May 4, 2016

Developing Strength in Vulnerability.


It was one of those days. Every nerve raw and exposed. Afflicted.

I open YouTube, and the “Torn” cover pops up on my home screen. Of course I immediately push play and listen to the words in tears, not for the relationship in the song but the broken connection I have with myself.

I’m all out of faith.

This is how I feel.

I’m cold and I am shamed,

Lying naked on the floor.

Illusion never changed

Into something real.

I’m wide awake, and I can see

The perfect sky is torn.

I feel the familiar tug from old companions. Sadness. Fear. Anger. Add to those a feeling of failure. I am a life coach, and I help people find strategies to avoid sadness, fear, and anger, right?

Coach people to avoid sadness, fear and anger? I know something is wrong with this thought as soon as I let it recycle through my brain. I do not want my clients to evade any emotion. I just don’t want them to live in their darkness.

How arrogant to think that I am immune to being human. What benefit would I be as a coach, friend or human being if I could not empathize with the feelings behind the struggles of those who come to me for help or that I love?

What can we need to do when we are disillusioned and emotionally exposed? How do we interrupt the circuit of behaviors where we lash out or lash in?

1.  Develop an awareness of what has prompted the emotion: Many of our emotions develop from echoes of our childhood, so a brief nod to the past to recognize the trigger can be helpful. For me almost everything rolls back around to the belief: if I am not good enough, then people will leave. Abandoned. Isolated. Victim.

Awareness is the goal, since not every problem has or needs a solution. I would love to say that one day I will not have any fear that someone will stop loving or finding value in me, professionally or personally. In the meantime, I want to spend minimal time in my role as Victim. This process gets quicker all the time.

2. See what is actually there. Are we creating struggle for ourselves?  Much of what causes our suffering is invented in our own minds. I am a huge fan of Noah Elkrief’s, 5 Steps to the Present Moment, an amazing exercise in evaluating the reality of what thoughts fuel our emotions. This process involves isolating the base thoughts that have prompted a painful emotion and determining if it could be false. He recognizes that sometimes we choose to suffer. There can a twisted payoff to being a victim, but we can at least be aware that is our choice.

3. Sit still in awareness, and develop strength in vulnerability. Feel what we need to feel, and learn the lessons. This is the hardest part for me. I either want to sprint away from what is hurting me or chase (pronounced “force”) the result I want. Both of these are harmful not only to myself but those around me.

Running away would be ideal if all we did was put a little clean distance between ourselves and the pain. Unfortunately, when we close our hearts, nothing good gets in, and we tend to trample all in our wake, putting up all kinds of obstacles or burning bridges behind us.

Alternatively, forcing results, especially when it come to people, is disastrous. We can’t force someone to love or value us. Those are gifts that we can graciously receive but not take. We do not need to be completely detached from our desires, and we can embrace the realization that if we are authentic, the right people will love and value us.

Luckily I have some strong strategies in place to assist me to set aside the Victim and find my awareness. I allow myself to wallow in a sad song or two before moving forward. The tears cleanse my spirit and wash away some of the walls I build in my heart’s defense. I remind myself that vulnerability is a place of power, and my heart is open again.

Bonus: If you need a good cry.


~~Author: Lisa Foreman

~~Editor: Travis May

~~Photo: Nick Fullerton/Flikr


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