Lately, I’ve read a number of posts dedicated to the subject of vulnerability, most notably by Sarah Robinson of Escaping Mediocrity, who featured a tremendously powerful video presentation by Dr. Brene Brown at TEDx Houston.
Dr. Brown asks: How do we cultivate the courage, compassion, and connection that we need to embrace our imperfections and to recognize that we are enough — that we are worthy of love, belonging and joy?
Her research revealed that persons who consider themselves as worthy also exhibit the quality of vulnerability. In her studies, these subjects were more apt to present their truest selves to the world; they understood their so-called imperfection to be not sources of shame, but rather, hallmarks of a shared humanity.
Indeed, we’re connected by our frailty and our strength.
So I wondered:
What happens when we become wholly vulnerable, when we remove our bullet-proof vests and walk heart-first into the world? Will we be surrounded by some kind of protective force-field?
When we jump off the cliff of subtle pretension, will there be a fireman’s trampoline –or maybe a giant, celestial hand– to break our fall?
And then, will the world surge forward to envelop us in a warm, congratulatory hug?
I believe the more likely scenario is that we’ll break some bones –if we’re lucky. We’ll feel more pain than we might have, had we not taken the risk of revealing ourselves, and some people will reject us outright because our vulnerability reminds them too much of their own.
The temptation might be to distract ourselves from the pain by indulging our senses, thus effectively numbing ourselves to it. But if we resist the urge, it’s fair to say we will live more fulfilled lives.
We will feel joy more deeply.
We will make deeper, more meaningful connections with others.
And something else might happen:
In the presence of pain, we might look within.
This is why some ascetic yogis perform voluntary austerities. Their objective is to transcend the discomfort of their body/mind and dive deeply into the realm of Spirit.
But one needn’t lie on a bed of nails in order to cultivate vulnerability.
One need only tell one’s story.
Chances are, it will contain elements similar to my own: elements of heartache and hilarity; of isolation and belonging; of loss and redemption.
My own moments of greatest vulnerability came after the death of my brother, and then later, my baby boy. In both instances, the pain was so great that there was nowhere to go but out of my body and into the farthest reaches of the stratosphere, leaving a shell of myself behind for awhile.
Perhaps you know what I mean.
It changes you, doesn’t it?
All the little, petty things just don’t seem important anymore. You tread a little more softly, with greater reverence and awe. You treat everyone you meet as though they’ve also suffered –because now you know they have.
Life makes you vulnerable, if you allow it to.
When everything is stripped away, all that’s left is the unassailable soul.
For more on the power of story, join me for Hiro Boga‘s Dreaming in the Dark: Writing Your New Story for 2011, beginning Nov. 30.