“You are imperfect, you are wired for struggle, and you are deserving of love and belonging.” Brene Brown gives this excellent quote toward the end of her well known Ted talk on vulnerability.
It’s so hard to be vulnerable, isn’t it? What if you are truly and totally you and you get rejected in some way? What if you get hurt? True intimacy requires vulnerability and that means risk. Always.
It seems to me that humans, generally speaking, are caught in a bind of wanting connection at a deep level and being simultaneously fearful of it, usually at the same levels. At least that’s true for the grown ups. Children have a delightful ability to connect at a deep, true, honest level because they are less self conscious and more willing to take risks with giving love. Children are generally willing to give their love with abandon rather than wait to see what’s coming in their direction first. This is often true even when parents aren’t giving their best selves at the time.
When I talk with my clients about taking risks in relationships, I can usually break through defenses when I talk about children, if they have them. Parents can completely relate to the astonishing level of love they feel when they first meet their child in person. Often, it is at the very same time they feel overwhelming love that they also become aware of an equally overwhelming vulnerability when it comes to that child. It’s risky to love that completely because it can bring pain sometimes.
Adult relationships are not so very different. When we open ourselves up to deep, honest love we become vulnerable. We take the risk of being hurt. For some, that risk is enough to shut them down from ever allowing true intimacy. What they don’t usually realize is that when a person shuts down the risk of pain, that person also shuts down the heights of joy that can be reached as well.
You may have heard it said that for every action, there’s an equal reaction in the other direction. I like to tell my clients that their ability to reach heights of joy and love automatically come with the potential to reach an equal depth of pain and sorrow. Here’s the really great news, however. Allowing yourself to reach great heights of joy does not guarantee the equal depths of pain, it merely opens up the risk.
Generally speaking, all those things in life worth having come with a cost. Intimacy is worth striving for and vulnerability is a risk. Each person makes his or her own decisions about how much of each is tolerable. I invite you to stretch yourselves, however. The reward is great even when there’s cost.
People are imperfect so they will make mistakes and hurt each other. We are wired for struggle, however, and we learn through it so that it usually brings some gain even in itself. We are each worthy and deserving of love and belonging. Open the door and step outside of your fears. The journey in itself is wondrous to behold.
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