When Brene Brown was doing her research on shame and vulnerability, she asked the participants to describe what vulnerability means to them. The list sounded like this, "going on a date after my divorce, waiting for the doctor to call back, your child walking around in the world....".
The truth is, to be alive is to be vulnerable. We can't opt out of vulnerability, despite how much we sure try!! There are so many ways we attempt to numb the vulnerable experiences on this journey of life: alcohol, food, TV, social media, shopping. The list goes on and on.
Learning to sit with the seriously uncomfortable emotions that come along with vulnerability is no easy task. It's not about trying to feel better either. It's about building a tolerance and a relationship with these emotions so that we can get to the other side of them. It is the opposite of numbing or resisting or trying to make them go away. I think it was the Dalai Lama that said, (my apologies if I have this wrong), "Emotion doesn't cause suffering. Resisting the emotion is what causes suffering".
I am, right this very minute, working on this very thing. Sitting with uncertainty. The scary waiting place of the unknown. It is not simple. It's not super fun. It's scary.
What I believe wholeheartedly is that we are all capable of managing our difficult emotions, it's just that most of us were not taught how to do that. Instead, we are inundated with the idea that we should do whatever it takes to get to happy (typically this means buying some new product to get us there). The problem with this though is that we haven't moved through the emotion. We've just kicked the can down the road for a little bit.
Eventually, we have to deal with the emotion.
We can learn how.
Here's how I'm doing it:
- I am acknowledging the emotion. Naming it. "I feel scared".
- I am breathing long, slow deep breaths.
- I am asking for comfort and support from my spiritual team. My daily meditation practice has become a non-negotiable in my life.
- I am keeping my mind in check the best I can. Meaning, when I start to wander down the road of made up stories I bring myself back to the present and breathe.
- I am reminding myself often that I can handle this.
- I am reaching out to people when I need to.
You may find these things helpful. You may not. Give them a try if you are resisting vulnerability right now. Share with me any other tools you've got! This learning to sit in vulnerability thing takes a village and it is a practice, not perfection.