If you are the kind that needs research to validate what common sense and your heart will tell you easily enough, then you may want to listen to Brene Brown’s brilliant TED talk, ‘The Power of Vulnerability‘. Her research from hundreds of interviews led her to a breakdown and she went to her therapist and said, “I know that vulnerability is the core of shame and fear and our struggle for worthiness, but it appears that it’s also the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love. And I think I have a problem, and I need some help.“
There are two aspects to vulnerability. The first is our own inner work; understanding that our own sense of love, worthiness, and courage is eventually only determined by our own attitudes and beliefs and cannot be gifted by another. But undoubtedly, there are spaces that are more conducive to the flowering of our own growth and acceptance. So as we pursue our own development, we can concurrently be more sensitive to others. Being compassionate and non-judgmental to yourself is what makes it possible for you to be the same towards another. You cannot give what you don’t have. But you can start where you are. You need not wait to achieve a 100% level of self assurance, before reaching out to another. If we were all a little more mindful towards creating a space of safe acceptance that encourages vulnerability, think of the authenticity and peace that we could bring to our interactions.
So here are 11 ways in which you can be present to another’s vulnerability:
- Listen Mindfully – Pay whole-hearted attention to the other person, clearing away as many distractions and interruptions that you can. Remember the times you have had to gather courage to speak from the heart – and listen the way you would have liked to have been heard. Also, a heart focus brings about coherence in the emf field your heart is generating. A coherent heard field can induct peace and calm in the other.
- Don’t say ‘I told you so’ – Silence Speaks better than words. Be a receptive space for the other to listen to their own introspection.
- Don’t hold their past against them – Constant reminders of past events which have already been discussed are best left where they belong – in history. By raking up old issues and shaming the other, you are depriving them of a chance to learn from their past and to move on.
- Don’t hold your past against them – Be mindful of projecting your own experiences, perceptions and emotions on to their sharing.
- Be Authentic – The last point does not imply that you may not share from your heart. Opening yourself up is in fact most helpful to helping others relax into authenticity themselves.
- Do not bring up your past contributions – The common error that is made in our closest relationships is the accusatory tone that sounds like, ‘After all that I have done for you…’. You have thereby guaranteed that any love and support that was received from you will now become a point of resentment and that results in an immediate disconnect. When you gave, you probably gave freely. Keep it that way.
- Be Kind – As the Dalai Lama says, it is always possible to be kind. No matter what confessions you are listening to, try to be as kind as you can. While the words ‘non-judgmental’ and ‘unconditional love’ have been trivialized by overuse, what I am suggesting is a more realistic, doable attempt at not jumping in with blame, judgement, accusations, or worse still disrespectful, insensitive, callous humour. In a society that has come to value numbness and avoidance over vulnerability and openness, only too often we make light of a situation that is crying for a sincere, humane response.
- Allow the emotions to flow - If the person wishes to cry, let them. If they rant, let them. Often, all that is required is a vent to emotions that have been building up like steam in a pressure cooker.
- Do Not be Dismissive - What may seem immensely difficult for the other may not hold the same weight for you. That does not mitigate it for them. Don’t lose objectivity, but be sensitive to the burden of their emotions.
- Maintain Confidentiality – I cannot stress this one enough. There is no way that a person is going to feel safe around you if you share their most heart wrenching moments in casual conversation or gossip. Respect that trust is an honor that was bestowed upon you. Keep things to yourself.
- Watch your judgments, cruelties and insensitivity - You are being observed all the time. Your jokes about gays are never going to encourage your son to come out and tell you his true sexual identity. Your dismissal of your friend’s hurt over rejections in love are not going to let your sister tell you about her suicidal thoughts over a heart break. Your unrealistically high expectations of academics encourage your children to cheat in exams, lie to you and take up addictive substances. As extreme as these examples are - they demonstrate the society we are contributing towards.
When we shame others, we are essentially isolating them into painful prisons that they struggle to break out of. In their pain, they can cause harm to themselves as well as others. This can take the form of self abuse, abusive relationships or at a larger level, violence and conflict in society. If you don’t like the consequences, be the change you want to see.
I invite your comments and any additional suggestions to helping build kinder societies.
Image Source: http://tmblr.co/ZWlzqwF7H8jI