Juicy, tender, yummy “vulnerability.” Just saying the word moves my insides. Doesn’t the word sound like something you could dip in batter and fry up to serve with pickle relish and mayonnaise? I’d eat your vulnerability up with a grapefruit spoon it’s so soft and delicate.
“I define vulnerability as uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. With that definition in mind, let's think about love. Waking up every day and loving someone who may or may not love us back, whose safety we can't ensure, who may stay in our lives or may leave without a moment's notice, who may be loyal to the day they die or betray us tomorrow- that's vulnerability. Love is uncertain. It's incredibly risky. And loving someone leaves us emotionally exposed. Yes, it's scary, and yes, we're open to being hurt, but can you imagine your life without loving or being loved?”
–Bréne Brown, Daring Greatly
You can tell you’re having a real, vulnerable conversation thusly – you don’t know what’s going to happen when you finish what you’re saying. How many times have you spent hours trying to imagine the perfect thing to say, playing out utterly imaginary conversations in your head with someone. “If they say this then I’ll say that and then the thing I want to happen will happen.” You know these conversations never play out like we imagine.
All that chatter and pre-planning wastes our time and theirs if it distracts you from getting curious about yourself and them. What’s really going on with me? What edge is this situation pushing? Am I getting triggered? Why? How can I more fully own my own reactions and emotions? What’s going on with them? What do I really want to understand? How can I love them better?
There are many ways to have a conversation. You can state a position, try to convince the other person, win the argument or coerce them into agreeing with you, get them to reveal their cards or try to fix them. Or you can be task-oriented and focus on getting the job done, finding out what they’re asking from you or making a compromise.
None of the above bring about much intimacy and may actually push them away. Even something as seemingly innocuous as trying to help can get in the way of being with them exactly as they are in a moment of hurt. The deepest connections occur when you can simply sit with another person and witness without any impatience for them to be or do anything different than what they are in this moment.
As much as you might want to help, can you pause to hold eye contact long enough to say without words that you love them? I’ve noticed everyone has beautiful eyes. Our bodies and souls begin to trust when we can see our loved one’s eyes. The smile that extends all the way to the corners of our eyes say what no amount of words can sometimes. You are here, with me, right now. I see you. I let you see me, knowing that if I try to conceal anything you’ll probably pick up on it right away because my eyes will convey even the thoughts we wish weren’t true. They transmit our sorrow, grief, frustration, despair and our joy, love and longing.
You give others a great and precious gift when you let them see the pain and fear in your eyes. They begin to trust you more. The depth and dimensions of the shadow gives firmness to their understanding of you. You start to feel like a solid, 3-dimensional object they can pick up and turn around in their hands. You make space for them to come to you with their pains and fears.
It’s deeply healing to see and be seen, to love and be loved, to know and be known.
“The dark does not destroy the light; it defines it. It's our fear of the dark that casts our joy into the shadows.”
–Bréne Brown, Gifts of Imperfection