conversation, post pretty pictures to adequately convey our current state of mind, all to avoid having to proffer a single identifiable human emotion. We keep in touch with relatives by emailing them mawkishly inspirational chain letters once in a while. We regurgitate memes to approximate the feeling of being in the loop.”  Phil Roland

©Copyright The Possible Self

1 comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: