I recently came across David Whyte’s poem,” Vulnerability”, which touched me personally as well as inspired me professionally in my current work with clients. Vulnerability has often been negatively associated with the human experience. To be vulnerable is to be weak, fragile or small. The alternative, especially when viewed through limited binary lenses, is to remain “in control” – protected from heartbreak, embarrassment and death. Or what David Whyte refers to as “a temporary, isolated sense of power over all events and circumstances.” He goes on to refer to this power over events as “a lovely illusionary privilege.” The illusion that our protection in certain circumstances will actually shield us from inevitable loss and sorrow can interfere with our ability to live a more meaningful, deep life.
Researchers, such as Brené Brown, have recently looked at the benefits to our openness – a letting go of our defenses for the sake of courage, compassion and connection. As a therapist, I know healthy relationships are impossible without vulnerability. True intimacy is accomplished through the allowing of one’s heart to be broken at any given time. When I became a mother, I had to accept the heaviness of vulnerability in order to embrace my love for my daughter. And when my father passed away, I had to accept that my heart would always feel somewhat broken with grief because I had allowed myself to love him so much. I can see why anyone would try to avoid these more uncomfortable feelings and sensations – they seem unbearable at times.
Vulnerability coexists with boundaries as there would be no point in taking risks without the framework of healthy ego strength. The goal is to be more authentic and sincere in life with an awareness to person, place, time and situation. Overall, instead of holding back out of fear, we bravely embrace the possibility of being wounded for the benefit of living more fully – what David Whyte describes as “walking fully through the door.”