In my first article on vulnerability last week I addressed the question about why I would choose to be vulnerable. Is it worth it to be completely open and unguarded with my heart, mind and soul? The answer is emphatically…yes! Without being completely open and vulnerable I will never experience the deep, meaningful connection that we all crave. And really, that greatest payoff of all is to feel the fullness of love. Love is the greatest driving force in our lives and it is the privilege of every one of us to pursue it wholeheartedly, regardless of the risk.
The other reason that I cited as an important reason to choose vulnerability is the opportunity to experience healing from past wounds. I quoted Scott Peck as telling us that vulnerability is the willingness to be wounded and that wounded can either mean to be hurt or damaged. We have all been wounded emotionally in our childhoods and unfortunately many of us have closed up around that hurt and allowed it to become life-long damage. Unfortunately, a large percentage of the men that I have met and worked with over the years were initially closed off emotionally and unconvinced of the value of being emotionally present. The cost of taking that position was often devastating to their relationships both personally and professionally.
The good news is that we have a choice about how we deal with the pain in our lives. It is possible to let go of the pain of past relationships and transform long term damage into nothing more than hurts that we have experienced in our past.
Feeling damaged is lasting in its impact and often results in a person believing they are a victim of their past. Victims will consistently look outside of themselves for reasons why their life is not working and why they are unhappy. Feeling hurt is momentary and people who are hurt take ownership of their feelings and find ways of overcoming their hurt in a healthy, appropriate way. Here are some ways to overcome emotional damage in our lives.
Learning how to let go of our pain is crucial to health, happiness and our willingness to take risks in relationship.
- Let go of the victim; the victim is stuck in the past
- Accountability – I will own my pain: Regardless of how I have been hurt in the past, these are my feelings in the present. They are my feelings and I will own them.
- Stop Blaming: It is essential to stop fixating on how you have been hurt in the past and by whom. It does not matter how justified I feel about blaming someone for my present outcomes, that justification will never have the power to move me forward.
- Focus on the ‘what’ not the ‘why’. Why keeps me stuck in attempting to understand how my pain has come about. Understanding how it happens does not guarantee change. What focuses me on what I can and will do about it today.
- Let go of control
Leaps of Faith
- Higher Power: Belief in a higher power who is in control and has my best interest in mind allows me to be less concerned about the meaning of every event that takes place in my life. “All things work together for good to them that love God and are called according to His purpose.” In other words, there is meaning and opportunity in everything that happens in my life…I choose to trust the process.
- Trust Self: I have faith in me to overcome every challenge and obstacle that stands in my way of success and happiness. If I trust me, then I do not have to anticipate every potential outcome and prepare for it. Another way to say this is, “let go of resistance.” When I am afraid of what might happen then I am constantly in fear and anxiety.
- Let go of outcomes
Do things for the shear enjoyment of doing them. Stop anticipating what the outcome may be. In relationship this means that I can engage with someone and appreciate getting to know them without asking, where is this going? Taking the risk to be vulnerable with someone allows me to be present with them in that moment and once again trusting myself to evaluate whether this is something I want to build on or let go of because I do not experience it as healthy or meaningful for me.
Forgiveness is the ultimate act of letting go. It severs the tie of resentment, anger and bitterness to a person…to me. This may take some time but eventually my heart will catch up to my head and let go of the pain inside.
- Be Grateful
When I stop regretting what has happened in my life and choose to be grateful, attitudes shift and I am able to let go of pain. Everything that has happened has meaning and opportunity attached, so, either I choose to be a victim or I choose to be a student of my life.
- Choose Vulnerability as a Lifestyle Choice
Choosing vulnerability is a lifestyle choice, not an engagement strategy. I want to show up in my vulnerability because I choose to be a vulnerable person, not because I have some kind of hidden agenda.
Honestly, I have had some of those hidden agendas in the past and utilized my personal skills to manipulate people and get what I want from them. Believe me, I am not proud to admit that but it is true. I often called that nectar sipping. It is not that difficult to play the vulnerability game to bolster your sense of value with people but in the end it will exposed as being disingenuous and people will feel used.
True genuine vulnerability has to be a choice you make because that is the person you want to be. It reflects your values and your life principles.
What do you choose?