Vulnerability, Shame and Fear

"I am always doing that which I can not do,
in order that I may learn how to do it."
~ Pablo Picasso

The Nature of Vulnerability

The Latin root of the word means, "to wound" or "a wound," kind of like a hole in your armour where a spear could get in. Vulnerabilities are soft or tender spots, where once you were hurt and could very well be again.

It would seem that anything that lets in pain is a weakness. So it follows that since a vulnerability seems to be a place that lets in the pain, it is a weakness and should therefore be avoided, shoved into a dark hole, hidden away. The reasoning goes, if no one has the chance to notice your particular brand of vulnerability, they will not find reason to reject you, right? So, it is a natural reaction to cover up your vulnerabilities to avoid getting hurt.


But you know what I always say, you can play and get hurt, or you can NOT play and get hurt. Your choice.

Covering up or denying your vulnerabilities doesn't insure that you will avoid getting hurt.

Pain is inevitable. In fact, you may very well get hurt from sharing a vulnerability, just like you might get hurt in all the other myriad ways life messes with us all.

Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional.

And what causes you suffering (in terms of vulnerabilities) is the hiding away of the vulnerability. Stay with me here on this one. The hiding away of soft spots and weakness creates shame, and created shame is another form of suffering.

Vulnerabilities are not in and of themselves a weakness. I say it is the covering up or denying of vulnerability that is a weakness.

Here's where vulnerabilities can turn from a liability to an asset: I look at vulnerabilities as though they have something to say, something you need to learn or master. A vulnerability is not intrinsically bad or wrong or shameful, just IS, it is a part of you. Letting your vulnerabilities be, and listening to what they have to tell you, is a strength.

And vulnerabilities not only have a special fun gift, just for you, but they are also, surprisingly, a means for intimate connection. You do all this effort to have your vulnerabilities out of the picture so that you can look real good, be more lovable and be better prepared for connection and intimacy. But the opposite is true.

The big brain scramble is that it is the sharing of a vulnerability that often creates the intimacy.

Suddenly, what you thought was your weakness becomes your strength.

The Nature of Shame

Shame is a weight, a distance, a wall between you and others, shame is a deterrent to intimacy. And anything that blocks intimacy causes suffering.

Shame is a camouflaged, misunderstood thing. It is through the negating, denying, covering up and hiding that shame comes, not, as it would seem, through the HAVING of a vulnerability. Vulnerability and shame are separate things, fused together unnecessarily, and the side-effect of that fusing is your suffering.

Vulnerabilities and weakness can be endearing and loveable, they only feel shameful when they are carrying the energy of being hidden and denied. The less you hide, deny, run from, lie, deflect a vulnerability or weakness, the more shame is released, the more intimacy is available, the more unfettered you become, to act like the brilliant being you are.

The Nature of Fear

"You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every
experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.
You must do the thing which you think you cannot do."
~ Eleanor Roosevelt

Fear should probably have its own page, its own website in fact, it is such a big, misunderstood beastie.

Fear is like pain in that it is part of the package of life. It's not like if you play the game of life – or the game of relationships, for that matter – skillfully enough eventually you will eliminate all experiences of pain or fear. That, my friends, is not the way it works.

In fact, fear can be a great friend, a great teacher, an awesome phenomenon I am not all that sure it is best to eradicate entirely. Fear is akin to conflict or an upset, in that it is pointing out an area for you behind which there is a great gem of your learning or growth, waiting for your excavation.

Here's something crazy:

As a rule, rather than running away, walk toward fear. Consider it your guide, indicating your best path.

Guess where you get courage from? Not in the absence of fear, but acting EVEN THOUGH you have fear. In fact, you get the courage to do a thing, AFTER you have done the thing.

You probably have a fear so great, so raw, that you would NEVER tell anyone. Think for a moment, what yours is. You might have more than one. It is likely that you are afraid that if you share this fear, it is more likely to come to pass, and it is more likely that you will be rejected, proven unlovable.

The funny part is everyone has their particular version, and if they tell it to you, it often sounds tame, like "they are afraid of that?"

In my in-person workshops, I walk everyone through an exercise in which each person's greatest fear becomes their greatest asset. As we go through the exercise, hearing each person's most fearsome fear, something unexpected starts to happen.

The participants start to like each other more, feel more connected, start laughing and having more fun, and bond on a sweet, intimate level. None of these are side effects you would expect when you think about walking right up to the lion's mouth and inserting your head – exposing your greatest fear.

Any fear, like vulnerability or a weakness, when shared or accepted, is a quick and magical way to deep connection, greater joy, and intimacy.

To learn more about my in-person workshops, check out Upcoming Events.

Vulnerability, Shame, and Fear – all of these emotions just want to be loved, accepted, have light shone upon them, just like you do.

And just like you flourish with love and acceptance, these emotions, when not hidden or beaten down, can flourish – that is, give you the lessons they were designed to give you, and lead you toward unexpected connection and intimacy.

Who woulda thunk?

Go on to Patterns of Intimacy
Back to Relationship With Others

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