The Importance of Vulnerability when Connecting With Others - February 2017

It blows my mind how incredibly critical it is to feel connected, understood and not alone.  And yet how easily and often we fail ourselves and each other in actually connecting in this way.  In my view, this might be one of the greatest tragedies of our modern culture.  I was talking to an accomplished, loving woman whose young daughter ran into the parking lot, causing mom sheer panic and terror.  Daughter was ok, but instead of instantly turning to her husband – who was there as well – and reaching out to him for comfort and support as the fear washed over her, she matter-of-factly scooped up daughter, packed her into the car seat and headed home where those feelings of being out of control and vulnerable festered into a seemingly unrelated episode of depression. 

How many of us have done this? How easy and habitual it is!  And by “it” and “this” I mean NOT share our vulnerabilities, NOT just simply allow our emotions to show, and instead attempt to face our vulnerabilities, fears and frailties – alone.  Which only serves to reinforce a real sense of aloneness.

“But aren’t we, in fact, at the end of it all, alone?” you might say.  Or , “What good would it do to reach out in these moments – they can’t be fixed or changed anyway.”  Or even more sadly, “It hurts, it’s even more blantantly and acutely rejecting, and leaves me even more despairing when I have tried to reach out and the other is cold, shaming or rejecting. Safer to just deal with it on my own.” Oh, how I understand! And how it breaks my heart when the courageous act of showing your vulnerability is cruelly punished like this.

It’s true that so many of us have been wounded, but I still believe we have no other option than to embrace our own vulnerability, find a safer other, and try again to reach out, share and connect.  The problem is NOT the vulnerabilities themselves, but our fear and ineptness around accepting them.

When I was younger, a close friend who I’d lived with for several years decided very abruptly to move to a new city, leaving me literally alone and feeling abandoned, hurt, anxious and sad.  My instinct would normally be to just pull away, taking the abandonment “into my own hands” and cutting him off right away, even before he actually moved.  But he told me he’d decided to move at a moment when I was caught unawares, and then… he sat there with me, looking at me with such tenderness, not afraid of my reaction, whatever it might be.  He just simply sat next to me and put his arm around me, and allowed, accepted, created space for my response. 

Of course I started balling.  And I just said plainly exactly how I felt – abandoned angry, scared, afraid of living without him.  He just allowed all these feelings, not trying to defend himself, not trying to “fix” or “change” them.  He just simply stayed with me – literally not leaving me alone in that most vulnerable of moments.  I remember this so clearly because it was incredible.  Because I felt loved and connected, not despite the truth of the matter or all my feelings about it, but simply because I was raw and real and he saw and accepted that.  So powerful.  So simple.

Why the heck don’t we do this for each other all the time???

This is a plea for us to be more compassionate and accepting of each other, and make reaching out in vulnerability safe.  And it’s a plea to not give up seeking that acceptance and connection – to have the courage to show your vulnerability.  That is why we at CMP exist.  I wish for you the transformative, refreshing experience, again and again, of being enveloped instead of alone.