The ‘shame and vulnerability researcher’ and author of the delightful The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené Brown, can be seen giving some delightful Ted Talks (http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability.html might become your gateway video – @Keris recommended her to me and as soon as I saw it, I googled the others and started ordering her books).
In a nutshell, Brown found that shame and vulnerability, those sensations we do so much to avoid feeling yet never escape, are essential for what she calls ‘wholehearted living’.
I have been recommending her to therapist friends, clients, friends, strangers, puppies… and yet I still struggle with my own.
Just yesterday I was talking to someone about something that was pretty painful. I bit back tears and changed the subject and was challenged to feel the feelings before realising that once again, I was blocking shame and vulnerability. (I then distracted them more by showing off the Brown book… It’s a process.)
So even though I’ve fully bought into the need to own these feelings intellectually, I still want to be anywhere but embodied when they crop up. Even though I know from repeated experience how much energy, creativity, joy and other ‘good’ stuff is freed up when I do.
Brown’s point is none of us can block ‘unpleasant’ emotions without also cutting ourselves off from joy, love and other delights.
I was fortunate to be talking to someone who understood when all this came up the other day. But later, at my Improv class, it came up again in a completely different context.
The theme was ‘character’ and we were encouraged to say something honest about ourselves (I realise writing this that I translated this instruction as ‘shameful and vulnerable’ rather than just anything that happened to be real and true for us) while continuing the movement, speech patterns and posture etc of, say, a pirate.
So I was Arnold Schwarzenegger with stage fright (it was a bigger group than I was used to and I wonder what on earth I’m doing up there at the best of times. It’s just so much fun that I keep going back).
With hindsight, while I’d been trying to keep a lid on the whole stage fright / mortification thing to ‘be’ a ‘good’ Arnie, Steve (www.hooplaimpro.com) encouraged me to exaggerate the stage fright and it was OK. By acknowledging my actual feelings instead of repressing them and consciously using them, more people could relate.
That’s a bit of an extreme example because everyone (don’t think it’s just me) feels vulnerable up there. The funniest people were the ones who were most open about their emotional truths. We can all relate to what’s real and true.
When I think about my favourite writers, musicians and other artists, they’re the ones who’ve allowed themselves to BE vulnerable and who are then able to connect at a deep level. In my teens and 20s, it felt like certain writers and musicians were actually saving my life.
Who are your favourites? What have they taught you about being yourself (including the bits of yourself you feel ashamed of and vulnerable around)?
In your own life, can you think of a time when you felt ashamed and vulnerable but acknowledged it to someone trustworthy and felt a million times better for having shared your story?
What about the times when you’ve misjudged things and shared something important with a Wrong Person and had it backfire so enormously that you vowed never to be vulnerable again?
Can you imagine yourself supporting yourself more in the future and choosing appropriate people to be there for you when you need them (as well as being that kind of person for them)?
Acknowledging and working through the stickiest of feelings can be illuminating and a wonderful way to get unstuck.
Feel free to email me (email@example.com) to let me know how you get on.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net