Vulnerability. The very thought of this emotion conjures up a wave of anxiety. A state of mind which is easily associated with weakness and shame. But what about the strength vulnerability can harbour?
We’ve all experienced tragedy at some point in life which changes us at our core. As humans, if we survive these tragedies it will usually make us stronger. What does ‘stronger’ actually mean? The way I see it, there are two main types of ‘strength’. There is ‘numb’ strength which is easier for us to inhabit because all we have to do to accomplish it is ignore or push-back the pain and shame associated with an experience. Then there is ‘true’ strength, which is much harder to cultivate as it requires we examine a painful situation extensively and push-through the pain and shame. ‘Numb’ strength can be confused for ‘true’ strength quite easily.
People who inhabit ‘numb’ strength tend to be hard-nosed, stubborn and absolute. They have extremely low tolerance for situations or people who they would perceive as either a waste of time or would challenge their way of thinking. Those who have worked tirelessly to ignore and repress a painful experience are hypersensitive to those emotions creeping back out, so if something threatens this emotional house of cards – they can become ferocious in ensuring its’ preservation. This is an extremely unhealthy method of exhibiting strength, and causes us to neglect many of our basic human needs.
Connection is perhaps one of the most fundamental needs of the human race. We need it in order to survive, both physically and emotionally. Whether through friendship, love, sex or Facebook – we crave to be truly connected to another person in one way or another. However, in order for connection to take place there is usually an emotional fair-trade agreement which is unspoken but very evident. We must exchange trust through exposing our hopes and fears. The ‘numb’ strong person despite every desire to achieve a connection, will be too fearful to participate in this exchange, lest the fragile walls of repression come tumbling down and they are left raw and exposed. This method of survival can only lead to illness, unhappiness and a disconnection from loved ones.
‘True’ strength requires a much more emotionally taxing method of processing tragedy, but the pay-off is much higher. When we experience negativity in life, our heart arrives at a fork in the road – do we work through this pain, or do we work around it? We immediately recognise that working through the pain is a longer route, so working around it can seem preferable. If we do make the courageous decision to work through tragedy, we keep one eye looking at the past and one eye looking toward the future. Some people believe that basing future decisions on past experiences can be unhealthy, but this is how we learn about life as human beings and we have always done this. I do agree that basing all decisions on past experiences can cause us to live in a state of fear from which we cannot grow, so we must always remember to look to the future and scope out new experiences, but taking our life lessons with us. If we can pull off this balance, we can remain strong but also open to new lessons – we can be vulnerable.
Vulnerability is where our inner-child and beauty as individuals resides. I see ‘true’ strength as being comfortably vulnerable, or State Zero. From being in State Zero, we can be completely open to all life’s potential as well as our own. Letting in all the good and the bad that life has to offer, but remembering we have the tools survive it all. Feeling vulnerable is mostly a positive state of mind, it is the secret to living a life of substance. Take risks in love and your career, join the tennis club even though you can’t play, say “yes” more often than “no” – enjoy the adventure of life. True strength is hard work, and remaining vulnerable seems terrifying, but without darkness we cannot see the light.