Embracing Vulnerability

In line with my last article on “Hugging the Chaos”,  where I explore the potential for self-growth that lies in learning to stay with and re-story our past anxieties , is Brene Brown’s increasingly popular suggestion that there is much personal power to be found in embracing our vulnerability. In her TED talk on “The Power of Vulnerability” , she takes a look at this counter-intuitive, and yet vital approach we can take towards our own vulnerability, or parts of us which we have felt we need to keep hidden from the world.

She suggests that we operate , by default, to keep these parts hidden because we believe to expose them would potentially bring about shame or disapproval , but that it is unfortunately in the suppression and dis-ownership of our vulnerable parts that we actually bring about more pain and keep ourselves imprisoned and incapable of realizing our full potential. In stopping ourselves from being vulnerable, we also prevent ourselves from connecting with our true authenticity and the true authenticity of others – ideas also echoed in the writing of psychotherapist Jeff Lance in his article on “ The Avoidance of Legitimate Suffering” .

This is a particularly interesting stance when viewed from the perspective of one of the fathers of modern-day psychotherapy, Carl Jung  ( also cited in Lance’s article), who believed that “the foundation of all mental illness is the avoidance of true suffering”. He suggested that the avoidance of looking at parts of ourselves where we might experience vulnerability, or that we would prefer to keep locked in the past could bring about a whole host of issues, the extreme end of which could also include the manifestation of a mental illness.

Embedded in both these notions, is the idea that is through structuring ourselves around perceived pain-avoidance, we never allow ourselves to fully reclaim all the parts of ourselves that would allow us to live fully authentic and empowered lives – where we are connected with ourselves and also the community of people around us. The solution therefore, seems to lie in fertile grounds where we can understand how we can begin to, not shy away from, but look at and re-integrate these parts that we have kept in the shadows for so long. With regards to navigating this road, Brown’s approach is particularly inspiring, because instead of  achieving ‘wholeness’ through suffering, she proposes that we can do so by merely having the courage to embrace and be compassionate to our vulnerability. Personally, I find the mental image of giving my more vulnerable parts a big warm hug in comparison to the one where I am dragging them down a long, dark, torturous road of suffering and struggle much more uplifting!



(1)    Reference Link: http://www.brenebrown.com/my-blog/2012/3/5/lessons-from-ted.html

(2)    “The Power of Vulnerability” by Brene Brown, http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability.html

(3)    For more on the author and researcher Brene Brown, you can also visit her website at http://www.brenebrown.com

(4)    “The Avoidance of Legitimate Suffering” by Jeff Lance (2002), http://www.therapyinla.com/articles/article0802.html

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