17 March 2012

The swampland of the Soul

"Vulnerability is not weakness and that myth is profoundly dangerous.  Vulnerability is courageous."  - Brene Brown

As a psychotherapist, I watch people avoid feeling shame and being vulnerable through every imaginable defensive process every single day.   Yet, every once in awhile someone approaches the edge of that black swampland of the soul and dips their toes in.  These are beautiful, honorable moments.  I always fall in love in those moments, soul to soul.  The courage to face our darkest shadows without delusion heals not only ourselves, but the collective as well.  Within that dank swamp of shame is the future of all our ancestors and the past of all those who came before us.  When our fear and shame prevent us from going anywhere near that swamp (or even recognizing that the swamp exists inside of us) it becomes impossible to feel for anyone else's struggles.  Vulnerability is essential for intimacy, internal and external.

Every single time we dip in, we can emerge with an experience of understanding that vulnerability, shame, self criticism, anxiety are fundamental building blocks to intimacy and that feelings of intimacy/belonging are the best protectors against abuse of the self and other.  To be supported by others requires intimacy and to be intimate requires vulnerability.  Therefore, we cannot really feel a sense of belonging and support from others without the courage to be vulnerable because this vulnerability is what incites empathy in others. It's a cycle that must start through an internal reduction of defenses against our own vulnerability. The myth of vulnerability as weakness is wrong.  The ability to be truly vulnerable in relationship and interaction is strength.  This is what helps people love one another- not perfection, not intellect, not beauty, not wealth.  Vulnerability.

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