The cursory interpretations of the words empowerment and vulnerability imply opposite connotations. It is easy to associate vulnerability with being fragile, weak, or susceptible to emotional pain – which indeed it is. Nevertheless, taking the risk to expose one’s vulnerability opens the door to personal growth. Embracing one’s authentic self to include our weaknesses creates a sense of acceptance, while at the same time opens truthful communications with others. People are attracted to the combination of authenticity and humor. Once someone recognizes these traits in another individual, they usually respond by displaying the same level of vulnerability.
The attraction of vulnerability not only brings us closer as humans, it allows us to share our strengths with creditability. If we are accurate about our flaws it makes sense that we are accurate about our knowledge. Vulnerability is a human trait and humanness is empowering.
Vulnerability is the core of fear and shame and at the same time it is the birthplace of joy, love, and peace. Vulnerability is a prerequisite to receiving a spiritual awakening.
Comfort Zone and Connections
When we become vulnerable we initially become uncomfortable. The time we spend feeling uncomfortable depends on how familiar we are at taking risks. Risk-takers build immunity to the discomfort associated with trying something new. If you accept these premises you will agree that vulnerability provides for a sense of delayed gratification – uncomfortable now, contentment later.
As recovery professionals, we are exposed to many uncomfortable situations. The normal human tendency may be to gloss over or avoid the messy topics we see every day. We make connections with people that mainstream society tends to shy away from – this connection is what gives us purpose and meaning. To achieve this connection we must be vulnerable, courageous, and compassionate.
When we discuss relationships with our clients, they usually bring up heartbreak; when we discuss connection they divulge disconnection. Our patients rarely have a strong sense of love and belonging, which many times indicates they are void of feelings of worthiness. People who have a strong sense of love and belonging simply “believe they have a strong sense of love and belonging.” They believe they are worthy. Our mission as counselors is to instill a sense of worthiness while nullifying the attachment to entitlement. In doing so we will override feelings of shame, abandonment, and fear. This transformation is mandatory for a spiritual awakening to occur.
Shame, Abandonment, and Fear
Shame is the belief that “I’m bad” and unworthy of love; it is usually internalized at an early age. Shame digs far deeper into our consciousness than does the feeling of intrinsic guilt. “I’m guilty” of making human mistakes carries no long-term baggage. Shame is a fear of disconnection followed by the belief the “I am not good enough.” When we are disconnected from others we will create feelings of not being worthy.
Shame and abandonment create deep fears in children that prevent emotional and spiritual development. Codependent and addicted parents that have never matured themselves are unable to set examples. The codependent parent may be overtly enmeshed. They do not allow their children to make mistakes, feel pain, or create individual thought patterns. They make unreasonable demands on the child and when the child doesn’t measure up, the child internalizes fear of unworthiness.
The addicted parents who struggle to maintain appearances in the mist of their chaotic existence are not cable of healthy parental connections with their children. Many times children will compensate for the immature parents and take on responsibilities beyond their limits. This not only robs the child of his or her youth, it establishes a sense of abandonment. Abandonment may be as subtle as not being mentally present, or as obvious as a parent leaving or dying.
It was painful for me to recognize the fear and pain instilled in my sons as a result of my selfish addictions. I’m grateful today that I now have the opportunity to openly share these thoughts with my sons and take responsibility for my lack of parenting. We cannot mend pain retroactively, however, being vulnerable enough to ask for forgiveness and courageous enough to accept that we may not be forgiven is key to our spiritual growth.
Recognizing the past for what it is and resisting the temptation to blame others, we emit positive vibrations that not only shed light into our consciousness, but also rubs off on those close to us.
We live in a world that numbs vulnerability; we are the most in-debt, obese, addicted, and over-medicated people in history. These obsessive behaviors numb joy, gratitude, and happiness. Also, by numbing pain, we lose the benefits of learning by painful experiences.
Fundamentalists make religion a certainty – not a belief in faith and mystery. News media no longer reports news, they promote agendas. MSNBC and Fox News makes their talking points very clear, “I’m right. You’re wrong, so shut up.” Politics is one big blame game based on fear and greed.
Social media has no restraints and little regulation so people can post and distribute absolute lies with little to no consequences. People are wired or Blue-Toothed up to their smart phones and entertainment devices to the point that kind public greetings are rarely given and rarely accepted.
We can choose not to live this way!
Liberation and Love
To gain an understanding of where these thoughts and behaviors originated is the first step to liberation. Learning to love yourself and realizing that self-esteem can only come from within is paramount. Sharing and giving to others, while at the same time separating ourselves from the chaotic events of daily living is the beginning of awareness.
We will transcend from a place of powerlessness to a place of enlightenment. By nature, fear and love cannot co-exist. Fear and love act in conflicting ways in our lives. Fear is restrictive, repressive, and limiting. Love is expressive, abundant, and free-flowing. Fear contracts; love expands. Fear retreats and love forges new pathways. Fear is closed off and stagnant, love is open and vibrant. Because of the reflective nature of our universe, the mindset you most often hold will be mirrored in your experience and in every person you encounter.
Many experience a misguided belief that it is risky to love because we fear rejection. Vulnerability is the willingness to invest in a relationship that may not work out. Vulnerability is saying “I love you” first. One of the greatest gifts of my recovery was having a male friend that had to courage to tell me he loved me first. He was a Marine, a Vietnam veteran. His vulnerability was the catalyst that boosted my then-lacking self-esteem. His words made me feel worthy. Soon it became easy for me to tell friends that I loved them.
Humor – Don’t Take Yourself Seriously
Recently, I was hypnotized in an attempt to investigate my subconscious. I guess I was hoping to get more in touch with my higher self. My hypnotist records her sessions, so her assessment of my time under was most likely accurate. There were two strong messages that came out in this session. The first was that I needed to have more fun! The second and more profound message was that I take myself too seriously. Of course my wife, who had been telling me this quite often, found it amusing that I had to hear it from a hypnotic state for me to actually internalize this flaw. When I consciously made myself aware of this trait I started recognizing it in others. It’s like buying a new car, then suddenly recognizing how many cars just like yours are on the road. I started thinking the whole world is too serious.
Understanding starts with awareness. Knowing how we see others is how we see ourselves. Being aware of how vulnerable we are and taking risk to share our vulnerability separates us from our egos.
Ego and Spirit
“Now” has no meaning to the ego. The ego invests in the past to make us fearful of the future. The ego basks in guilt to avoid present joy. Remembering always that our egos tells us we are different, we are separate, we are better, we are worse, and we don’t measure up. Our ego processes vulnerability only as a flaw. The ego speaks loudest and it speaks first.
Our spirit knows better if we listen to our hearts. Our conscious mind can be redirected through awareness of who we are and our purpose for being here. Reality, not perception, comes from one voice because there is only one truth. Fear is perception driven by ego; love is the only truth worth seeking.