Staying open, staying available, being willing to trust sometimes, being open to being touched… this is all difficult territory for me and has been so for a long time. These are the places my anxiety builds its nests. None of it is irrational. Without exception, it is people I have let get close to me who have done me the most damage. The idea of being vulnerable can suggest something truly threatening.
But, to connect with another person in any way means taking off at least some of the armour, retracting the spikes, not waiting for the blow to land. The question is, when to do that? Who to trust? When to decide that it’s worth admitting where I feel fragile and exposed, where things are difficult for me, what I feel keenly.
I know from bitter and repeated experience that sometimes, when you show someone where you are vulnerable, they will stick claws into that part of you and start tearing. And until you have shown them that openness, they probably won’t show you those claws, or their willingness to use them.
There have been a number of rounds this year of getting this right. Trusting the right people. Picking a passably good time to drop guard. With the right people, vulnerability opens the door to magical possibility. Sometimes people come back and are vulnerable in return, sharing their own truths, difficulties and tender spots. When that happens, the whole quality of the relationship shifts. Deeper trust becomes more available.
I think I’ve got better too at venturing small acts of trust that don’t leave me over-exposed, and then judging the results. There are things I have learned to look for – the people who come back with some sign of care, or empathy, or who are simply glad to have been trusted, or open up and share their own story in return. I also look out for people who respond competitively with a ‘my problems are worse than yours’ approach. I watch out for anything dismissive, careless, disinterested. If anyone puts me down at this point, calls me a drama queen or anything of that ilk, I no longer take that as a measure of me, but a measure of them. I put my armour back on and I go away.
I’ve started trusting my gut feelings more on this one as well. We take in more information than we can consciously process, and a gut-feeling is not an irrational thing. The more I trust my gut feelings about people the better I do around deciding who to trust, and when to keep my armour firmly in place. I deal with a lot of people in the normal scheme of things, increasingly I make snap decisions about who to let in and who to keep at arm’s length. Thus far, these have gone well for me. I’ve jumped into some very heart open interactions. I can’t prove that the people I kept at arm’s length it was as well to – but then I don’t have to, I am not (and it’s taken me a long time to realise this) obliged to justify these choices to anyone.