This particular post feels a little hard to write because vulnerability, especially in close relationships, stirs this innate fear of pain or loss for most of us. I’m still chewing on the last statement and trying to figure out what that means for me. I have had a hard time opening up to people for as long as I can remember. Now this might come as a surprise to a ton of my friends, who’ve considered me to be expressive and articulate about my feelings. But it’s true. Vulnerability scares me as much as it scares us all.
It’s not easy. It really really is not.
I have done my fair share of relationship avoidance, just to steer clear of the possibility of conflict, rejection and pain. I often have this protective wall built around me, that’s meant to save me from pain or harm.
Obviously this wall serves a purpose. It keeps the dabblers and the flakes out. It also helps me to determine who in my life is worth putting my guard down for, and trusting that when I do so they will be caring and respectful of the side of me I have chosen to expose.
Maybe I’m scared cause I’ve been hurt before. Maybe I’ve let my guard down, and have felt disrespected or abused. Maybe that’s why I’m sensitive about it. But it’s okay. These things happen. We get up, rebuild and recreate.
The absurd part is, to be deeply loved you have to allow yourself to be vulnerable. And being vulnerable (or exposed) innately spurs up this fear of getting hurt in all of us. Obviously the self-preservation part of our brain doesn’t agree with that. It reacts with fear because it perceives exposing ourselves as dangerous and wants us to stay safe. It’s almost counter-intuitive that in order to feel loved we have to allow ourselves to feel exposed, and even though that might scare us, we need to sit with that discomfort of being vulnerable a little longer.
That was a hard one to wrap my head around.
I would always fret about old relationship dynamics and would be afraid of watching that dysfunctionality spill into my present day life. In the past I’ve had people take my emotional investment for granted, make me feel weak for being trusting or empathetic. Over time, that just broke me I guess.
Three years ago I ended up in therapy with a series of full-blown panic attacks down my lane. It took a lot of emotional unpacking to realize just how much damage had been done along the way.
Today, I look at myself and see a drastically different person. I’m still me- Just stronger. And that wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t allow myself to feel all that hurt and pain, and move past it. But in order to do that, I had to allow myself to open up to new people and experiences. Having stronger and healthier relationships in your present allows you to heal from the pain of the past and even rewrite it. That’s where vulnerability becomes a really good thing. When we close down our vulnerability we are shielded from hurt, but we are also shielded from love, intimacy and connection. They come to us through the same door.
When we close it to one, we close it to all.
So… keep them doors open?