Andrea Scully, Notes from the Center of the Spiral, Sept. 5, 2013
I’ve been having some conversations with some of my peers and one of the topics has been vulnerability. It’s become clear to me through these talks that the word itself holds some charge for me, and its meaning isn’t necessarily the same for me as it is for others.
Let’s take a look together at the dictionary meaning. Here is what the Wiki free dictionary has to say:
Vulnerability refers to the inability to withstand the effects of a hostile environment. A window of vulnerability (WoV) is a time frame within which defensive measures are reduced, compromised or lacking.” (1)
Ok, I see that my understanding of the meaning is pretty much in alignment with this. The charge I have on this word has to do with my personal struggle to bust out of the role of victim and into the role of victor, and to take this even further to escape the game altogether and stand instead in a balanced place of personal sovereignty.
It wasn’t until I took the time to scrutinize and bring awareness to the deeper levels of denial of personal responsibility and the hidden pay-offs that the truth was revealed to me about my addiction to being a victim, to being in pain and misery, and to giving away my power by denying that I had any responsibility for my part in creating my own world.
I have a tool in my tool chest, a favored one that has served me well. It’s the question, ‘How vulnerable (i.e., at risk) am I?’ When feeling threatened, I use this tool to check myself with, because as soon as I’m overly vulnerable I take a defensive position, a weak and draining position that doesn’t honor myself, and isn’t balanced in the way I relate to others.
This position is also draining to others, as it assumes they bear a responsibility they don’t. No one else is responsible for my ability to trust. No one else is responsible for my denial of personal responsibility, my unconscious addiction to being a victim, or the fears that are protecting my image or constructed self which I’m serving up to them instead of being authentic to everyone in the world.
This has proven to be a crucial tool for me in my development. I’ve made so many choices along the way that have put me into hostile environments. This isn’t even counting the hostile environments I’ve endured when I was too little to make any choices about what my environment should be.
There’s no question that there can be threats in our environment. The question is whether it’s always necessary to react defensively to them, or whether it can be understood that although the threat may exist, the Self isn’t vulnerable to it.
Who is Vulnerable?
After using this tool for decades now, I can report that in my world, I’ve found the underlying truth to be the surprising fact that I’m rarely vulnerable. What a change from the old way of I-am-vulnerable-to-everything.
It begs the question, given that I am the same Self as I’ve always been, ‘who was it that was vulnerable?’ Who is it that needs protection; who is so weak and fearful that they need to be shielded? At what cost is this shielding happening and who is it that bears this burden of paying it?
This conversation we were having was about trust. I was expressing how my trust is firmly established inside of me. And I was saying it isn’t dependent on anything outside of me at all.
This brought up the question of vulnerability, and my friend asked if I was appreciating the fact that there is a vulnerability in relations between people. Her thoughts on what this vulnerability entailed were much different from the meaning the word holds for me. My meaning was about being defensive, which matches fairly accurately with the meaning from the dictionary above.
For her, the meaning of being vulnerable was to be open to another person, whether this meant being open to love, or open to the risk of whatever else may come from this other person. My reply was that, of course, I am open to love, and there is always a risk to such openness, but this doesn’t mean the same as vulnerability in my understanding.
I offered a metaphor with the question, ‘Which is a show of strength: An open door or a closed one?’ The answer is an open one, because this is an expression of security and the strength to bear the risk of uncertainty that is inherent in any given moment. All one need do to understand where the vulnerabilities are is to look for the shield wall. Rather than hiding anything, it makes our vulnerabilities stick out like a sore thumb.
(Continued in Part 2.)