This week we’re talking about vulnerability – the experience of being susceptible to wounding, and the value of embracing that capacity as a strength rather than as a weakness.
We talk about both the risks and rewards of allowing ourselves to be vulnerable – to injury, criticism, embarrassment, and more.
We explore the potential of moving beyond a state of armored self-protection in the service of forging deeper, more satisfying connections with others, with ourselves, and with the experience of being alive.
Finally, we offer some simple experiments to help you explore the potential gifts of vulnerability in your own world.
“Vulnerability” Episode Highlights
- The difference between “elective” vulnerability (risking being hurt by people we know or whose approval we seek) and exposing ourselves to dangerous situations
- The physical manifestations of always being armored against vulnerability, as well as the stress state and health implications that result
- The deep human need to be accepted – how our fear of public speaking (concentrated social judgment) outweighs even our fear of death
- The vulnerability conundrum: Our tendency to hide those aspects of ourselves that are most likely to form the basis for authentic connection
- The vulnerability fallacy: Our flawed belief that assiduously protecting ourselves will spare us from experiencing pain
- The difference between sharing sensitive information about our historical experience vs. expressing current emotions surrounding that experience
- Tips for navigating vulnerable situations and relationships, and for maintaining boundaries while softening our habitual armor
- The importance of discernment when deciding with whom to be vulnerable, and the rewards that can result when both people are willing to take risks
This Week’s Experiments
Revisit a situation that has not been well resolved, and start with a very small step toward resolution.
- Don’t use facts and figures in an attempt to coerce – instead, come in with emotions.
- Mentally rehearse in advance and make sure your comments reflect how you feel right now.
- It might go badly, but you might create space for the other person to express their feelings too.
Look for an opportunity to give someone heartfelt appreciation or positive feedback in a deeper, more intimate way than you normally would.
- For example, instead of just saying “thanks” or “good job” to a co-worker, take the time to praise their approach or performance in a very specific and heartfelt way.
- Authentic gratitude can create a sense of connection that creates a tangible intimacy (and thus vulnerability) in both the person giving the feedback and the receiver.
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- The Man in the Arena — excerpt from Theodore Roosevelt’s “Citizenship in a Republic” speech featured at the opening of Dr. Brené Brown’s book, Daring Greatly.
- More research and insights on vulnerability from Brené Brown: her audiobook The Power of Vulnerability, her TED Talk on “The Power of Vulnerability”, and her website.
- Wisdom from Brené Brown from Experience Life magazine, including her thoughts on embracing vulnerability.
- “The End of Fear” — an article from Experience Life about psychotherapist Richard Schaub’s work on acknowledging vulnerability on the path to serenity.
- The Living Experiment’s episode on Shame, an emotion intertwined with vulnerability.
- A fun conversation-based game Pilar enjoys playing and giving as a gift: Vulnerability Is Sexy by Roundtable Companies (they make fun t-shirts, too!).
- Synopsis of Franz Kafka’s short story, “Before the Law”, referenced by Pilar as an apt symbolic description of the dynamic of being forever “kept out” of a desired experience that is in fact available and meant for you, and for which nobody but you can you can grant you permission.