It’s coming into our common knowledge that vulnerability is an act of courage. No longer do we find vulnerability to be weakness as we have so long been conditioned to believe it to be.
But we often don’t know what that looks like. The idea makes sense, somehow it lands, but…what does it mean to be courageously vulnerable?
In my work with both women and men, the first step has almost always revolved around one practice. This practice, when entered with love, courage, and strength, is the only thing that I have ever seen that dissolves the walls around our heart.
The practice is this: Any time you notice anger, defensiveness, criticism, frustration or any other emotion that comes up and keeps you from openness and love…
First: Feel how it is there to protect your heart, honor its service in protecting you until this point, and let it know it is no longer needed.
Next: Find the hurt, fear, softness and tenderness that is being protected. If you need to, ask the anger or other protective mood, “What are you protecting me from feeling?” Fear, blame, anger, aggressiveness, criticism, and defensiveness are the protectors of, and detractors from, your soft vulnerability.
Then: Allow yourself to feel the soft, vulnerable hurt. Care for that hurt part of you deeply. Give it space. Allow yourself to be hurt. This is where the courage comes in. You will want to run from the pain by going back to anger or your other protective mechanism. But you are courageous now in a new way. You have the courage to face your hurt, your pain, and the real you underneath your protective shell.
Finally: Sit with it. Take some time to lay down. I often do this for up to a couple of hours, feeling the pain in my body, letting go of the story in my mind, and allowing memories from when I was younger and how these wounds came to be, to flow through me freely. After it has been given the space it needs, it will subside.
If you have a partner you love and trust, and who also loves and trusts you, you can also be in this vulnerable space with them. Some partners may need to be asked “Is it ok if I go into the softness of my pain with you?” And some will be able to move with you right into that.
You will likely have to do this many times, depending on how deeply your wounding resides within you. It is ok. To feel hurt, to allow yourself to really be with your pain rather than to avoid it with a protective shell of anger and defensiveness and blame and story, that is what it means to be a true warrior of and for your heart.
Note: If you are in a physically, mentally, sexually, or emotionally abusive relationship, you may need to protect yourself from your partner using your old tools to set proper boundaries for yourself first. Always protect yourself, first. And, when you’re in a safe space, with your partner or not, only then allow yourself this practice.