Where to start...
Have you ever been with "vulnerable" with someone else? What exactly is vulnerability anyway? To me, it's having the depth of yourself exposed to another person. It's the equivalent (not to provoke unsafe and non-consensual voyeurism) to standing in the middle of the street naked and having to answer hard questions about your difficult past by pedestrians looking on. If that situation doesn't invoke some sense of vulnerability, I'm not sure what will. In my opinion, a vulnerable initiation can provoke one of two potential avenues: 1) SHAME: you are vulnerable to someone and the response is to dismiss, make fun, blow off, or hold you personally responsible for something that maybe wasn't your fault; 2) ACCEPTANCE: you are vulnerable to someone and the response is to feel totally and entirely present with the other person; to meet them where they are and to express unconditional love and partnership.
I personally have been the recipient of both of these avenues in terms of AB/DL and it is one of the most heartbreaking things I can imagine as a partner. To be the most vulnerable you can be with your soul mate and to be absolutely and utterly dismissed. How do you even rebound from that? How do you approach another conversation that might move toward the back roads to acceptance? Where do you go for acceptance?
One of my favorite authors and speakers is Dr. Breneé Brown. She is a social worker and researcher but has spent the majority of her career on studying negative emotions, in particular, shame and vulnerability. She notes, "Never underestimate the power of being seen." This could be found on both the SHAME avenue and the ACCEPTANCE avenue and both the pain and celebration that comes from either path. She defines shame as the feeling we get when "believe we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging." To "numb the dark, you numb the light."
Now, what to do... again in the words of Dr. Brown, "people who wade into discomfort and vulnerability and tell the truth about their stories are the real badasses...vulnerability is not winning or losing; it's having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. [It's] not weakness; it's our greatest measure of courage."
I think the message here is to pursue wholeness earnestly. To not shy away from vulnerable places, but instead own them like you mean it. This means to pursue connection in a scary way if it truly means that much to you. It means accepting yourself as okay. We are all in this together, "braving the wilderness."
Read more of Dr. Breneé Brown's work below: