One sees great things from the valley; only small things from the peak. ~ G. K. Chesterton
The shitty things that happen in my life usually precede a spiritual breakthrough of sorts. I attribute it to my desire to be more aware of the internal and external influences. Sometimes this process takes a day, sometimes a month, the really hard stuff can take years. I strive to be impeccable. I certainly am not perfect but I really do try to bring a standard of purity, honor and trust into all my relationships. Still, things happen, disappointment visits and then we sit down for a long talk. I choose to face the challenges in my life and my past, yet I’ve still been avoiding something with numbing results.
When I am paying attention, when I examine my vulnerabilities with compassion and love, something is generally revealed about myself that helps clear the channel for joy and creativity. I recently posted about authenticity and received great replies. It’s always encouraging to to see how others are working to be fulfilled, complete and whole. I appreciate their stories. One friends story inspired me to dig really deep today while processing through some stuff.
For the last week there has been a magnitude of challenge in my personal relationships. I have felt really angry, sad and somewhat entitled in my feelings of abandonment, disconnection, betrayal and disrespect. All which challenged my on going performance of “numbing vulnerability”. Ya know the things you do when you don’t want to feel vulnerable; take a smoke, douse yourself in booze, check out in front of the tv with the remote in your hand; Common distractions that happen across humanity. Mine is isolation. I choose to be alone rather than have my vulnerability displayed. This is what we do so we won’t FEEL our vulnerabilities, and for an extra slap to the side of the face, this numbing of vulnerabilities also numbs JOY.
I just spent the last hour with Brene Brown: The Power of Vulnerability
TED talks on youtube. Through this same friends reply to my authenticity post. He shared this clip and the universe gave me exactly what I needed to categorize, label and understand what it is that I have been battling for the past year. Brene shares her research on vulnerability, sense of connection, shame and blame through the study of a group she categorized as “whole hearted people”. I want to be a whole hearted person! So did she, which inspired her research to see what these whole hearted people had in common. Seemingly they live with such deep connections and a healthy sense of belonging.
Brene tells us that vulnerability is the core of shame, fear and the search for worthiness.
I literally had to stop the clip and cycle this one through my brain a few times. My head had to grasp this before I was going to let it sink down to my heart. My reaction was that vulnerability is a weakness. A flaw. It’s like wearing a pair of pants with a busted crotch seam in public.
How could vulnerability ever yield anything positive or encouraging? Ignore it, fix the issues, not the vulnerability, that’s just a result of all the other bullshit in my life. Then I admitted to myself that I am very vulnerable. My craving of belonging is practically melded with my fear of abandonment. Abandonment is something I have spent years processing and coming to terms with. Today, I realize abandonment isn’t blaming those who have hurt me deeply and maybe exited my life when I needed them the most; Abandonment is the torture I have done to myself over the years feeling like in some way I haven’t been worthy enough to keep them around, thus creating my own environment of loneliness.
Under Brene’s umbrella of vulnerability struts shame, fear and the search for worthiness. The Three Stooges of acceptance and connection. When all working together they tease my self esteem like the bully on the play ground from third grade. But when I separate them, put them in different corners, their antics are more easily coped with. I can handle these emotional things in bite size pieces. Suddenly all the emotional relationship stuff from this past week starts to make some sense.
With disbelief on my shoulder I take a look at shames role in all of this. Shame is the emotion you should feel when you do something wrong. When you steal, hurt someone or are negligent with others. I don’t FEEL shame, therefore it doesn’t exist. Right? As Brene puts it, shame IS the fear of disconnection. In this case, I can tell you, yes. Yes, I have shame. Whoa! I’m not really sure how this feels, first I realize I have been numbing my vulnerabilities and subsequently joy, now I admit to having fear of disconnection? This takes my long hard battle with abandonment to a different hemisphere. I can’t close the door now. I know too much. I must continue this journey to whole heartedness. I may actually conquer this!
My entire life I have lived with the mantra of loneliness banging it’s eerie drum in my soul. If you were to ask me what ONE of my top fears are, I’d say ” Being completely alone in this world with no one to connect with.” At present, I connect with people because I want souls to meet, I want our spirits to dance together when we talk and I want joy to flourish with our encounters. My connection to you is more than chance meeting. I believe there is a purpose for all connections whether they are brief, shallow or deeply invested with emotion, time and energy. But ultimately, I don’t want to experience life alone. Even now, I ponder shames influence. It’s true, I haven’t wanted to talk about shame. I look at it in private. Where I can protect it and hope it doesn’t become known. Hell, I didn’t really know it was there. I knew it was something, but I didn’t really know what. Brene’s video has opened a very new understanding to what I have struggled with for the last few years.
It’s probably my renewed devotion to facing fear this past year that finally introduced me to the evil twin, shame. My fear is different from your fear. But I believe that the affects of fear in all humans are very similar. Fear hinders life. Fear traps us in a state of shock that keeps us from realizing our true potential. Fear is scary to look at. So scary that I decided that I didn’t want to lock myself in the closet with it. With light on all around me, I tiptoed up to fear’s closet door and flung it open as fast as I could while jumping backwards out of the way. It was intense! I thought revealing it to the light might make it less scary. I was hoping for something kindof fuzzy that I could pet and say nice things to and it would just settle down. Instead, I had a lot of fear taming to do; I’m still taming the fear. And that’s ok, because with each resolve, comes great reward and with practice, the process is less intimidating.
The search for worthiness is probably the third spoke portion of this relationship. It isn’t’ something I consciously and knowingly do. But it’s just as embedded in the relationship with its own set of needs and demands. I see more clearly after watching The Power of Vulnerability how searching for worthiness has been a tag line in my life story. Worrying if I am good enough, worthy enough for love, connection and attention from those that I admire and love, creates a lot of challenges mixed with assumptions that turns social interactions into social anxiety. I’m kind of over this self torment.
The question of being worthy explains my deep devotion to supplicating myself, my needs and desires. I love to take care of people, help them, be there for them, host and serve them. These are the kind ways in which I show people their value to me and my commitment to making them feel a worthy part of MY life. The problem occurs when I am in a deeper relationship with someone, such as my partner, my children, my family; and I suppress my feelings and desires for the better good. To cause least resistance or to be accommodating.
This is best described as doing something I don’t really want to do. Usually I don’t want to feel like the party pooper, or cause a big fuss, so I just go along with whatever “it” is. It could be watching a certain movie I don’t care to see, it could be sharing intimacy or even going to certain events that I really don’t have the energy for at a particular time. It is a fundamental hurdle for me. Being TRUE to my own needs before others, instead of sacrificing myself in a desperate attempt to feel worthy enough to keep those people in my life.
Understanding each for its own demon made me dig deeper today. It couldn’t have come at a better time. In between camping trips, after a major “issue” in relationship and right after our counseling session. Fortunately, self examination paired with compassion for myself has helped me address so many issues. This journey isn’t over. There will always be things that arise. Things may come up that I didn’t even know were there. I’m grateful that when new things present themselves as I evolve in my life and relationships that I will be aware and able to speak to the problems with less clutter to sift through.
It’s most helpful to know that A) I am not broken and B) I am choosing to do the work it takes to shed the icky stuff that gets in the way of pure, whole hearted living. It isn’t your responsibility to make me happy. It isn’t my responsibility to make you happy. By default I hope both of those things are true, but the reality is that unless I embrace my vulnerabilities openly, I will continue to hide under their shadow. I will continue to find excuses for not living a full life. And most importantly, I will continue to rob myself of my own joy. I wouldn’t say that I am a very good friend to myself if I continued to let all these things hinder me.
So I encourage you to take a few steps back when you are presented with an uncomfortable or hurtful situation. Ask yourself a few questions. Why does this hurt? What is my role in this? How can my actions best serve me and the situation? How can I be impeccable with my words and actions? It is my experience that when I am really paying attention to the challenges in my life, with examination and reflections, the lessons they teach propels me to new heights with more opportunities to be whole.
Thank you Dave, for making such a huge impact on my life today.