Monday, April 7, 2008

The "V" Word, Part 1

Vulnerable. Vulnerability.
Definition: Capable of being wounded. Open to attack or damage.

I was working on my Inner Child #3 post as it struck me. Another one of those "duh" moments. Holy Crap.....THIS is why what happened with XBF messed me up so badly. He is the only man to whom I made myself emotionally vulnerable. Well....since my father and brother, which was simply inherent in the familial structure. Being vulnerable to XBF was by choice. I look back at the long list of men in my past and there is not one who I opened up to like this. Not one who I invested in in the same way. Not even the man I married.

In my experience, Vulnerability = uncomfortable, unsafe & PAIN.

All of a sudden, it's making sense and it's become completely obvious why I don't like to open up to my IRL friends. Or why I'm having such a hard time returning to dating now. And why I never did before. Sheesh....when I was preparing to leave my XDH, I actually went on a date before I'd even moved out of the house!! Now I see why I seem to "coincidentally" be most "compatible" with men who live thousands of miles away. No risk.
You know, I'm suddenly seeing this XBF situation in a different light. I did it right. I took the risk. I opened up and I gave myself freely and willingly. I loved him with all my heart. And OH yeah, it hurt like hell when we broke up. Because I did it right and I loved without inhibition. Maybe this also tells me why I can still think of him somewhat fondly despite all that has transpired since. Because my love for him was real. Now that I've gotten that part down, I need to find the courage to do that again but to allow the vulnerability with someone who is worthy; someone capable of the same thing. Because XBF was not. He was all talk. He has massive intimacy issues. I guess the thing for me to figure out now is how I latched onto him. What was it about him that attracted me?
From the Internet:
Vulnerability is:
Feeling of being exposed to emotional hurt, being taken advantage of, or abused.
Feeling of being fragile, weak, or susceptible to emotional pain and suffering.
Feeling of being trapped or imprisoned in a situation where your feelings and rights are ignored.
Opening of oneself to the possibility of being taken advantage of by another person in a relationship.
Relating of your innermost feelings and fears to others with the possibility that they might use such feelings and fears against you.
(Ouch. Ouch. Wince. Shudder.)

Reasons people avoid being vulnerable include:
Basic self-survival
Basic insecurity and lack of self-confidence
Lack of trust in self and others
Fear of the unknown or of uncharted waters
Lack of forgiveness and inability to forget past hurts, injustices, and pain
An overwhelming need for personal privacy and confidentiality, (illustrating insecurity)
Denial, unresolved grief, self-deceit, lack of personal awareness, or refusal to face life the way it is.
Discomfort with change, lack of acceptance of change, and unwillingness to change
Unwillingness to unmask one's true emotions or reactions to life
Lack of acceptance of self for who I am, what I am able to do, and who I am able to be

How does the avoidance of vulnerability manifest itself?
Constantly being on the offensive, attacking, blaming, or correcting others; keeping the spotlight on others and off themselves.
Avoiding participation in any form of "helping'' situation, such as an emotional support group, individual, or counseling.
"Looking good'' and wearing a mask of "strength'' and "togetherness.''
Pleasing or placating others to keep their true moods, feelings, or pain from being probed.
Closing others out or shutting down themselves to put emotions on the rocks, freezing themselves.
Silence, a lack of feedback to others, non-communicativeness, keeping true feelings hidden.
Lacking emotional language, lacking the ability to tune into their own feelings of discomfort in emotionally laden conversations.
Shyness, a hesitancy to meet new people, being a ``wall flower'' in social gatherings due to fear of rejection or fear of disapproval.
Resistance to change, to altering habitual patterns of behavior, or to looking at things in life from a different perspective.
Playing games that involve knowing the rules of body language in every form of social interaction, with the resultant performance of routines and scripts that fit the ``game.''

What are some beliefs of people who avoid being vulnerable?
Never let anyone know how you feel!
Always be strong in your interactions with others!
Men never cry!
Being over-emotional is a feminine trait that leads to becoming an hysteric!
I am never going to let my guard down again!
I may be down, but I'll never let them know it.!
I have been hurt by others in the past, and I'll never let others hurt me again!
Spilling the beans (of my emotions) is always risky business!
You are bound to get hurt if you open yourself up to another person.
Dragging up the past serves no purpose.
It is nobody's business how I feel!
No one should have the right to probe into my emotions or feelings!
Nothing can help me overcome the pain I feel!
I mind my own business and expect others to mind their own business!
The old way of doing things is the best way!
Maintain the status quo!
Trust no one!
I have no problems and even if I did, I'd never tell anyone!
There is nothing to be gained by my breaking down emotionally!
No one respects a weak person!
I don't care how you live your life and I expect you to not care how I live mine.

**Funny that I really don't believe or feel any of the above statements**

Vulnerability is to intimacy as water is to fish. You can’t have one without the other. Vulnerability equals risk. Risk is scary because there is no guarantee that relationships will last or turn out to be what we imagine. Matters of the heart are highly emotional and can produce quite a bit of pain and discomfort. Risk is what is necessary to push through the fear rather than letting it paralyze your designs for a successful life. Therefore, one must push oneself to be vulnerable (risk) in order to gain ever-increasing levels of intimacy. Vulnerability is what feeds relationships so they continue to grow rather than wither and die.

Many of us find fault within ourselves. In actuality, many of us are almost brutal with the negative self-talk in which we engage. Our negative self-perceptions, often far worse in thought than actuality, are not exactly something that we are particularly eager to divulge to someone with whom we are romantically attracted. Why, because this requires “opening up” and exposing ourselves to another. The fear and anxiety that this exposure produces can at times feel overwhelming and we tend to retreat in order to protect ourselves. This is fairly normal for individuals to feel this way. It only becomes problematic if one does not consciously make an effort to push through the fear and remain present.

Fear and discomfort do not kill you. They are simply unpleasant feelings. The absence of fear is never the goal. The goal is to tolerate the fear, eventually accept its presence in your life, and push on despite. Do not make the mistake of designing a life void of fear and uncomfortable situations. If you do you will cease to grow and will miss out on the bountiful rewards on the other side of that fear. Fear accompanies the unknown. If you have not had any unknown for a while then you could be guilty of complete and total stagnation. All success in life involves coping with fear and pushing through its grip. That is called growth. Growth can seem painful at times, but there is often something very rewarding at the other end of the struggle.


Rising Rainbow said...

Yes, it looks like you've got it right, now what are you going to do with it?

Marj aka Thriver said...

Wow, great post! Thanks for sharing and letting us use it for THE BLOG CARNIVAL AGAINST CHILD ABUSE.

I'm dealing with the issue of vulnerability with my T right now--very timely topic!