Embracing Vulnerability Changes Everything: Or Does It?



There is a movement of vulnerability in the land. And one towards authenticity as connected to vulnerability. Contacting our deepest parts can lead to courage in expressing what is real and can lead to greater intimacy because it risks the honesty to have deeper connections.

I have suggested elsewhere that vulnerability needs protection in order to be viable and safe enough, but here I’d like to focus on something else. Namely, if we become in touch with our own vulnerability, it would stand to reason (I know, an iffy word these days) that our self-empathy would extend to other people who experience psychological or physical vulnerability as well. We would, as Bryan Stevenson writes of brokenness (Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, Spiegel & Grau, 2014), change once we become in touch with our own brokenness, which he sees as a human phenomenon common to all of us—kind of like vulnerability. Once we experience this shift, through the struggles of living through losses and pain, or through coming up against terrible circumstances) we would no longer want to break any other person.

Vulnerability seems directly connected. When we hit our bottom, addiction not being a necessary factor, we know what it’s like to suffer feelings and realities of helplessness, humiliation and hopelessness. We know life is not always fair and this increases our humility, thereby increasing our capacity to both empathize and identify with our fellow human beings.

That is my logic, and my experience as a therapist and a patient and a person. Humility and caring come with knowing our deepest sides. But is this in fact the case in our world of today? It doesn’t exactly seem that way; at least I don’t see the vulnerability craze if you will, translating into social and political stances of embracing the plight of the prejudiced against, the poor and the oppressed in general.

Does this mean that those in the wellness fields are content to wander off into reveries of self-satisfaction and tranquility without losing the balance achieved by greater well being on personal levels? And does this in turn mean that vulnerability, as it is playing out, is a private and insular matter that renders its participants more detached from the social and political mayhem which is not all that new but is so very intensified in these times?

I do not see many people entranced by wellness movements of various types extending the passion about wellness to the people in are midst who are suffering from racism, from white supremacy, from the absence of gun control, from prison brutality and from poverty. In fact I don’t read columns that connect the two arenas—wellness and social and political wellness: vulnerability and social and political vulnerability.

Vulnerability is about the deepest and most helpless parts of any of us. I do not see vulnerability concerns as anything but shallow and self-absorbed unless they lead us to give a damn, and to give one out loud about our physical climate, and the one out of five in our midst who are poor, for one.

Vulnerability leads to courage, to my mind, when it is protected and safe enough to lead to enough stability so as not to be completely manipulated into states of dis-regulation. However we need to watch out for the kind of manipulation that causes us to feel too self-congratulatory and self-righteous, while ignoring the suffering around us.

To do nothing about a society that is diseased is not necessarily brave at all. And I suspect that the people, who are ignoring social factors and human beings, have not gone deep enough to contact the fears and vulnerabilities inside each and every one of us.

I would like to add that this goes way beyond the tragic drama of mass shootings that so far has not been able galvanize real action. The violence in our daily lives, the kids who bully and who are bullied are the ones who are most vulnerable to mass violence appeals and movements; we can’t afford to ignore them either, on a daily basis.

#Vulnerability social problems


#Vulnerability protected





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