Before Vulnerability

Vulnerability.

This little word has been following me around for almost two months now. It started when Brené Brown’s TED Talk shown in my Wednesday night class. Then I read a piece on the Storyline blog about vulnerability. The small group I am a part of in my dorm is exploring the idea of courage. In those meetings, Daring Greatly has been referenced and courage is examined for its relation to vulnerability. Most recently, I attended a workshop at Indiana Faith and Writing Conference about authenticity in blogging.

In the midst of all this, my assumption that I am an appropriately vulnerable person has crumpled around me in the least poetic way. It has broken off in pieces on sticky cafeteria floors and rain-wet hallways. I feel like the least qualified person to write about vulnerability right now, but I am practicing it in slow, small ways.

In the conference workshop on authentic blogging, Nate Pyle said that to share your feelings (an important part of vulnerability), you first have to know what they are.

Feeling is supposed to be easy, something that happens automatically. But when I let myself live too fast or numb or scared or tired it is easy to forget how to feel. Not knowing how I feel or how I want to feel is a scary because decisions are nearly impossible to make. I am learning to let myself feel again, teaching myself that it is okay.

Here are two things I am doing to care for myself.

  1. Contemplative prayer: Some of these prayers help me focus on my emotions without causing me to feel shame for them. The welcoming prayer involves welcoming God into my thoughts and emotions and letting go of the desire to change or control the feelings. Practicing these prayers reminds me that emotions are sacred, valuable things—not viruses to fear and keep hidden.
  2. The Desire Map: This book’s founding premise is that knowing how you want to feel will help you make better decisions with greater confidence. I haven’t started reading this book yet. I’ve been cynical. It sounds new age-y and I am afraid of getting sucked into some self-help rabbit hole. But a couple weeks ago, one of the only things I was sure of was that I wanted to know what I wanted, so I am giving this book a chance.

What practices do you have to cultivate your emotions?

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4 thoughts on “Before Vulnerability

  1. Literature helps a lot, I’ve found. I’m slogging through “The Brother’s Karamazov”, and there’s something about the way that the characters deal with their own suffering breaks down my defenses a bit. Ivan Karamazov especially– he’s willing to plumb the depths of his own doubts and pain to help understand his life and faith.

    1. That is a very interesting method. I do that with nonfiction work, but I do not actively do it with fiction. I will start trying to pay more attention to that while reading novels. Thanks, Patrick.

  2. Vulnerability is so tricky. Just when I think I understand it, I realize I totally don’t. Thanks for your thoughts and authenticity here. I actually have found that one of the ways I have been able to “feel again” in my life is through running. This fall, I spent so much time on the road that I ran out of things to think about. I was finally able to think about the things that I would normally not have time for in a day.

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