In the last week’s sessions with clients the issue of vulnerability came up came up a lot. Some would call it coincidence. Carl Jung called it Synchronicity. I’ve experienced it often in my every day life, as I’m sure you have. Then added to that intriguing “coincidence” this week I received a link from a Brendan Burchard referring me to Bene’ Brown’s video about her studies on the subject of vulnerability. I was impressed by her presentation style, and her deep level understanding of the subject. It mirrored what I’ve been teaching my clients and students and writing about in my blogs. Although I haven’t read her book yet, Daring Greatly, Berne’s talk was another chapter, or shall I say, an addendum to my blogs “Embarrassing Moments.” If you have read it you will know the connection here. If not, it’s a good idea; its one of my most read blogs.
I forwarded the video to my dear sister and special friend Carolyn in England, who is a counselor, who replied “…Interesting lady, refreshingly authentic. She’s saying what I believe most counselors /psychotherapists hope to nurture in their clients; be with your truth (feelings), be real. “
She was reiterating what I know, that therapy ideally helps the client to see and break through the facade of their every day scripts and enable him or her to be genuinely them selves, with no judgment or criticism of self or from the therapist. However, I do understand that its not always an easy task to let down the barriers that protect us from all the things we fear might happen if we do.
So we protect ourselves from anything that might cause a sense of shame, or risk being thought less of, of not being perfect. That boiled down to the basic ingredient that makes embarrassment such a powerful negative experience. Embarrassment is in fact an accidental revelation of our imperfection, proving we are not a flawless human being. People seldom do that deliberately. We prefer safety. We work hard to save ourselves from embarrassment, which is fundamentally a feeling of shame that we have not lived up to the unrealistic ideals set for us, all based on notions of what we are supposed as human beings to be, always and without exception; perfect.
I’ll share a deeply personal experience: Because I teach Mind Mastery some people expect me to be perfect. I don’t mean just a good or even ideal example. Therefore those who have witnessed my humanness have expressed shock and disappointment in me for not being super human. In the beginning this caused me to avoid expressing or revealing anything about myself that might disappoint my students. God forbid they see me hurting or making a mistake, or have anything wrong with me. I feared that not only would they lose trust in me and what I teach, they would wonder if I couldn’t always be perfect, if I didn’t have perfect control for myself in every respect, what did that mean for them? What chance did they have of achieving Mind Mastery? Even though I teach that being a Mind Master doesn’t mean you deny your humanness or attempt to be perfect; Mind Mastery simply gives you control of what you do in your mind and that gives you better control of your emotions your body and your behaviors. It doesn’t intend or claim to make you perfect, just better at being the you you choose to be, to be your best self, and to know your personal powers and have a good healthy working relationship with your powerful subconscious. And part of that is to be true to yourself. The stress of playing the role of being perfect was taking its toll. I needed to stop putting unrealistic demands on myself in order to prove to my students and clients that Mind Mastery works, that they can have positive conscious control for their subconscious minds; therefore have improved mastery of their inner and outer lives. I needed to feel safe in letting people see my imperfections. That was one of the most important lessons I’ve ever taught myself and others. It was a lesson that saved my life over forty years ago; not to hide my fears and feelings and to try to be something and someone I was not. But I had seemingly forgotten. It was costing me too much again to hide myself that way. I remembered that it is healthier and I would be more at peace within myself to be myself, and not try to live up to unrealistic expectations of others, imagined or real; and that didn’t mean I was less or not good enough, or that I wasn’t strong or never scared, and if anyone thought less of me that would be his or her problem.
Yes, I know it’s easier said than done to let down your defenses. You have them for a reason. You need to know what I knew deep inside and had forgotten, or carelessly put aside, that you have great inner strength and the ability use it more wisely. What I discovered was people didn’t respect me less, they appreciated me even more!
I’ve recommend before that its best to stop trying to be perfect, to stop trying to please others first , to stop trying to live up to what others want you to be if you are ever going to be pleased with yourself. To deny yourself is unnecessary self sacrifice. The cost of not being true to our selves, living a lie causes our consciences to torture us, just as severely as if we had hurt another, for our bodies will express in myriad ways the secrets kept within our minds. Its called psychosomatic illness. Which simply means originating in the mind and influencing the body. The pain is real, the illness is real.
I hear the argument against revealing their truth to others spoken by so many people I work with. ‘ But if I am true to myself, and honor myself, how will others respond to me? …will they still love and respect me? …will I be less in their eyes? …will they hold it against me?…will they reject me? And as I’ve heard so many say, “Will it be used as a weapon against me later on?”
These fears of putting ones self at risk of shame and loss are so common, when you think about it, it’s difficult to know when people are being genuine. The fact is that people become so good at subjugating their own needs wishes and interests, hiding behind a self constructed facade, that they forget that they do it: In other words it’s become an automatic function.
Being openly honest with ourselves might lead to our being honest with everyone else. Oh my… how would that work out? So the imagined consequences keep peoplebehind their walls.
It’s a serious dilemma in many instances. For one of the other worries people often have is a fear of being selfish: that is thinking of one’s self first, putting one’s own interests before those of others. Considering one’s own needs and wishes primary is a trait to be avoided at all costs. Calling someone selfish is about one of the cruelest and insulting things you can say to or about them. People usually dislike selfish people immensely. Its important for most people to be liked. Being disliked usually means being avoided, excluded and rebuked. They are called narcissistic. Neurotic even.
One argument might be, and I’ve heard it countless times, “I don’t want to hurt anyone else.” or “If I tell what I really think and feel, or what I want, it could make people mad at me.” Or, “I don’t want to be selfish.” Protecting other people’s feelings and giving in to their needs before your own is a common rationale for failing to reveal ones own truth.
Some people, if you ask them, “What do you think or feel about that.. or what would you like? look confused, lost. They say they don’t know. Its seems that they don’t have a mind of their own.
One client told me, after I gently encouraged her to get in touch with her inner truth by dialoging with her subconscious, said, “If I say what I really feel and want, my family will disown me. They won’t approve. I’ll be an outcast.” That woman was caught between two fires as it were. It meant in order to maintain family ties she denied her own needs. A fact she hadn’t, until that day, consciously acknowledged. It’s one of the reasons she was in my therapy room in the first place. She had many medical problems and in a great deal of pain; all symbolic of holding herself tightly swaddled in the coarse sack of self sacrifice. Being dishonest with herself was keeping her family happy and herself sick with unhappiness.
We feel vulnerable for a reason, many reasons actually. Yes, we could be vulnerable walking alone on dark streets at night, not looking both ways when we cross the street, eating junk food, smoking, and drinking too much, the latter is usually to numb people to their inner truths, or the facts of their lives.
There are dangers out there, and some should definitely be avoided. What we need to know is that the greatest danger to our health and well being we face is losing touch with our inner self, the aspect of self that people often refuse to listen to or not even acknowledge exists. Everything you are, everything you think and feel is within your subconscious. Your hopes, your dreams, your aspirations and all the requisite resources you need to actualize them and live life well and be well. That’s the reason I make sure that my students and clients get in touch with their subconscious and teach them how to communicate with that all knowing self for improved inner and outer life.
You are not as vulnerable as you think.
Therapists all too often use the term vulnerability, reinforcing the notion that in self revelation we are at risk. And at the same time I’ve heard of therapists saying to their clients that they must allow themselves to feel vulnerable because it’s natural. Its not unnatural to keep our deepest thoughts and feelings to ourselves. Its a conditioned response. To demand or expect people to simply drop their defenses is threatening in its self. Though of course we can gently, carefully guide our clients to look over the walls they’ve built within, understand the reason they were built, and guide them to gradually, comfortably dismantle them; if need be.
First though, the person needs to feel safe without them. That takes getting people in touch with their inner strengths so they can trust themselves with their truths, and feel safe with them. To know that their truths don’t have to be judged or criticized, just acknowledged.
The advice the bard gave was, “To thine own self be true, then thou canst be false to no man.”
The fact is though in most cases people don’t really know themselves. So how can they be true to a self that have not yet realized exists? If they don’t know who they really are, how can they be real? So, the best first advice is, “Know thyself.”
It can be an incredibly rewarding journey to self discovery. Of course, all journeys require preparation, plans and the ability to deal with the detours and bumps on the road. It’s always well worth it though As one of my clients said recently,’
“It’s been wonderful Elaine, I admit I was scared at first. I ‘m grateful for your expert guidance, your support , because I didn’t always like what I learned about myself. I wasn’t the nice person people thought me to be and what I pretended to be. I was being manipulative. If it hadn’t been for you reminding me that I had the ability to change, I would have quit right then and there. The most important thing I learned about myself is that I am who I choose to be. I am a self made man.”
Yes, we are all self made. And are as re-make-able as we are remarkably resilient.
If you know yourself, your inner truth….if you feel at risk of exposing your deepest self or your imperfections (even to yourself ) for fear you will feel shame or loss of respect or even rejection, stop right now and think of the the inner strength it takes to deny being true to yourself. Think of the psychic energy and mind space you are using for the wrong purposes. Would it not be better to employ that energy and strength for a better purpose?
Truth is that in life we are always pulling off a balancing act. We become good jugglers of truth and lies for many reasons. We may feel we walk a psychological tightrope to get to where we feel we need to go to reach a place of satisfaction fulfillment and safety. I know it isn’t always easy. But it’s only harder because we feel vulnerable. It is after all a feeling. Feelings are generated within us. The sources of them aren’t always legitimate. Often times they are fear filled fantasies we create, possibilities merely thought to exist. Possibilities are endless, that’s the scary thing, but probabilities are usually quite limited.
And if you fear self revelation will push someone away, then consider that you are better off without that conditional relationship.
Think about that now. What are you sacrificing for the sake of others or to present yourself in a false light.
I know the pain and hardships people suffer when they are faced with the conflicts of being genuine as compared to being “proper” or “correct and acceptable” regardless. It is why what is referred to as peer pressure is such a powerful influence on the young, and even on the so called more mature people among us. Being part of a group most people feel safer than being on the outside of one; being all alone and not protected by the acceptance of the majority can feel terrible. So can going against what your inner self advises.
I know you have heard your inner self, its that voice that all too often you have hushed up, pushed aside or ignored. It’s not all your own doing. Unfortunately we are schooled and nurtured to feel vulnerable by exposing our inner selves, our flaws and imperfections by those who would condemn or shame us for them. Being exposed , naked in our humanness is an awful fear. Naked we feel powerless and at the mercy of all who see us. Yet at the same time those who feel that terror most are often the teasers and bullies; they are putting on an armor that makes them feel powerful in a world where power is what is deemed to protect you from harm. Don’t bully yourself into self sacrifice.
The most important first step is to get to really know your true self. Then you will discover your inner truth. Then when you find it, find ways to honor your self, to feel safe with expressing your true self, and pledge to never hide from yourself or arbitrarily hide from others what’s real and right for you. You can tactfully diplomatically express yourself and your own needs and wishes without hurting others. It only takes trust in their humaneness as well as your own. Its quite probable you know, that their expectations are not as you expected. Do it and you will find that out. If you make a mistake, simply apologize. Learn from it.
If you already know your true self, begin to explore ways to express yourself honestly to yourself and others. Being true to yourself doesn’t mean you are being selfish. And here’s a lesson I teach people who need it. Selfish is me first, me always, you never. Most people tend to be on the other end of the spectrum: You first, you always, me never. What I recommend is a me also philosophy.
And keep in mind that if you don’t like anything about yourself, you can school yourself to being who you choose to be, and be true to the self you create within yourself.
TTFN and all the best, always, from Elaine Kissel