In her book, ‘The Power of vulnerability: Teachings of Authenticity, Connection and Courage,’ researcher Brene Brown discusses the ways in which we attempt to protect ourselves from that feeling of vulnerability. Here they are:
- Perfectionism: it’s not big; it’s not cool; and it’s not a side-effect of being successful. In fact, as Brown details, all of the really successful people she encountered through her research were keen to avoid perfectionism at all costs, knowing that this path only led to indecision and inaction.The next time you find yourself hours behind a deadline, stressed-out and miserable, determined to get it ‘just right’; stop. Yes, it’s hard to click ‘send’ and risk judgement or criticism, but at some point you have to trust in yourself. There’ll always be more that you can do – sometimes, it’s more important to just get it done. Especially when ‘perfect’ comes at the expense of your sanity.
- Numbing: well duh! I’m sure it’s no great surprise to point out that using drugs, booze, food, work, exercise, screen addiction or whatever, to block out or numb real feelings, is a key way in which we all avoid vulnerability.
- Foreboding joy: picture the scene… you’re eating dinner with your other half, smiling and laughing, enjoying each others’ company. You realise that you feel incredibly happy and content. Then….BOOM. Your mind fills with pictures of terrible things; the police knock at the door and inform you that the worst has happened – a car accident; cut to – you’re crumpled and distraught on the hospital floor, as a surgeon gives you the bad news; cut to – you, pale and numb, shaking hands with mourners at his funeral; cut to – weeks later, you’re empty and alone, laying on the bathroom floor, too lifeless to even cry.Descriptive? Yes. I’ve watched this particular one many times, so it should be. No doubt if you’re an Anxiety-sufferer like me, you’ll be pretty familiar with this concept.
Perhaps it was because of this that I found this information such a relief. What I thought was illogical and frankly cuckoo before, actually now seems rather like a common-sense response. Your brain sees that you’re incredibly happy, worries that this could be taken away and therefore runs through scenarios, just so you’re prepared if it does. Not very useful I know – some things we can’t prepare for – but it does make sense.
So we’re doomed to watch endless repeats of doom and gloom, every-time we’re close to being happy? Nope. At least, not if you practice Gratitude. So do that.
Are you using perfectionism, numbing or foreboding joy to shield against vulnerability? Are you using all three? Start small and strip back these shields, one by one.
Let yourself be vulnerable. And see what happens…