What an unbelievably intimidating topic, vulnerability! The very thought of it raises my anxiety and give me that sick feeling in my stomach. It’s one of the fears I’m tackling along this healing journey.
Being vulnerable can definitely be scary, especially if your only memories of vulnerability were during past abuse as a child or any other time in your life it may have happened. It’s a totally understandable feeling to want to protect ourselves and not let our hearts be opened up to potential criticism, lack of validation, and more hurt. After all, as survivors of any type of abuse, we’ve been through more than our share of pain and fear which can lead to a total lack of self-esteem and lack of desire to expose our feelings.
So why then should we even consider being vulnerable in any way?
That’s a question that I have asked in therapy already and one that J, my therapist works with me regularly on. Allowing myself to be vulnerable is not a sign of weakness, but a sign that we are learning to heal. Maybe even more than we realize.
Learning to heal? Are you kidding me? I’ve only been at that this healing journey thing for about a year now, how can I be healing after 30 years of suppressing the abuse?
There I go again, not giving myself a break; not giving myself credit for the ability of my mind to help me heal at the proper speed. Like I always say, I’m an expert minimizer! Maybe you or someone you know does this too?
Why is vulnerability so important to healing? Well, in my humble opinion, if we aren’t allowing ourselves to expose our past, it’s much more difficult to embrace the support that is out there waiting for us.
The first time we allow ourselves to become vulnerable and reach out, we don’t just want to go around telling everybody and their brother about our abuse. At least I wouldn’t want to do that. We need to be sure they are safe people. Someone you trust with your feelings, someone who knows you and respects you is generally what I would call a safe person. A therapist or life coach would likely be an ideal candidate to confide in if you don’t have many safe options available to you. That’s the route that I took, speaking to a professional before I ever even considered telling anyone else.
As my good friend Athena Moberg says (paraphrased), we can’t just assume that someone is ready to hear our story, regardless of how close they are to us or how long they’ve known us. We need to ask them first if they’d be willing to listen to us, be someone we can confide in, and won’t judge or minimize our struggles.
If we’re going to allow ourselves to be vulnerable, we need to do everything we can to ensure that it doesn’t go sideways and end up pushing us back into the shell that we are trying to crawl out of. Although we can never control what others will say or think, choosing a safe person gives us our best chance in taking this important step.
We don’t have to share our entire story with every deep emotion right out of the gate either. In fact, I’ve learned that it’s OK to be selective in what we share. That fact that we are stepping out of our comfort zone and talking about our trauma at all, is a victory in itself no matter how much we choose to share and when.
The decision to become vulnerable, reach out, and decide who is a safe person means that we have to trust our gut feeling and take a chance. That in itself is not easy for so many of us, myself included. The risk of trusting yourself can have a snowball affect in a positive way though, because once we take that one step and reach out, it gets a little easier to do it again.
It’s taken me months and months in therapy to even begin to talk about it to the extent that I am now. There are still things about the trauma that I haven’t fully shared yet. She knows the majority of what happened, but some of the feelings are still too deeply buried to try and discuss, plus I haven’t fully processed everything my mind is bringing to light yet. I’m getting there though.
If I don’t allow myself to be vulnerable, I’m stifling the healing process and pro longing it even more than it’s already going to take, however long that is. I realize that I will never fully forget what happened, but I want to get to the point of feeling empowered and be able to live the life I want without my past living it for me.