I’ve been having some conversations with some of my peers and one of the topics has been vulnerability. It’s become clear to me through these talks that the word itself holds some charge for me, and its meaning isn’t necessarily the same to me as it is for others.
Let’s take a look together at the dictionary meaning. Here is what the Wiki free dictionary has to say:
‘Vulnerability refers to the inability to withstand the effects of a hostile environment. A window of vulnerability (WoV) is a time frame within which defensive measures are reduced, compromised or lacking.” (1)
Ok, I see that my understanding of the meaning is pretty much in alignment with this. The charge I have on this word has to do with my personal struggle to bust out of the role of victim and into the role of victor, and to take this even further to escape the game altogether and stand instead in a balanced place of personal sovereignty.
It wasn’t until I took the time to scrutinize and bring awareness to the deeper levels of denial of personal responsibility and the hidden pay-offs, that the truth was revealed to me about my addiction to being a victim, to being in pain and misery, and to giving away my power by denying that I had any responsibility for my part in creating my own world.
I have a tool in my tool chest, one that is a favored one and has served me well. It is the question, ‘How vulnerable am I?’ When feeling threatened, this is the tool I use to check myself with, because as soon as I’m vulnerable I must take a defensive position, a weak and draining position that doesn’t honor myself, and isn’t balanced in the way I relate to others.
This position that is also draining to others, as this assumes they bear a responsibility they do not. No one else is responsible for my ability to trust. Nor are they responsible for my denial of personal responsibility, or for my unconscious addiction to being a victim, or for the fears that are protecting my image of my constructed self which I am serving up to them instead of being authentic to everyone in the world.
This has proven to be a crucial tool for me, in my development. I’ve made so many choices along the way that have put me into hostile environments. This isn’t even counting the hostile environments I’ve endured when I was too little to make any choices about what my environment was.
There’s no question that there can be threats in our environment. The question is whether it’s always necessary to react defensively to them, or whether it can be understood that although the threat may exist, the Self isn’t vulnerable to it.
Who is Vulnerable?
After using this tool for decades now, I can report that in my world, I’ve found the underlying truth to be the surprising fact that I’m rarely vulnerable. What a change from the old way of I-am-vulnerable-to-everything.
It begs the question, given that I am the same Self as I’ve always been, ‘who was it that was vulnerable?’ Who is it that needs protection; who is so weak and fearful that they need to be shielded? At what cost is this shielding happening and who is it that bears this burden of paying it?
This conversation we were having was about trust. I was expressing how my trust is firmly established inside of me. And I was saying it isn’t dependent on anything outside of me at all.
This brought up the question of vulnerability, and my friend asked if I was appreciating the fact that there is a vulnerability in relations between people. Her thoughts on what this vulnerability entailed were much different from the meaning the word holds for me. My meaning was about being defensive, which matches fairly accurately with the meaning from the dictionary above.
For her, the meaning of being vulnerable was to be open to another person, whether this be open for love, or open for the risk of whatever else may come from this other person. My reply was that, of course, I am open to love, and there is always a risk to such openness, but this doesn’t mean the same as vulnerability in my understanding.
I offered a metaphor with the question, ‘which is a show of strength? An open door or a closed one?’ The answer is an open one, because this is an expression of security and the strength to bear the risk of uncertainty that is inherent in any given moment. All one need do to understand where the vulnerabilities are is to look for the shield wall. Rather than hide anything, they make them stick out like a sore thumb.
Like I said, I don’t spend much energy these days worrying over whether or not any other being is trustworthy or not. Either they are or they’re not, and the evidence will be there when it needs to be understood one way or the other. The truth is that my level of trust in them has to do with their level of authenticity, for I can trust them to be who they are, and as for the rest, this is just talking to the mask.
The real issue for me is that I trust myself. Because I trust myself, and this isn’t based in any way on anything outside of me, then my ability to trust is with me wherever I go. I begin all relations with this willingness to trust, and withdraw it only when it is plain there is a need to do so.
I accept the risk inherent in this in my relations, and because I do, no one need be confused by my insisting that they are responsible for whether or not I have the ability to trust them, or life, or anything else for that matter.
This is a stand I take, not only to benefit myself, but also to benefit all who are in relation to me. I understand that others do feel vulnerable, and I accept this too. What I don’t accept is the responsibility for the misplaced fears over who is responsible for anyone’s ability to trust.
I already know from experience that this is based on the fact that we have all been playing the victim and projecting this on to others, when the deepest truth is we have abandoned our own selves, betraying our own trust when we gave this power to another to begin with.
So, again, the question is, who is vulnerable?
If I have done the inner work to heal the betrayal of trust I’ve had with myself at the foundation of all this mess, then the issues of fear and inability to trust are looking completely different than when coming from the stance that the world is a hostile place and I need to be defensive all the time in order to survive.
Taking this even deeper, whose survival is threatened? For those of you who have been following the dialog on the Golden Age of Gaia blog about the constructed self, (2) I propose that it’s this false constructed ‘image for others’ self that is at risk and is in fear of its survival.
Because without the need to do the image management shuffle and protect the constructed self, there isn’t any fear. We are who we Are, and authenticity removes the need for this image management completely.
I’d like to finish this post with some thoughts about the cost of all this unconsciousness playing out in our relations with ourselves and others.
I’d like to say that at this point, while I have compassion for those who are in fear about defending their perceived vulnerabilities and are image managing to protect their constructed selves, and while I understand this process of awakening is happening in its own time for each of us; I am also unwilling to continue to be in agreement with paying the price for the sake of the fear they hold over keeping their image intact. This price is too dear, as it robs us both of our ability to be balanced, and renders relations anywhere from uncomfortable to impossible. Without the real person showing up to relate with, vital life energies are squandered away for what?
I reserve the right to refuse to spend my energies in this fashion for anyone. This looks to me like too high a price to pay for what is essentially fear, and not love.
So, another layer of illusion sheds away in my little corner here in the center of the spiral. I have faith that we all have the strength and courage to shed the fears of being authentic, and to give up the constructed image management, for if someone like me can do this anyone can.
The benefits are great for all concerned, but they are greatest of all for the Self. Our projected images are highly over-rated anyway. The real beauty is in who we really are. We just need to trust ourselves in this once again.
(2) There are so many articles at Golden Age of Gaia speaking to this. Typing ‘constructed self’ into the search field from the blog homepage will bring up dozens to choose from.