Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Wounds & Vulnerability

“Because of the wound, your heart is still dripping with blood.
How could you forgive them?”
Perfect Wife, Episode 5

I read this subtitle line last night and I had to write it down. Today, it brought me back to Brené Brown, PhD, whom I’ve previously thought could be my much smarter and successful pseudo-dopplegänger, because her thought processes seem so like my own. I rewatched her awesome 20-minute 2010 TEDx Houston talk The Power of Vulnerability this morning and found some connections between the two pieces that I’d like to share.

Life beats us up.

If we are at all involved in this crazy and beautiful world, we get bloody as we march through our days. Being involved makes us vulnerable to its vagaries. The more we’re out there, the greater the risks and rewards. What rewards, exactly? As Dr. Brown asserts, connecting is the very reason we’re here.

That involvement makes us feel fear and shame.

When we’re wounded, what is our response? In the Kdrama quote, the character is not dealing well with it. All she can see is the blood: fear and shame. Dr. Brown lists several harmful ways we react to these feelings: numbing our emotions, making the uncertain seem certain, trying to make everything perfect, blaming others and acting like what we do doesn’t really matter.

When we’re left dripping with blood, we desperately want to defend ourselves and show we are right- to be the victor and not a victim. It becomes a battle of “me versus them”. If we wallow in these feelings of fear and shame, as Dr. Brown explains, we fracture our sense of connection with others, making ourselves feel even more victimized. In that ultimate quest for connection- any kind of connection- we may end up in a group caught up in a cycle of perpetuating fear and shame.

Can we empathize instead?

When there’s not a catastrophic emergency in front of us, we can easily acknowledge that we’re all imperfect. We can see that everyone has a history, struggles and conditions in their lives that affect how we react to and deal with events. Can we do the same when we’re dripping in blood? That requires having a strong enough sense of self worth and compassion that we can move our focus from fear and shame towards forgiveness and empathy.

Are we strong enough to be vulnerable?

Forgiving sometimes feels like giving up, and who really wants to do that? The character in the show quote is nowhere near ready to forgive. She carries the burden of blame, regret, retort and defense. She feels vulnerable and is afraid of that fact. We’ll have to see in coming episodes how that weight affects her actions. Will she, like us in many cases, gain strength to have a change of heart?

Vulnerability can be looked at from a different perspective. Showing it proves the very imperfection we all admit to but try to hide, which can bring on those feelings of fear and shame. Alas, as Dr. Brown details, there’s no escaping it: the experience of fear and shame show our vulnerability, which leads to the growth of connection.

What does connection ultimate give us?

If it’s the reason why we’re here, what does it actually do for us? The most well-connected people have a strong sense of self-worth. I liken it to the old phrase of being “comfortable in your own skin”. They feel assured in where they are and what they are doing day-to-day. They appreciate themselves and everyone they feel connected to as they are right now, and are open to dealing with the blood that drips somewhere every moment of every day.


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