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Vulnerability Takes Courage…

Part of what I love about being a therapist is the ability to explore in great depth the human condition in all its complexity. I am often struck by my clients’ courage and willingness to grow and achieve a deeper level of connection with themselves and in their intimate relationships.

“Being vulnerable can be difficult because most of us have past experiences where we asked for attention or otherwise signaled our needs and were either ignored, dismissed, criticized, or punished in some way. Whatever the origin, many adults have trouble feeling and expressing core needs and vulnerable feelings.” -John Grey and Susan M. Campbell
All too often, core needs are expressed in unhelpful ways that begin with statements such as: “you always…” or “you never…” this can sound blaming and accusatory to a partner who also has a valid experience in the relationship and their own take on what it’s like to express their core needs. Often when the need is expressed from a place of vulnerability, the reaction is much different. It is sometimes difficult to remember that YOU matter SO much. The way you think about yourself and engage with others–in intimate relationships or friendships, with colleagues, etc.–how you show up influences how others also respond to you.

Understanding Your Personal History…

By exploring how your needs were met or not met as a child, you can gain important insight into your present behavior patterns and interpersonal interactions. In developing a deeper understanding of what might get in the way of expressing your needs effectively as an adult, it may become clear that you are not very aware of your needs in general or that you tend to disregard your own needs easily.
This may come as a result of being conditioned to think of your needs as less important than others or being treated in a way that did not respect your individual needs. It can take time to come to terms with our own value and truly believe that we matter and our responses to others have a significant impact.

Shame

If we grew up in an environment that made us feel shame or didn’t allow us to express how we felt or to be responded to with love and respect, it can be incredibly difficult to believe in our own self-worth. If feedback was shared with an angry, critical tone, it can be difficult to take in the meaning of the message and then respond from a more authentic place. In general, we may have felt dismissed, disregarded, or like another person’s feelings mattered more than our own. There are also many cultural factors too, which can have a significant influence on how we perceive what is considered “caring” or “helpful”. If left unexplored, this belief pattern can get passed down to future generations without an understanding of its impact. Exploring these patterns can help us to understand our personal blocks to vulnerability and connection so that we can engage more meaningfully with others.

Context

Whether as a participating member in one of my monthly peer consultation groups or as a careful listener in the therapy room with my clients, I have the wonderful opportunity to bare witness to the unique strength, courage, and  vulnerability of the human experience.

The questions I encounter often do not have black and white answers or clear right and wrong understandings, but rather nuanced accounts based on meaning made from personal experiences. So much of the work lies in creating a path forward that illuminates personal understanding while also creating a more coherent narrative out of what has occurred and honoring a client’s unique process.

The Process of Healing…

Being a systems therapist, I am always looking at context and personal meaning.  When an individual comes in struggling with anxiety or relationship concerns, or feeling uncertain about an important decision, the first step is often to understand the meaning of their present experience and how it informs their behaviors and way of relating to themselves or others.
In helping my clients, it is through our work together and the trust placed in the process, that we are able to explore together the critical parts of the story that need deeper understanding.
To delve deeper into the concept of being vulnerable and how it can help to deepen relationship satisfaction, check out Brené Brown’s video below to see her powerful TED talk on the topic:

The Power of Vulnerability…