Where’s the WE in vulnerability?

September 11, 2015

We do too much of life as at each other versus with one another.  Even with the exciting and important vulnerability movement afoot, there is this bias toward the individual:  I am being vulnerable at you versus we are creating vulnerability together. There is an oft-quoted African proverb that says If you want to fast go alone, if you wan to go far go together.  I want us to go farther.

 

I just read a great interview with Amy Schumer, a bold and painfully open comedian who has reached stardom this year, http://www.gq.com/story/amy-schumer-cover-story-photo-shoot.  In a culture that trains us to act invulnerable, i.e., inhuman, her willingness to say the unsayable, to shake us up, is so needed.  In our deadening, role determined, ‘I have to look cleaned up all the time’ culture, her candor and raw humor is radical. 

 

The power of her vulnerability reminds me of Brene Brown’s groundbreaking well-known research and advocacy for us being vulnerable as a way to be more alive and connected to one another. 

 

 

 

My hats off to recognizing the power of vulnerability:  I’m scared, I need help, I don’t know the answer, I smell, I have fallen in love with you.  However, what is missing in the pro-vulnerability movement is an important focus on the we:  what are we doing together to create/show/embrace our human vulnerabilities?  And what is the effect of changing all those I statements above to we statements?

 

We do too much of life as at each other versus with one another.  Even with the exciting and important vulnerability movement afoot, there is this bias toward the individual:  I am being vulnerable at you versus we are creating vulnerability together.  For example, in the opening of the Schumer interview, the interviewer greets her and asks how her day is going.  Schumer blurts out that she just came back from the gynecologist and proceeded to make some very exposing, funny statements about that experience. 

This moment successfully shook up the stale, societal script of what we are supposed to do when someone asks how your day is going e.g. - "good how about yours?"   Schumer’s version is an electric shock treatment to help us laugh and  get up close and personal with our fundamental smelly, messy flawed-ness.  However “I am being vulnerable at you” still leaves us with an I and a you.  Where is the us? 

 

What if her – our -  focus were on what are we doing together right now to create humanness, rawness, intimacy?

 

There is an oft-quoted African proverb that says If you want to fast go alone, if you wan to go far go together.  I want us to go farther.

 

Our culture is biased towards the individual as the focus, as the unit for social change, growth and development.  I am the main story, I am being vulnerable right now, I am in courageous etc. Even the vulnerability research is focused on an individual’s sense of shame, self-worth, and connectedness. The relationship or the group is not recognized, as I think it needs to be, as the unit of change, power, or growth.  Are we creating powerfulness? Are we courageous, growing, healthy?

 

I am showing my bias as a social therapist, which is a group therapy committed to helping people as a unit.  Our job, week in and week out, is to share our versions of vulnerability: Do we know what we are doing together tonight?   Tonight’s group is acting like we are in love with each other! Do we want to keep doing this? What can we do together, if anything,  with what you just shared? 

 

This is harder, slower, but can take us farther in advancing how we are living together. Now that is the most vulnerable I can image us getting. 

 

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