Sunday, April 14, 2013

Vulnerable me. Vulnerable you.

We all have our tender, soft, vulnerable side.   Even, ‘Iron Lady’ “balls-of-steel” Margaret Thatcher had it. 

It depends on our character, context and circumstances as to if, when and how we choose to reveal it.   

And some may never choose to do so.   

We want to be strong. We need to be strong.

We create elaborate strategies to defend against our vulnerability, to keep us strong or give the impression that we are.  Our masks, words and actions protect and shield ourselves from being exposed and hurt.

But when these defences become hardened and outdated, we begin to notice ourselves hurting – doing the very thing we wanted to avoid, and we end up arresting our own growth and development.  And we end up hurting others, becoming oblivious to their plight.   

As in this 2010 TED talk from researcher storyteller Brené Brown on the power of vulnerability, we numb our emotions, try and make the uncertain certain, perfect and pretend, all of which closes us off from really connecting.  And so there is another way:  to let ourselves be seen, to love with our whole hearts, to practice gratitude and joy, and to believe we are enough.

Similarly as Elle Harrison writes in Wild Courage, when we expose and engage our undefended heart, we open ourselves up to the gifts of vulnerability;  a renewed sense of energy, power and safety;  trust and integrity in our relationships; greater compassion and generosity as leaders; and the ability to compassionately acknowledge our (often destructive) impact on the planet and to seek out new, sustainable ways of living and working.

Drawing on Jon Kabat-Zinn, we can start recognising the ways we meet our obstacles with harshness.  We can experiment being soft when our impulse is hard; generous when our impulse is to be withholding; open when our impulse is to close up or shut down emotionally; staying when our impulse is to run.

Protected and shielded
Against the elements
We remain vulnerable
Our full-throttle power
An illusion of mind
Yielding our effort and
Yet leaning into grace
Conquering no longer                                   
Harmony can move in


Photo image: by the very talented Nicolò Smania, used with his permission. 
Brené Brown (2010) The Power of Vulnerability.  TED talk
Harrison, E. (2011) Wild Courage: A Journey of Transformation for You and Your Business, Watkins Publishing, UK. Chapter 5 (pp: 107-132)
Kabat-Zinn, J. (1994) Wherever you go there you are: Mindfulness meditation in everyday life. New York: Hyperion, pp: 65-67

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