When we feel vulnerable, it is considered a weakened state by our society. But is it, really? Might it depend on what has weakened us and whether it’s an acute or chronic state of being? Let’s examine the more chronic state of vulnerability, as the acute kind is usually situation-specific and remedied by the disappearance of said situation.
If I am made to feel vulnerable by something emotional like grief, it is difficult to accomplish regular tasks, mingle openly with the world, and tend to my life as it was. But is this so bad? Maybe my life needs some re-ordering at this time, and my downtime allows me the self-reflection to do something about it. If I am made vulnerable by something more mental, like an existential or life crisis, I will feel unstable and perhaps frightened of what will come of me and my life. But am I really unsafe? Or is that just my ego talking, and so is this really an opportunity to break through it? If I feel vulnerable in a physical sense – as in an illness – it affects the heart and mind just as much as the body at first. But this is also the fastest way to put things in perspective and see what really and truly matters in our lives.
Sometimes we feel vulnerable from a life event, but it’s not always trauma that causes us to feel this way. I’ve found for instance, that I seem to have a 5-1/2 year cycle of doing and creating, then questioning and breaking down, until re-birth and re-building once again. We all have cycles of growth, coasting and burn out. If we didn’t, we’d probably be going through our lives more like robots, not assessing things periodically to see if they still align with our values and goals. And since we all experience bouts of vulnerability at times, I hope we can see that it’s just another knot on the old tree; that it’s part of the life experience, and so should be respected, accepted and perhaps talked about once in a while so we can learn to feel safer even within that rupturing, wounded, temporary state of being.
In her book When Things Fall Apart, Pema Chrodron says that true awakening is letting ourselves die over and over again. Of course the dying is really the false assumptions, beliefs and needs we’ve acquired over time thinking they’ll protect us. Instead of shielding us, however, they keep us trapped in illusion. Feeling this exposed and vulnerable is not how we tend to want to feel, but this raw state is a sign of authentic being and honest living. Going out into the world with our defenses smashed to pieces – while we may feel unsteady and transparent – is basically living through the fear. Awareness plus Humility plus Presence equals Courage.
How do you feel about yourself now?