That is a good thing.
Psychologists and social scientists define vulnerability as the courage to show up and be seen and heard when you can’t control the outcome. It is what happens “any time you put yourself out there when there’s a chance it can all go to hell,” says Brené Brown, a social scientist and research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, who has been studying vulnerability for more than a decade.
That is an uncomfortable position, filled with uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure. We’re hard-wired to avoid the feelings of fear and anxiety it produces.
And yet try falling in love, going out for a team, sharing a creative idea, asking for forgiveness, changing jobs, moving cities, leaving a bad relationship, loving again. These take courage. And courage always involves vulnerability, Dr. Brown says.
Vulnerability presents a dilemma: We may have a goal and take a risk to reach for it. But then we immediately regret our emotional exposure. Dr. Brown has a term for this: It is a vulnerability hangover.
No wonder the synonyms for the word “vulnerable” are so bleak: “defenseless,” “helpless,” “exposed,” “in danger,” “at risk.”
Dr. Brown says the hangover is a normal part of the vulnerability process. To learn how to endure it so we can stay open to possibility and reap the eventual rewards, be mindful of the four myths of vulnerability, she says: that it is a weakness; that you don’t have to be vulnerable; that it is just oversharing; that you can go through life alone and never open up.
And the rewards can be huge. Being vulnerable with someone establishes intimacy and trust, creating a shared emotional experience to forge a bond, says Hal Shorey, a psychologist and associate professor for the Institute for Graduate Clinical Psychology at Widener University in Chester, Pa. People typically feel open and warm toward someone who indicates he or she is vulnerable. Think of walking into a stuffy cocktail party alone and then meeting someone who admits she feels nervous and out of place.
Vulnerability can also humanize you, facilitate learning, and enable optimal problem solving, Dr. Shorey says.
So how do you cope with the vulnerability hangover?
Disclose on purpose. There are two types of vulnerability, Dr. Shorey says: Naive, where it happens by accident, and intentional. You want to practice vulnerability with intent. Before you open yourself up, anticipate the reaction of others and the emotional hits you might take. “Be mindful of what you want to happen and the impact on other people and yourself,” Dr. Shorey says.
Do a cost-benefit analysis. When you decide to be vulnerable, you’re giving up something secure in the present for a potential long-term gain, says David DeSteno, a professor of psychology at Northeastern University. Write down the pros of taking the risk you are considering on one side of a piece of paper, then the pros of the status quo on the other. One list should jump out at you.
Remember it is endearing. I once heard Tony Kushner, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and author of “Angels in America,” speak to a packed auditorium at a prestigious university. He opened by admitting he hated public speaking and was especially nervous because the school had rejected him when he applied to college there. He had his audience in the palm of his hand after that.
Focus on your action, not the outcome. “Being vulnerable is not about the success, it’s that we tried,” says Anna Osborn, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Sacramento, Calif. If we tie our happiness too much to the outcome, we set ourselves up to be disappointed. Think of it this way: Maybe the person you’ve got a date with tonight won’t like you. You never know unless you show up for dinner.
Choose your audience and set the stage. If you’re going to be vulnerable and looking for support, choose the right person. Also, it helps to give the person a heads up. Say: “I need to be vulnerable. I don’t need you to fix it. I just need you to hear it.”
Write a list. Dr. Brown suggests getting out a 1” x 1” piece of paper and writing down the names of the people whose opinions matter to you, who love you because of your imperfections and vulnerability. Then keep it with you. These are the people to go to for advice on when to be vulnerable. What would they say?
Count to Eight. Dr. Brown encourages people to take breaths while counting slowly to eight. Can you stay with the discomfort long enough to calm yourself down? The goal is to resist the “flight” part of the “fight or flight” reflex.”
Think how you’d feel if you didn’t take the risk. “Vulnerability can be terrifying and dangerous,” says Dr. Brown, author of “Daring Greatly.” “But it’s never as terrifying or dangerous as getting to the end of your life and asking why you never showed up, why you never tried.”
By Elizabeth Bernstein - The Wall Street Journal/Nov. 7, 2016
Photo: A. Richard Allen, wsj
Though not a drug story a story that all can relate to - since recreational drug users are almost always facing many forms of vulnerability.
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