Wanna Get Tougher in Life? …Be Vulnerable!

September 18, 2010

An interesting irony of human life is that the path to getting stronger emotionally is actually to be more vulnerable. To not only accept and embrace our feelings of vulnerability but to actively GIVE our vulnerability to others. What does that mean? And, how do we do it?


I recently finished reading Ending the Pursuit of Happiness by Barry Magid (Wisdom Publications, 2008). He is Zen practitioner as well as a psychoanalyst.   He points out the importance that vulnerability plays in our emotion health.  I fully agree with his premise that:

  1. As long as we try to avoid or are afraid of feeling vulnerable, we are paradoxically more defensive and unable to be fully human.  

  2. Being fully human is what makes us strong:  able to respond to life’s pains and pressures, and joys and surprises.

So, how to be vulnerable:

  1. Embrace that we do in fact need each other

  2. We need support

  3. We don’t know what we are doing sometimes (or more than sometimes!). 

That’s hard given our fierce commitment to American Individualism and the Western bias of intellectualism (being smart=looking good = better person). 


I am reminded of the work created by my mentor Dr. Fred Newman (Lets Develop, CLRP Publications, 1994) where he invites us to not only accept and embrace our feelings of vulnerability but to actively GIVE our vulnerability to others


Don’t be so possessive for goodness sake and instead, see our human-ness (“I’m scared”, “I need your help”, “I don’t know what to do”, etc.)  as good material to give to others to build with! 

What does he mean – ‘good material to build with’?    Well, you tell me: 

  1. Next time you want to act cool, put together, like you know what you’re doing when you are scared, anxious, confused – share your vulnerability with the person you are with and ask for help. 

  2. Tell me what happens, what you and the person produce together, and how sharing impacted on you and your relationship.

Imagine that. Well, I not only imagine this,  I work hard to practice that advice in my own life and with my clients.  And I find that I am of course failing all the time.  After all  - like the rest of us  - I like to look smart / be a Knower / look good. 


So, I would like your help and I don’t know what I’m doing! - Here’s to being vulnerable together!!!!

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