Inviting Vulnerability: Five Steps to Letting Go

letting go of colorful balloons in a fieldTo me, “vulnerable” is wonderful word. It means openness, freedom, and the opportunity to love and be loved. But for others, it is what they are trying to get away from: They feel that they are too vulnerable. In actuality, the opposite is true. They feel unsafe because they are too defended, too guarded. True vulnerability comes only with acceptance of self. And with that, fear drops away.

By becoming vulnerable to life, we discover its meaning. Not the meaning of life in an objective sense, but rather its meaning and purpose for each one of us, as individual souls. Whether that is the truth of a given moment, or an expanded sense of purpose and destiny in our professional or personal lives, we can discover it only if we learn to listen to our own hearts in an unguarded and open way.

Our Own Vulnerability
To be happy and content in life, we must give in and learn to listen to ourselves deeply. We must accept our vulnerabilities, open ourselves to them, and embrace them! Why? Because only then do we feel the safety net that is always there; that mysterious presence that is beauty, love, kindness, and truth. When we don’t move into the mystery of vulnerability, it is like we are clinging to a tightrope after having fallen off, peering into the dark, afraid that there is no net. We find the net by letting go, by falling into the unknown.

This surrender does not have to be, as many think, a large display of emotion, because it is at its heart something internal, something private. Our closest, longest, and most intimate relationship is the one we have with ourselves. So while we might first experience vulnerability with someone else, it is at its heart something we must do with ourselves, by ourselves. It is not enough to be accepted by someone else: We must accept ourselves.

Allowing Others to Be Vulnerable
By becoming vulnerable to yourself, you move toward being vulnerable in your relationships and, just as importantly, being able to accept the vulnerability of those you love. This can be some of the hardest work we do: allowing the people we depend on to have their own vulnerabilities, their own weaknesses, their own struggles.

When vulnerability is not allowed in a relationship, it separates people, no matter how much they love each other. A person may love someone, but he or she may also want that person to be something he or she is not, or to just plain stop having the pain or struggle that he or she does. This dynamic can create a vicious cycle of resentment and frustration in one person, and a sense of confinement, judgment, and claustrophobia in the other.

Practice
Maybe this sounds simple to you, or perhaps complicated and confusing. It all begins with whatever moment you are in. And it takes baby steps. If you are interested in exploring more, note the time and do this five-step practice for the next five minutes:

  1. Take three deep breaths. In through the nose, out through the mouth. Soften your shoulders, your forehead, your eyes.
  2. Become vulnerable to everything happening in this moment. All the feelings, all the thoughts. Accept and allow everything. Soften toward every part of yourself. Breathe.
  3. Soften all resistance to what is here. Feel the energy of your body, emotions, and mind. Feel whatever pain you may be having. Don’t label or think about it, just sense it fully. Don’t push anything away. Breathe.
  4. Allow the waterfall that is the experience of each passing moment to wash over you. Just for this moment, accept fully and forgive yourself for all the failings and faults, all the regrets and mistakes that are marching through your mind. Let go of the fight and allow yourself to be just as you are right now. Breathe.
  5. Now return to the top and continue the practice. Close your eyes as you are able, repeating the steps and continuing to soften and breathe.

© Copyright 2012 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Erin Moline, LPC, therapist in Portland, Oregon

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Morgan

    Morgan

    December 4th, 2012 at 11:18 PM

    Never knew being vulnerable could help! Always thought I vulnerability as a negative aspect and somethig we should avoid at all costs. But I see it now – being vulnerable allows us to be open – about who we are and what we are, it allows us to break away from the tight box we confine ourselves into. Thank you for this entire new perspective on vulnerability.

  • megan

    megan

    December 5th, 2012 at 3:47 AM

    Sorry but for me being vulnerable is not acceptable.
    Why leave myself intentionally open to the hurt that being vulnerable causes?
    I want to be a tsrong female and allowing myself to be vulnerable is not a part of that equation.

  • Ryan

    Ryan

    December 5th, 2012 at 9:46 AM

    Megan:I don’t think the author means letting yourself open to bein hurt.The very term vulnerability is misunderstood.Vulnerablity as we think of it can promote us in being uptight and closed to any new ideas or options.We will then continue to live within a well and will never explore anything that we are uncomfortable with.

    It is very important to step out of our comfort zone to grow and vulnerability as we think of it keeps us locked into our comfort zone which soon starts to feel choking.

  • Erin Moline

    Erin Moline

    December 5th, 2012 at 11:46 AM

    Ryan & Morgan — Thank you for your comments! There is truly nothing more liberating that being able to be with yourself in all your flawed glory.

    Megan — I really appreciate your concerns. :) “Vulnerable” is indeed a word with different uses and meanings. In this context, I am talking about being open in a way that allows energy and love into the heart and mind; and I am especially talking about being vulnerable to yourself.

    I actually quite agree with you that the idea of being vulnerable in a relationship, that is, needing protection, can be a problem for women. Just as needing to *not* be vulnerable can be problematic for men!

    I invite you to explore this idea more, I think you’ll find some good stuff.

    Thank you all for the comments!

  • WY

    WY

    December 5th, 2012 at 11:25 PM

    Vulnerable is something we run scared of. I think it’s meaning has been narrowed down by society. And it’s hard enough for me to think that it can be helpful even though I know it can definitely have a harder meaning. It’s amazing how those around us can even define what we think of a term. We really are dumbing down!

  • Ken Walton

    Ken Walton

    March 1st, 2013 at 10:13 AM

    Do you sometimes people need to protect themselves before being vulnerable? For those that have been had boundary violation? To kick out the introjected violence. And then you have the natural protections to become the vulnerable?

  • lisa

    lisa

    May 2nd, 2015 at 5:03 PM

    I have battled being vulnerable emotionally all my life. I rather be slapped than emotionally tormented. But this also means i can’t allow myself to be vulnerable to my own feelings. This has lead me to states of dissociation and feeling of separation from myself. It is a state i find to leave me numb and unable to feel the better emotions in life as well.

  • Tanya

    Tanya

    May 3rd, 2015 at 6:18 AM

    I like this. Scary but true I think. Will practice x

  • Joanna

    Joanna

    July 7th, 2015 at 5:15 AM

    Well explained and good post to read. Vulnerability is part of being a human once we accept it and learn to live with it we can live fully without fear and enjoy being part of relationships. Accepting vulnerability within ourselves teaches us to become less judgmental towards other people as well as more understanding towards them. In the process we come to understand what compassion and empathy means.

  • katherine

    katherine

    August 30th, 2015 at 9:55 PM

    Beautifully said Joanna. Thank you for sharing

  • carry

    carry

    September 5th, 2015 at 9:34 AM

    Tip: step 1,2,3 a ; ) read Brené Brown (or ted talk on youtube)… about The power of vulnerability.

  • Jo

    Jo

    October 26th, 2016 at 12:08 AM

    its a culture/learned thing largely I think. We are shown, taught and its reinforced as we grow that showing weakness is a bad thing even though we all know that we hurt and feel weak at times – hence the bravado that many people adopt and also the numbing methods – whatever your poison is – and that includes smoking!! so I just want to add that it is from birth and even before so is a massive change, worthwhile yes of course, too much to ask for many. Little steps with this one. Best wishes

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