We’ve grown up and now exist within a culture where ‘comfort’ is coveted. We keep our homes at comfortable temperatures; we purchase comfortable sofas, and buy extra padding for our beds. Our clothing is encouraged to be comfortable and there is a common distaste for pieces that restrict; corsets, neckties, stilettos, and whitey tighties. We are taught to spare feelings. We are coddled and encouraged not to cry. We avoid talking about religion, sex, money, politics, and death in an effort to avoid ‘uncomfortable’ differences.
We have learned that being UNCOMFORTABLE is undesirable and hence, pursue (even subconsciously) measures to avoid it without regard to the overall consequences.
Last week’s post introduced the topic of vulnerability by way of Dr. Brenee Brown’s TED talk. It seems appropriate to spend some page space reflecting of what it means, what it is to be vulnerable. By definition, it is to be “susceptible to physical or emotional attach or harm”; synonymous with helpless, powerless, and weak. It originates from the Latin word ‘vulnus’ meaning “to wound”. Harm is defined by “physical injury” and we know that most injuries – hurt.
When we hurt – we are UNCOMFORTABLE both physically and emotionally
Ultimately then, we have been somewhat conditioned to circumvent ‘anything’ that may (could, might, possibly, potentially) cause us to ‘feel’ something uncomfortable. We don’t like it and many of us will simply make choices that allow us to AVOID those things that might hurt but it also puts us in the position of avoiding those things that allow us to grow and experience joy.
Dr. Brown stated that “you cannot selectively ‘numb’ emotion”. For example, when you attempt to keep yourself from feeling the pain of loss, you are preventing yourself from experiencing the joy of belonging! In other words, if you avoid the YIN, by default, you avoid the YANG.
As a therapist, I see the fear of vulnerability a lot. We all have it but for some of us, perhaps even many of us; it inhibits our ability to experience a full life. I understand. I was widowed at the tender age of 24 and after only 3 years of marriage. The pain I experienced was (and still is) indescribable. For several years I was acutely afraid of feeling attached to anything that may leave me… it was abandonment. I felt unwilling to risk feeling that pain again – after all… if a 23 year old, healthy man can die,. anyone can; no guarantees.
After a few years I met someone who helped me develop a degree of willingness to risk again and I spent the following years building a home and family. That marriage ended ugly and fueled the pain of loss that I had experienced 20 years prior. What I had learned however was that the excruciating pain of loss was coupled by the joy of the children that had been born of the relationships. [A son from the first marriage and three daughters from the second.] The risk had been rewarded in a way that was different from what I had expected.
From time to time I’ve had the thought that I am finished taking risks with emotional engagements yet, I remember that each time I challenged myself to become uncomfortable, there were (are) opportunities to experience joy. In simple terms, when I allowed myself the experience of being vulnerable, I encountered pleasure and delight IN SPITE of the pain that was also felt. Very rarely – is it ALL pain.
Getting to the place where you allow vulnerability into your life is best done in little steps…. Practice by doing things that take you OUT of your comfort zone. If you are doing something that feels safe – do more, go harder, be different! Reread the first paragraph and help your heart/mind/soul get more acclimated to the feeling of being ‘uncomfortable’ by challenging yourself and your sense of ‘comfort’ every day.
LIVE life …